Temporary closure due to lockdown – what does the future look like?

Helen Oparinde, Development Officer in VAL’s Voluntary Sector Support team, considers the impact of temporary closure on some charities and social enterprises and whether they can re-open their doors again.

On 23 March the PM addressed the nation with stay-at-home instructions, which meant immediately all shops selling non-essential goods and other premises including libraries, playgrounds and outdoor gyms, and places of worship had to close. All gatherings of more than two people in public – excluding people you live with – were stopped.

This meant that a number of VCSE organisations who relied on income, by having a café, or room hire lost their revenue overnight. A number of innovative grant schemes have been set up to help mitigate this lost income or help support the additional costs in adapting a service. These include the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Support Grants Package, which did provide charity electrical waste reuse organisations access to funding so that the demand for emergency supply of refurbished household appliances for frontline staff and people being rehoused could be provided. However, these funding streams come and go so quickly; the WEEE package was released on 25 May and by 2 June the deadline to apply had gone.

Road map to recovery

On 15 June the government updated their guidance on closing certain businesses and venues in England, to reflect the cautious road map to recovery.

This means that income generators like charity shops can now re-open. However, we are finding that is on a cautious approach. For example, on the Blaby high street there are six charity shops. As of 18 June only Mind’s shop had opened. A second phase this week has seen the re-opening of the Air Ambulance Service’s shop on reduced opening times, but the impact on sales revenue caused by the pandemic for Leicestershire charity shops remains, especially as some of their volunteers may still be shielding.

On 23 June the government announced further easing of the lockdown rules which means that from 4 July, Super Saturday, as it is being called, further places are allowed to open. These include restaurants, cinemas, museums, libraries, places of worship and community centres. However, those establishments must adhere to COVID Secure guidelines. BID Leicester Economic Recovery Partnership has set out a plan to ensure the smooth and sustainable reopening and long-term economic recovery of Leicester city centre. As part of that plan there are some practical solutions including a business re-opening checklist, risk assessment template, and how signage and PPE equipment can be purchased from their recommended supplier.

All these requirements are likely to involve a cost element and time for planning. There are a number of grants available to help you with those costs involved. We regularly update the funding during COVID-19 webpage to keep you abreast of those opportunities.

As part of the planning process we would recommend that you review your insurance. All insurers are offering different solutions for those that have had to close their doors temporary, some include extending current insurance policies for 3 months at no charge, waving cancellation fees, interest free direct debits to assist with cash flow or guaranteeing prices for those who come back to buy the policy in the future and so on.

Whether to re-open or call it a day

Imperial College London have published an article from Imperial experts. Dr Ileana Stigliani, Associate Professor of Design and Innovation, explains that businesses all over the world are faced with an unprecedented situation. Now, more than ever, business agility, the ability to respond and adapt to change faster, leaner and smarter, is crucial for business survival. With retailers closing their physical stores, but reinforcing their delivery services and restaurants forced to shut down quickly converting into takeaways. The more businesses will be able to stay agile and resilient, the higher their chances to survive.

The VCSE sector is no different. The National Lottery’s Emerging Futures Fund asks communities to explore:

  • What they want to keep doing because it’s been working well
  • What they want to leave behind as they start thinking about moving into recovery and renewal
  • Any new ideas that will help when it comes to rebuilding and renewal

It might be that your organisation was struggling to recruit trustees and operational volunteers before the pandemic and the service you were providing was only been accessed by a few. Or the activities or trading product and services you were providing don’t feel like something that will fit into the new habits that communities have forged during lockdown. For example, my 80 year old mum didn’t even own a mobile phone before the pandemic. Now she has an iPad and reads every day using her local authority e-book service. Although I can imagine she would miss her weekly face to face chat with her librarian if the mobile service didn’t open when it is safe to do so.

Therefore as you consider whether to re-open or not, consider what the needs and interests are of your local community of interest are now and in the future of the “new normal.”

If you do decide to re-open and need to recruit operational volunteers or trustees, you can advertise volunteer opportunities for free.

Deciding to close

If you do decide to close, try don’t be too disheartened, your monies can be used for other local good causes. The Charity Commission’s how to close a charity guidance reminds us that you’ll need to clear all its debts and liabilities, before you consider making effective use of the charity’s remaining funds by transferring them to another charity with compatible purposes.

If you are asking that charity to continue to provide an existing service of yours as part of that transfer of funds, then make sure you are aware of how TUPE might apply.

As part of the planning process, you will need to consider whether to cancel the organisation’s insurance policy or allow this to expire from the end date of the policy. It is important to speak with a broker about this as you will need to consider “run off” insurance policies which could provide cover for claims that have already happened but not yet came to light.

If you would like to have further conversations about the insurance topics covered in this article please contact Luke Perkins at BHIB Charities Insurance, who can offer a free 1-2-1 service. He can be contacted at lperkins@bhibinsurance.co.uk.

If you would like help to consider whether it is time to close or how to re-open your VCSE organisation with COVID-19 secure processes then just send us a message. If using the online form, select support for your organisation, in the reason for contact drop down box.

Get support from VAL

If you are a charity, community group, or social enterprise 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 and social enterprises, from fundraising/ investment to proper governance and managing volunteers.

You get can in touch via:

0116 257 5050

Helen Oparinde

Helen Oparinde is a Development Officer for VAL as part of the Voluntary Sector Support team. Helen is an expert in charity governance and provides face-to-face and telephone advice to local charities and community groups. You can contact Helen at helen.o@valonline.org.uk.