The National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) has published information and guidance about coronavirus intended to help community and voluntary organisations and volunteers to decide next steps they may need to take in light of the spread of the covid-19 virus. Their page is updated daily with the latest government advice and what this means for voluntary organisations, as well as signposting to useful information from other organisations.
NCVO have taken down all pay walls on their Knowhow website. This means that all of their online content is now free to all to use. So, whether it’s information about governance or online training for staff who are working from home unable to do their jobs, they hope this will provide that little bit of extra support. In the coming weeks they plan to run webinars for the sector to provide further support.
Lobbying government for support for charities
NCVO is working closely with government officials to develop a package of financial support aimed specifically at the sector – an emergency fund. They would like to ensure there is clarity from the government on how other support measures apply to charities as soon as possible.
In order to continue to provide government with information about what the sector needs, the Institute of Fundraising has also led the development of important research to understand what the current and future financial impact of coronavirus might be on charities. Given the speed events are unfolding, there is a quick deadline of 23 March. We are grateful if you have capacity to complete this survey but understand if you need to focus elsewhere.
Supporting coordination of volunteering
Coordination and planning are vital – support must be directed to those most in need at the point at which they need it.
To this end NCVO is working with partners across the system to support coordination of volunteering in response to covid-19. We’re in contact with national and local volunteering networks to work with them on attracting and supporting volunteers, including how we might ask volunteers to move to more critical roles. We’ll shortly produce a web page for people who want to volunteer, signposting where they can go to do this in the best way. We are also sharing guidance aimed at supporting volunteers and volunteer involving organisations – including the many new groups that have developed over the last week – to ensure everyone who volunteers can do so in a way that is safe and effective.
NCVO are also in close contact with the government about how we coordinate a major volunteering push to help support people through the covid-19 outbreak and encourage people to think about how to do this without putting themselves at risk. You’ll hear more about this over the next week or so.
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What’s the best way to prevent the spread of covid-19?
- Wash your hands often with soap (or soap substitutes) and water for at least 20 seconds or use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser. This is particularly important after taking public transport.
- Use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in a bin. You can download a ’Catch it, Bin it, Kill it’ poster (PDF, 940KB) for your workplace from the NHS.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces in the home and work environment.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
What do we need to do to protect staff, volunteers and visitors?
- Government advice is to reduce social contact including working from home where possible.
- Information: Provide clear information using communication channels including posters and email.
- Handwashing facilities: Handwashing facilities should be available and well supplied. More regular handwashing may require more supplies. Provide hand sanitiser, tissues and cleaning products around your buildings for staff and visitors. GOV.UK has published clear and printable instructions on handwashing techniques (PDF, 130KB) which can be displayed around the workplace.
- Cleaning regimes: Viruses can live on hard surfaces for up to eight hours. Frequently clean key areas including keyboards and door handles.
- There is government advice on social care and educational settings you may want to review if they apply to your organisation.
- Review travel arrangements. Is travel necessary? Are there possible alternatives such as video conferencing? Maintain updated and clear advice for staff travelling.
- Ensure emergency contact details are up to date
- For specific HR-related coronavirus enquires, NCVO members can contact Croner
Should our employees take sick leave?
- As of 17 March, the government has issued new guidance for households with possible covid-19 infection.
- Staff should stay at home for 14 days if someone in their household has symptoms of covid-19.
- If other members of the household develop symptoms during the 14 days, then they must not leave the home for 7 days from when these symptoms started.
- To reduce the risk of the spread of infection the government has introduce a number of social distancing measures.
- For those who are under 70, have no underlying health conditions and remain well, they are advised to limit their social contact where possible. This includes using less public transport, working from home and considering not going to pubs, restaurants theatres and bars.
- For those who are over 70, have an underlying health condition or are pregnant, they are advised to limit face-to-face interactions to family and friends if possible and to avoid public transport and going to pubs, restaurants, theatres and bars.
- Those who display symptoms of covid-19 do not need to call the NHS to go into self-isolation. If these symptoms continue or worsen after seven days, then contact NHS 111 online. Those without access to the internet should call NHS 111.
- Those in self-isolation should also refer to the government’s stay at home guidance.
- The previous government advice regarding high risk areas/countries was withdrawn on 13 March 2020 and has been superseded by the above advice.
- Employees who are recommended to self-isolate are entitled to sick leave but not necessarily sick pay, though you may well want to provide this anyway as a matter of being a good employer.
- If employees are required to self-isolate due to covid-19 or displaying a high temperature or a new continuous cough then they would qualify for statutory sick pay subject to meeting eligibility requirements.
- Employees are entitled to time off to care for a dependent. There is no statutory right to pay for this time off, but your organisation may already have a policy on this. You may want to consider revisiting this policy for the covid-19 situation.
- Further advice on employee sick leave and sick pay entitlements can be found on the Acas website.
- Our HR consultancy Trusted Supplier Croner has also compiled answers to frequently asked questions about covid-19, including self-isolation and sick pay.
What should we do about events, board meeting or AGMs?
- Government guidance is to limit the amount of social contact where possible. This is likely to impact large scale events and you should consider whether it is appropriate to continue with your events.
- If your events depend on volunteers, be aware that some may prefer to stay home.
- If you are hosting a formal meeting, such as an AGM required by your charity’s constitution, you should refer to your organisation’s governing document to see what it says about remote participation and quorum. See our advice on coronavirus and governance for more information.
- Check cancellation policies for venue bookings you’ve made or are about to make.
- Further advice on planning formal meetings can be found on the Bates Wells website.
- Please be aware that as of 16 March 2020 event restrictions will be put in place in Scotland. SCVO has provided guidance on these restrictions.
How do we support our beneficiaries/service users?
- Generally, infections can cause more severe symptoms in people with weakened immune systems, older people, and those with long-term conditions like diabetes, cancer and chronic lung disease. See below for resources from charities for different groups.
- Some of your service users or beneficiaries may be more at risk or highly concerned about the virus.
- You can play a role in providing clear and updated information to raise awareness of prevention measures like handwashing, but at this stage the most important message may simply be one of reassurance.
- NCVO will be working alongside the NHS and the Health and Wellbeing Alliance on how best to support vulnerable service users and people in our communities, and we’ll keep NCVO members updated with the latest information on this.
How will we develop a contingency plan and how will our insurance be impacted?
- You need to plan for how your organisation will run if a significant proportion of staff or volunteers were unavailable.. Who will make decisions about your operations, how and when? Also see the section below on working from home.
- Given the fast-changing situation, as far as possible, try to focus on the immediate future – over the next week or so – rather than trying to make firm plans based on what the situation might be beyond that.
- This checklist from Trusted Supplier Zurich Insurance (PDF, 290KB) helps you think through some of the issues and plan for them. The Charities Facility Management Group has more information on how to develop a business continuity plan.
- Every insurance policy will have varying terms and conditions so you should check directly with your insurance company or broker.
What immediate actions do we need to take to manage our finances?
The implications of covid-19 will create a financial crunch and charities should now do what they can to prepare for this. These are a few things you may want to consider.
- Focus on cash flow management.
- Know what your fixed costs are and when you will need to pay them.
- Delay committing to any expenditure that you can.
- Chase all outstanding debts.
- Invoice for all services already delivered and then ensure that these invoices are paid.
- If you are receiving funding, submit any required reports on time to make sure that you receive future instalments on time.
- Talk to your bank manager and see if they will offer you an overdraft facility (even if you don’t need one right now).
- If you have loan repayments the lender may be willing to delay the capital repayment.
- Implement a recruitment freeze on all vacant posts.
- The Charity Finance Group has compiled a guide for charity finance professionals which will be updated with new information and advice as the crisis unfolds.
What other financial implications should we think about?
You and your board may want to consider potential financial impacts of the virus’s spread continuing, and what steps you might need to take.
- You may want to budget for increased contingency costs over the next financial year.
- You may face increased need for support from people who rely on your organisation.
- You may also face increased costs if the impact on global trade continues.
- The Institute of Fundraising has developed guidance for fundraisers in relation to covid-19.
- Speak to your funders about the impact of cancelling or delaying project activities which are part of funding agreements. The Association of Charitable Funders have encouraged funders to contact their grantees and discuss how they can best support them.
- The Charity Commission has said that it will take a pragmatic approach to regulation during this period. They’ve said that if you’re due to file an annual return but don’t feel you can, then you can call them to request an extension.
What should I expect from funders?
We think funders should take a supportive and pragmatic approach to helping the organisations they fund throughout this period.
- Speak to your funders about the impact of cancelling or delaying project activities which are part of funding agreements.
- London Funders has released a joint statement, signed by an alliance of funders from across sectors, pledging to offer support to civil society groups affected by the coronavirus outbreak.
- The Association of Charitable Funders have encouraged funders to contact their grantees and discuss how they can best support them.
- Arts Council England will refocus grant programmes to support artists and freelancers who have lost income.
- The Blagrave Trust has written to grant holders to reassure them of their continued support and flexibility around awarded funding and how it can be used.
- In addition to signing the London Funders’ joint statement, the City Bridge Trust is promoting a survey from London Plus to assess the impact of covid-19 on London’s civil society.
- Esmée Fairbairn is offering flexibility with payments and reporting dates and is offering grants plus support.
- The Garfield Weston Foundation is continuing to support its grantees and will be as flexible as possible regarding projects and timelines.
- Good Finance has released a joint statement from social funders stating their continued support and flexibility for all the organisations that they invest in.
- JRF is focusing its efforts to support people on low incomes by working closely with people with direct experience of poverty and listening to their concerns.
- The National Lottery Community Fund will continue funds to support people, communities and organisations.
- Nesta will continue to support grantees and will be flexible if grantees need to stop work or change the work they are doing.
- The Paul Hamlyn Foundation are adjusting reporting requirements and/or suspending them.
- The UK Community Foundations is looking to coordinate its network of community foundations and partners to respond to the impact covid-19 will have on those they support.
- The William Grant Foundation has converted all existing revenue grants to unrestricted for the current year.
- In Scotland the Corra Foundation will continue to support grantees.
- The Community Foundation will offer emergency funding for community organisations in Northern Ireland to assist older people who have been affected by covid-19.
How will our investments be impacted?
- Stock prices have fallen significantly.
- Charities with stocks investments will see a fall in their investment’s valuation.
- This could have an impact if your charity uses its investments to secure borrowing.
- A reduction in stock values could also impact defined liability pension schemes, where the employer guarantees the pension on retirement regardless of what happens to the underlying assets of the scheme. This should be less of an issue provided stocks recover in the medium to long term.
- In the long term, it’s likely that markets will recover, and investments will regain the value they lost.
How do we support our staff and volunteers to work from home?
To reduce the risk of spreading covid-19 the government has introduce a normal of social distancing measures including working from home where possible. These are some areas to consider in supporting staff and volunteers to work from home:
- Hardware: Staff will need access to computers and a good internet connection. Are you able to provide them with laptops to bring home? Where possible avoid having staff use personal devices, as this can cause issues in relation to security and data protection.
- Software: Choose the right tools to suit your teams’ needs. Do you need a shared messaging system or a video conferencing system?
- Meetings: Can you conduct your meeting via video conferencing or over the phone? Appoint a chair to run the meetings and select the next speaker to ensure you’re not shouting over each other.
- Processes: Consider your team’s day-to-day processes and what’s essential to continue. What are the normal ways you share information, tasks and feedback? Can these be done when working remotely? Allow for trial-and-error. These processes can change and develop to best suit your team’s needs.
- Support: Working remotely will bring challenges and cause disruptions to the daily working routine. It’s important that staff feel supported. Be flexible. Understand that not all staff may be able to work from home and may need to work from a local library or café.
- Self-care: When working from home it is good to create a space between work and personal time, where possible. This could mean setting your working hours, working in a different room, putting your laptop away. Mind has released guidance on covid-19 and caring for your mental health during self-isolation.
- Read this article for further advice on remote working.
How do we support members of communities facing discrimination?
- Members of some communities are experiencing acts of racism, discrimination and verbal abuse with the outbreak of the virus.
- Covid-19 does not discriminate and the containment or spread of the virus is not based on ethnicity.
- These communities must feel supported and know that these acts of discrimination should not be tolerated.
- Stop Hate UK are providing anyone experiencing or witnessing such discrimination with a confidential 24-hour third-party reporting service.
How are charities helping to deal with covid-19?
- Full Fact has generated a fact check page on covid-19 to help dispel any false information.
- The National Eczema Society has offered advice on handwashing techniques for people with eczema and other skin conditions.
- SignHealth has created British Sign Language videos to help deaf BSL users either working in charities or receiving support.
- Doctors of the World have shared covid-19 advice for patients in 20 languages which were produced in partnership with the Red Cross, Migrant Help and Clear Voice.
- Carers UK has issued recommendations for carers.
- Leading cancer charities have worked together to produce information on covid-19 for anyone affected by cancer.
- Housing Justice has issued specialised advice to homeless shelters. Glass Door is emphasising the importance handwashing and has boosted their stock of hand gels kept in their vans that move between shelters. Pathway and Crisis have called on the government for guidance on how best to protect homeless people against coronavirus.
- The British Heart Foundation has published guidance for people with health problems.
- Diabetes UK has provided an updated information pagefor people living with diabetes.
- Asthma UK has released a blog post with advice for people with asthma.
- The Cystic Fibrosis Trust and Primary Immunodeficiency UK have each issued advice and support.
Key up-to-date information from the government:
- GOV.UK: COVID-19 latest information and advice
- Public Health England: Coronavirus guidance
- NHS coronavirus advice
- GOV.UK: Guidance for social or community care and residential settings on COVID-19
- GOV.UK: COVID-19 guidance for educational settings
- NHS England: Coronavirus information for health professionals
- GOV.UK: Guidance on charities and risk management
- Zurich: Organisational resilience guidance on pandemic planning
- Charities Facilities Management Group: Business continuity for charities
- GOV.UK: COVID-19 travel advice
- GOV.UK: COVID-19 specified countries and areas with implications for returning travellers or visitors arriving in the UK
This guidance is not exhaustive. This information is intended to provide an overview of the covid-19 virus and how it may impact charities and the voluntary sector.
If you have any specific questions related to covid-19 and your organisation please email NCVO at firstname.lastname@example.org.