Advice and Guidance for Community Groups during COVID

Updated 9 June 2021

New guidance

Greater Manchester has been identified as an area where the new COVID-19 variant, referred to as the Delta variant, is spreading quickly. This is because the new COVID-19 variant spreads more easily from person to person. To help stop the spread, you should take particular caution when meeting anyone outside your household or support bubble.

You should:

  • Meet outside rather than inside where possible
  • Keep 2 metres apart from people that you don’t live with (unless you have formed a support bubble with them), this includes friends and family you don’t live with
  • Minimise travel in and out of affected areas
  • Get tested twice a week for free and isolate if you are positive
  • Continue to work from home if you can
  • Get vaccinated when you are offered it, and encourage others to do so as well

Full details of the rules and government guidence can be found on the GOV.UK website:

England is currently in Step 3 of the national roadmap out of lockdown, set out in the government's COVID-19 Response - Spring 2021.

The guidance on this page is written to support local community and voluntary groups to make informed decisions about their group, activity, or building under COVID-19 restrictions. We have worked alongside local partners to identify best practice to operate safely, and this page includes key points for you to consider. We make reference to restrictions and sector specific guidance throughout, and we will continue to update this page with other useful resources and information on a regular basis.

We hold regular online drop in sessions to share the latest updates and answer your questions on COVID-19 restrictions. Book onto a Advice and guidance for community groups during Covid 19 - Q&A Session on our Event page.

Visit our COVID-19 Key Links and Resources page for supporting documents and links to information.

If you are looking for funding support and advice, visit our Find Funding page.

Jump to a section:

  1. Running a support group
  2. Restrictions on venues
  3. Guidance for running activities
  4. Staying up to date
  5. Contact us

1. Running a support group

In the first instance  check the current restrictions on the government website and the guidance below. 

Support groups that have to be delivered in person can continue with up to 30 participants where officially organised to provide mutual aid, therapy or any other form of support. Support groups must be organised by a business, charity or public body and must not take place in a private home or garden. All participants should maintain social distancing. Examples of support groups include those that provide support to:

  • victims of crime (including domestic abuse)
  • those with, or recovering from, addictions (including alcohol, narcotics or other substance addictions) or addictive patterns of behaviour
  • those with, or caring for people with, any long-term illness or terminal condition or who are vulnerable (including those with a mental health condition)
  • those facing issues related to their sexuality or identity (including those living as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender)
  • those who have suffered bereavement
  • vulnerable young people (including to enable them to meet youth workers)
  • disabled people and their carers

The limit of 30 does not include children under 5 who are accompanying a parent or guardian. Gatherings above the limit can take place where reasonably necessary for work or volunteering. Where a group includes someone covered by an exception (for example, someone who is working or volunteering to facilitate the group), they are not generally counted as part of the gatherings limit.

If you would like any support to think about whether your group and/or activity falls within this definition and your decision to continue operating please contact us on development@actiontogether.org.uk for a call back. 

2. Restrictions on venues 

From 17 May, up to 30 people will be able to meet outdoors, and up to 6 people or 2 households will be able to meet indoors.

The government has updated its guidance for the safe use of multi-purpose community facilities and those organising activities in multi-use community facilities should read and follow the guidance outlined on this page.

When organising group activities in community spaces, you should check first whether your activity has a specific gathering exemption. 

Certain activities are exempt from these social group limits or have different group limits, these include:

  • support groups
  • childcare provided by a person who is registered under Part 3 of the Childcare Act 2006 or supervised activities for children
  • education or training
  • providing essential voluntary services or public support services, including digital access to public services, medical treatment, the provision of food bank or other support for the homeless or vulnerable people, blood donation services or support in an emergency
  • voting, counting of votes or activities ancillary to voting or the counting of votes in an election or referendum

See full guidance on what you can and cannot do for a list of activities with legal exemptions from the social contact limits.

Oldham Council have produced guidance on re-opening safely including posters, signage and testing information.

Business Growth Hub have free to download signage for premises opening during the pandemic.

3. Guidance for running activities

Running activities in person

If you are permitted to open and plan on opening under the latest restrictions you may find the guidance below useful. 

  • Other sector specific guidance that we are often asked about includes: 

  1. Offices 
  2. Working in or delivering to other people’s homes 
  3. Working in or from vehicles 
  4. Performing arts 
  5. Grassroots sports and gym / leisure facilities 
  6. Shops 
  7. Out of school settings e.g. holiday and after school clubs 
  8. Early years 
  9. Outdoor activities 
  10. Places of worship 
  11. Close contact services 
  12. Reporting outbreaks of coronavirus 

Running activities online

Many VCSE sector organisations have adopted distance working and working-from-home arrangements, or moved their activities online. There are a number of digital tools to support organisations responding to Covid-19. A few that might be helpful for you include: 

  • Microsoft Teams is being widely used by public services. It includes video-conferencing facilities, the ability to share files, and instant messaging tools (like SMS messages, but on a computer). Microsoft are now making a free version of Teams available to anyone. This might help you to engage more effectively with public sector organisations in your area. Find out more on the Microsoft Teams site

  • Zoom is also being widely used for people to video-conference over the internet. Find out more about how to use Zoom here

  • Dropbox is a service for sharing files remotely. It is offering free Business accounts for three months to charities and non-profits working on Covid-19 response. Sign up here

  • Mailchimp is a system for sending out email newsletter (it simplifies distribution lists, scheduling of emails etc). It is making a similar offer of free access to its paid-for service (called ‘Standard’) to Governments and charities who need to communicate with people about the disease. Sign up here

We should all be wary of the increased risk from fraudulent emails at this time. Our Data Protection Officer has produced some simple tips to protect yourself and your organisation from e-mail scammers

NCVO have produced advice and guidance on using digital tools and ways of working to help your charity, organisation or community group.

4. Stay up to date

Book on to one of our regular Advice and guidance for community groups during Covid 19 - Q&A Sessions for our latest advice. These are online drop-in sessions where you will have the chance to ask questions and discuss COVID issues with other organisations 

Stay up to date and sign up to our fortnightly training ebulletin, with details of our training and training provided by other organisations.

Visit our COVID-19 Key Links and Resources page for supporting documents and links to information.

5. Contact  us 

There is lots of very detailed and regularly changing guidance available. Different buildings and activities will need different considerations and adaptations to reopen and continue to operate safely. This information is a starting point only and will be regularly updated.

Please contact us on 0161 339 2345 or email development@actiontogether.org.uk if you would like support for your voluntary, community, faith or social enterprise organisation. We can discuss your situation and support you in doing what's right for your group.

Our COVID-19 page includes general information and advice for residents.