Covid-19: Charities share their responses to the lifting of restrictions 

In July and August, we hosted two events in response to the government’s lifting of covid-19 restrictions. These events brought together 70 representatives, from a range of voluntary sector organisations, to share concerns and discuss how organisations were planning to respond to changing guidance.   

Before these events, we shared a survey with the sector, so we could start to understand the impact of lifting restrictions. More than 300 responses highlighted key areas of concern for organisations. These included the following. 

  • Staff, volunteers and beneficiaries felt more anxious, making it hard to recruit and re-engage volunteers. Staff were managing an increased demand for support with less human resource.   
  • There was increased disagreement between staff and volunteers, due to differing opinions on the precautions’ organisations should put in place to deliver services and activities safely. Following the lifting of covid-19 restrictions, organisations have had to make difficult decisions about what precautions they do or do not put in place, and whether or not they resume face-to-face services.   
  • The most vulnerable felt even more isolated. The (often wrong) assumption that online services were addressing the needs of disabled people and those with more complex needs had added to these concerns. Many organisations are still working out what a hybrid offer of support would look like.   
  • Organisations were struggling to provide consistent and clear communication.  The pace of change, along with (at times) conflicting guidance, has made it hard for organisations to consistently communicate effectively with different stakeholders. Making sure communication is tailored to the needs of different groups requires time and resource.   

During the events, delegates had the opportunity to discuss these concerns and share how they’re addressing them. Below we’ve summarised the approaches and key learnings from these discussions.   

Delivering activities and services safely   

Specific covid-19 risk assessments are forming a key part of organisations’ decision-making in understanding if and how to safely resume face-to-face services and activities. 

Organisations highlighted the importance of making sure their risk assessments were live documents, regularly reviewed in line with changing government guidance. Engaging and involving key stakeholders in both developing and reviewing risk assessments has helped to identify new and/or emerging risks.   

One organisation shared how their risk assessments for services and activities addressed key questions, including the following.  

  • How critical is it to deliver the activity or service face-to-face?
  • Does the location of the activity or service allow for adequate ventilation, social distancing and good hygiene practices?   
  • How will people travel to the activity or service? Should the activity or service be held at a time when public transport is likely to be less busy?   
  • How will the measures put in place be communicated to those involved in the activity or service? 
  • Are those involved in the activity or service: 
    • at particular risk of catching or transmitting the virus? 
    • likely to have been exposed to the virus and/or have symptoms of the virus?  

For information and guidance on delivering activities and services safely:  

Supporting the wellbeing of staff and volunteers  

Supporting the wellbeing of staff and volunteers during uncertain times remains crucial. The prospect of returning to the workplace had resulted in increased levels of anxiety. Regular, clear communication is key in providing support and reassurance.    

Many organisations shared specific measures they had put in place to support the wellbeing of their staff and volunteers. These included the following:  

  • Providing mechanisms for staff and volunteers to regularly check in with each other.  Mechanisms included WhatsApp groups, Microsoft Teams and virtual notice boards.   
  • Using Mind’s Wellness Action Plan to support one-to-one conversations about wellbeing at work.    
  • Developing a staff wellbeing programme to share tips and practical guidance on topics such as managing stress, time management and maintaining a healthy worklife balance.  
  • Using local networks to provide support. One organisation teamed up with a local counselling service to offer free support to staff and volunteers who needed professional support.  
  • Providing employee assistance programmes to staff. These programmes provide support and practical advice on issues that might be affecting the wellbeing of staff.   
  • Being flexible. Where staff and/or volunteers have concerns, listening and adapting where appropriate.   

For information and guidance on supporting the wellbeing of staff and volunteers:  

Communicating effectively 

Regular changes to government guidance, understanding what this means in practice, and clearly communicating this to different stakeholder groups has been a challenge.  

Organisations were particularly concerned about how to communicate effectively with those who are digitally excluded or find it hard to access the online tools that have become the norm during the pandemic. To try and address this, organisations are doing a number of things.  

  • Developing their understanding of the communication preferences of the individuals they work with. 
  • Trying to ensure they use a range of methods to keep in touch and provide support to different groups. Organisations mentioned creating telephone groups, online groups and WhatsApp groups. 
  • Tailoring communication to the needs of individuals. Using resources that have been developed specifically to support minority groups affected by the pandemic. Some organisations mentioned returning to offline methods of communicating – for example, paper format and face-to-face. 
  • Thinking about the time of day that communications are sent out. Sending out communications at different times may increase readership.  

For more information on communicating effectively with those you work with:  

More help and guidance from NCVO 

Weve updated our coronavirus guidance in response to the lifting of legal restrictions and the government’s guidance for step four of the roadmap out of lockdown. We’ll continue to regularly update this guidance based on any further changes to government guidance and feedback.     

You can continue to share your concerns and feedback by completing our survey.   

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