How do the new national restrictions apply to charities?

Author's position
RVA Advice Service Manager
Article date
2 November 2020
Primary interest
Voluntary sector

Article last updated on 4 November 2020 and now superseded by this article published on 17 November 2020, containing more updated government guidance for volunteer involving organisations.

Please continue to check gov.uk for updates. 

If you are a charity manager or trustee you may be facing the task of looking at your services following the announcements this weekend and trying to work out how these apply to you, whether you can continue services or if you need to suspend or adapt these. We appreciate this is not an easy task to undertake. This article outlines the summary of the new national restrictions to help you and we have spoken to NCVO for an update on their discussions with DCMS, to help shed some more light. As always, RVA is here to help, so if you would like to talk this through with us, just get in touch.

A summary

On Saturday the Prime Minister announced measures for a four week national lockdown from 5 November and expected to run until 2 December (although this may be extended). Until the 5 November, the local restrictions still apply.

The government has published this guidance on ‘New National Restrictions from 5 November’ All organisations should read this as it outlines what is and what is not permitted and will be underpinned by law, meaning that the police or other authorities will have the power to give fines or break up gatherings.

Section 1 outlines that people must not leave home except for very specific purposes. Individuals may leave home to go to work or to provide voluntary or charitable services where they cannot provide this from home. There are also exceptions around ‘support bubbles‘, however note that this has a very specific definition as outlined in section 2 of the guidance.

Section 3 outlines where larger groups may be permitted and includes ‘support groups’. Again this has a very specific definition and groups should check this carefully. It may be that the group can be paused or delivered online or virtually and charities should consider this in their risk assessment.

Section 4 outlines which businesses and venues must close by law. including (but not limited to):

  • non essential retail;
  • hospitality venues – e.g. cafes, social clubs etc
  • leisure and sports facilities
  • entertainment venues, such as theatres, museums and botanical gardens
  • personal care facilities, such as hair and beauty
  • community centres and halls
  • places of worship (with exceptions for individual prayer, broadcasting services and funerals)

The guidance also contains further sections such as on education, childcare and children’s activities, and protecting people from the risk of Covid-19.

What are the implications for charities who involve volunteers?

NCVO have been speaking with DCMS and can confirm:

  • Where possible, people should volunteer from home. If they cannot do so, they can volunteer outside their home if they follow the social distancing guidance and no one in their household has symptoms of coronavirus or has tested positive for Covid-19. Remember there is a legal duty to self isolate if an individual, or someone in their household, tests positive for Covid-19.
  • Voluntary and charitable activities are exempt from a number of the new restrictions. This means that, where volunteers are able to volunteer outside their home (see above), they can:
    • meet in groups of any size indoors or outdoors while volunteering
    • travel to volunteer or while volunteering
  • As always, it should be a volunteer’s personal choice whether they wish to volunteer, including outside their home, and they should not be compelled to do so by their organisation or group.
  • Volunteer-involving organisations must ensure their venues meet coronavirus safety standards. You should therefore review risk assessments and also check your insurance cover.
  • People over the age of 60 and those who are clinically vulnerable do not face any specific restrictions on volunteering and should follow the same guidelines as above. However, as this group could be at higher risk of severe illness from coronavirus, they may need additional support to follow social distancing rules and minimise contact with others.
  • There is a further group of people who are defined, on medical grounds, as clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV) to coronavirus – that is, people with specific serious health conditions. Clinically extremely vulnerable people can volunteer from home; they are advised not to volunteer outside their home. The Government will write to everybody who is clinically extremely vulnerable to set out detailed advice while the new restrictions are in place.
  • The existing GOV.UK coronavirus volunteering guidance pages will be updated in line with the new announcements later this week when the new rules come into effect.
Actions to take:
  • Review your services and consider if these can be delivered remotely or virtually during lockdown. Here are our slides from earlier in the year when we ran a session on this. Speak to funders if you wish to adapt your services, most will be amenable to this if you check in advance.
  • If you are planning to continue with any in person charitable activities, make sure that it is not an activity that must close by law. You should also be prepared to evidence your decision and why you have taken that approach. If you are unsure, pause your service and seek advice.
  • Review your risk assessments for services that you you are permitted to continue to deliver in person. These must be Covid-secure. Volunteers should have a free choice as to whether they volunteer. Bear in mind that some people are more at risk to covid-19 and plan around protecting these individuals. Be prepared to review these in line with any updated government guidance that may be issued.
  • Have clear guidance around when not to volunteer or attend a service, i.e. covid symptons or positive test, including anyone in their household. See the legal duty to self isolate linked above.
Further support
  • Continue to check further updates from the government
  • The government has also extended the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme until December.
  • Take a look at the Get Berkshire Active support for community clubs here
  • If you would like help to understand the above or would like confidential advice, please get in touch with Herjeet at herjeet.randhawa@rva.org.uk or call us on 0118 9372273