The government’s aim is to return to life as close to normal as possible, for as many people as possible, as fast and fairly as possible. What does that mean in practical terms?
A phased recovery
The government’s stay alert approach is to limit the number of social contacts people make each day, ensure the exposure of vulnerable groups continues to be reduced from normal levels, and to continue isolating symptomatic and diagnosed individuals.
Re-designing workplaces and public spaces to make them COVID-19 secure
For the foreseeable future, workers should continue to work from home rather than their normal physical workplace, wherever possible. All workers who cannot work from home should travel to work if their workplace is open.
Before you consider re-opening your doors employers have a duty to assess and manage risks to employees and volunteers safety in the workplace, including consulting with your workforce and volunteers. The Health Safety Executive guidance will help you carry this out appropriately.
The government, in consultation with industry, has produced eight guides to help ensure workplaces are COVID-19 secure, including guidance for people working in, visiting or delivering to other people’s homes.
Modes of travel
During the lockdown there has been an increase in home working as VCSE organisations innovate to provide an appropriate online service. This type of working has significant benefits in reducing the carbon footprint associated with commuting.
Everyone is being asked (including critical workers) to avoid public transport wherever possible. The government suggests people should choose to cycle, walk, or drive, to minimise the number of people with whom they come into close contact. Alongside this the government has published a £2 billion package to create a new era for cycling and walking, which will fund and work with local authorities to help make it easier for people to use bikes to get around.
The package includes vouchers to be issued for cycle repairs to encourage people to get their old bikes out of the shed and changes to the Cycle to Work scheme, which continues to give employees a discount on a new bike and discounts on accessories.
Leicester City Council has already put some things into action with Leicester Bike Aid – a new free bike hire scheme for key workers.
Utilising these opportunities might assist your organisation’s COVID-19 secure procedures and at the same time might help your next tender for public sector contracts, when you have to describe your organisation’s environmental impact.
Lifting restrictions step by step
The government has a cautious road map to lifting restrictions step by step.
Charity shops are classed as non-essential retail and the current phasing of re-opening for these is estimated from 1 June.
Cafes run by charities and social enterprises fit into the hospitality category and the government’s ambition is that this phase of re-opening will be no earlier than 4 July.
If, after lifting restrictions, the Government sees a sudden and concerning rise in the infection rate then it may have to re-impose some restrictions. This means that the process may include a set-back as well as a step-forward approach.
VCSE organisations will need to include this scenario in any business recovery model.
In the short term, you may need to rely on the government’s extended furlough scheme, to reduce the impact of employee salaries on your organisation’s finances.
You may want to consider accessing finance for the first time ever. The government is working alongside 11 lenders to provide a bounce back loan scheme. There are no repayments for a year, low interest after year 1 (2.5%), and no personal liability – the government guarantees the loan.
In the medium to long term, those previous successful trading models for charities and social enterprises may need to be probed to see how viable they will be in the new normal.
Coventry University Social Enterprise is running a free online workshop, which promises to give processes and tools for understanding how your business can change to meet a new environment.
Protecting clinically vulnerable and clinical extreme
Finally we know that a number of VCSE organisations have been adapting to meet the needs of their communities during lockdown, which we have been promoting on our support services during COVID-19 webpage.
That much-needed support will still be needed. The government has emphasised that some people are more clinically vulnerable to COVID-19 than others. These include those aged over 70, those with specific chronic pre-existing conditions and pregnant women. It advises those people to continue to take particular care to minimise contact with others outside their households, but do not need to be shielded.
Those in the clinically extremely vulnerable group are strongly advised to stay at home at all times and avoid any face-to-face contact, also called ‘shielding’; it means not leaving the house or attending gatherings at all, with very limited exception. The government is providing funding to the sector to support this client group and other people they class as vulnerable, such as the Loneliness COVID-19 Fund.
For smaller funding needs, Leicestershire and Rutland Community Foundation is administering the Coronavirus Emergency Support Fund.
If you would like help with your own VCSE organisation’s COVID-19 road map, such as read and review of a funding application, putting in appropriate measures to follow the new COVID-19 secure guidance, or drawing a business recovery plan, then send us a message.
Get support from VAL
If you are a charity or community group and you need additional support to deliver services during the pandemic, VAL is here to help.
We can offer advice on issues that affect charities, from fundraising to proper governance and managing volunteers.
You get can in touch via:
0116 257 5050