VCSE Sector Update 27-3-20

Volunteering
Community Action Norfolk, Voluntary Norfolk and Momentum (Norfolk) are working with Norfolk County Council and local health providers to recruit volunteers for a county wide effort to respond to the Covid-19 crisis.  We are particularly keen to hear from people who have the skills to volunteer in health and social care roles, which have been identified as priority areas, but also welcome anyone who wishes to volunteer to help those in their local communities.

If you want to volunteer and support the Covid-19 response, please click here to register on the Volunteer Portal, ticking the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Call for Volunteers box as your Area of Interest. You will receive a call back in due course from a member of our Covid-19 Volunteering Response Team to discuss what you can offer, what volunteers are needed in your local area and the next steps.  Please be aware that this may take a bit of time as we co-ordinate our efforts with our partners.  You may also be contacted by a VCSE organisation directly if they think you would be a good fit for their Covid-19 volunteering role. 

Donating  
If you would like to give a donation to support the ongoing work of local voluntary groups and charities in Norfolk, click here to support Norfolk Community Foundation’s Covid-19 Community Response Fund.  Donations will be used to create funding for charities and community groups working hard to meet local needs.

If you would like to donate food and other supplies please do so through the food bank network.  The Trussell Trust, who manage some of Norfolk’s food banks, believe food shortages could become an issue in just a few weeks’ time with many food banks beginning to run short of UHT milk, tinned fish and meat, long-life fruit juice, and tinned veg and fruit.  Please check the Trussell Trust Norfolk website and other Norwich food banks, along with social media channels, to find out what items they need most before donating.  More information about coronavirus and food banks is available here.

Help for emerging groups
We are seeing numerous community initiatives emerge in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.  This is a fantastic statement on the caring nature of our communities.  For basic advice and information go to our webpage ‘Community Responses to Covid-19 Pandemic’
 
By adapting guidelines and policies used to develop CAN’s existing Good Neighbour Schemes (GNS), we are able to offer emerging community groups the opportunity to be a Good Neighbour Response Team, where all your volunteers will be signed up under CAN’s Insurance and structures.  We will also be able to provide you with information and guidance in relation to a wide range of practicalities including safeguarding, data protection and volunteer management.  So if you have started or are thinking of starting a group and would like to be part of our Good Neighbour Response get in touch by emailing covid@communityactionnorfolk.org.uk

Working with other partners, we are coordinating support to help people running or developing community groups so do email us with your questions and support requests on covid@communityactionnorfolk.org.uk

General guidance
– Community Action Norfolk’s (CAN’s) general guidance for organisations can be found here
– Voluntary Norfolk’s advice can be found here and
– Momentum (Norfolk)’s guidance here
– Our initial VCSE Sector Response from CAN, Norfolk Community Foundation, Voluntary Norfolk and Momentum (Norfolk) is here – and we will continue to provide updated advice and guidance as the situation develops.

Information about changes to VCSE services following COVID-19 is being compiled by CAN, as and when we become aware of service delivery changes, and is available to view here.  This is our best effort to keep track of a rapidly changing landscape so cannot guarantee accuracy. If any of the information in this document needs to be amended or you wish to add relevant information, please email covid@communityactionnorfolk.org.uk

Campaign for extra support for the VCSE sector  
Over 100 MPs have signed a letter, available here, to the Chancellor asking for clarity and meaningful financial support for charities and voluntary organisations.  If voluntary sector support and development organisations fail, there will be no local capacity for organising and mobilising volunteers and connecting them with those who are relying on their help.  It really is the case that #EveryDayCounts. 

Community Action Norfolk, Momentum, Norfolk Community Foundation and Voluntary Norfolk have sent a letter to all of Norfolk’s MPs requesting urgent support for the county’s VCSE organisations as they work to help the most vulnerable in our communities. 

We ask you to support this campaign and send your own version of this letter, using the template here, to your own MP.  Details of Norfolk’s MPs can be found here.

If you use Twitter add your voice of support online using #EveryDayCounts by sharing your charity’s story – we are at @CANorfolk  @NorfolkCF @momentumnorfolk @vol_norfolk

NCVO are also asking VCSE organisations to help them make the case for financial help for charities by emailing tell@ncvo.org.uk with details of your financial situation.

VCSE Funding
Norfolk Community Foundation, through its Covid-19 Community Response Fund Covid-19 Response Fund, is offering grants of up to £1,000 to support community action to help vulnerable people affected by the Covid-19 outbreak.  It aims to make funding decisions as quickly as possible on a rolling basis while the fund is open.  The continued availability of these grants is dependent on the progress of the fundraising appeal working alongside.
 
Support from the government
The government has set out a package of temporary measures to support public services, people and businesses through this period of disruption caused by COVID-19, for full details click here.  Most of these schemes apply to charities, including:
– a Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme where HMRC will reimburse 80% of wages, up to £2,500 per month.  This applies to employees who have been asked to stop working, but who are being kept on the pay roll, otherwise described as ‘furloughed workers’. Organisations who are concerned about retention of staff during Covid-19 may find the following guidance from CBR Business Solutions, the trading arm of Voluntary Norfolk, helpful –  with further links to other HR advice in subsequent section.
– deferring VAT and Income Tax payments. a Statutory Sick Pay relief package for small and medium sized businesses (SMEs).
– a 12-month extension of Business Rates relief, or ‘Expanded Retail Discount Relief’, for all retail, hospitality and leisure businesses in England, including charitable halls and charity shops.  For full guidance click here
– small business grant funding of £10,000 for all business in receipt of small business rate relief or rural rate relief.
– grant funding of £25,000 for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses with property with a rateable value between £15,000 and £51,000.
– the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme offering loans of up to £5 million for SMEs through the British Business Bank.
– the HMRC Time To Pay Scheme for all businesses and self-employed people who are struggling to pay their tax and PAYE.  For more information click here
– A ban on evictions for commercial tenants who miss rent payments.  This would apply equally to charities with commercial/business leases. For more information click here
– The launch of a free to use Coronavirus Information Service on WhatsApp which aims to provide official, trustworthy and timely information and advice about coronavirus (COVID-19).  For more information click here  

Existing Funders
Norfolk County Council (NCC) has confirmed that organisations working under existing contracts who adapt their delivery and utilise their resources to support its local resilience approach will continue to be paid as if they had continued service delivery as normal.

Many grant funders have published supportive statements or messages conveying their flexible approach to current and future grant recipients, including:
– A general statement signed by over 150 grant makers including Comic Relief offering reassurance that signatories will be understanding of difficulties encountered by charities, including flexibility on reporting requirements and how funding is used.
– A statement from The National Lottery Community Fund which has already started to shift application deadlines for some of their funds that were due to close soon.  
Charity Bank which has issued a joint letter with many other social investors to reassure all the organisations they invest in that they will support you and be as flexible as possible in the coming months.

The general message is to get in touch with your funder or social investor if you are in doubt, especially if you think you may need support, flexibility or investment to help you through this difficult time.

Safeguarding and scams
Sadly, there are individuals at large taking advantage of others.  If you think you’ve been scammed or become aware of any such incidents, report them to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or Norfolk Trading Standards by calling 0800 223 1133.  If you need advice, call the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 0808 223 1133 and if you are in immediate danger, contact the police on 999.  Make sure your colleagues or those in your community are aware of potential scams as telephone and internet scams are prevalent.

Below is a list of COVID-19 related scams compiled by Norfolk Trading Standards, you can sign up to receive scam alerts here.

– Be aware of people offering miracle cures or vaccines for coronavirus – there is no specific treatment for coronavirus (COVID-19).  Treatment aims to relieve the symptoms until you recover.
– People impersonating healthcare workers, claiming to be offering ‘home-testing’ for coronavirus – this is a scam and these kits are not currently available to buy.
– Emails saying that you can get a refund on taxes, utilities or similar are usually bogus and they are just after your personal and bank details.
– There are lots of fake products available to buy online that say they can protect you or cure coronavirus. These will not help and are designed to take your money.
– There are new mobile phone applications that claim to give you updates on the virus but instead, they lock your phone and demand a ransom.
– Your bank or the police will never ask for your bank details over the phone.
– People offering to do your shopping or collecting medication and asking for money upfront and then disappearing.  

To learn more about different types of scams and how to protect yourself and others, visit www.FriendsAgainstScams.org.uk and complete the free online training.

We recommend following your existing safeguarding policies and practices in protecting service users, staff, and volunteers as much as possible although it is likely you will have to adapt how you carry out DBS checks, interviewing and monitoring. If direct contact is required and a new volunteer is involved, for example, consider ensuring two volunteers are present to reduce risk.
 
When visiting someone who is self-isolating, you might suggest they:
– ask personal callers where they have come from and provide identification.
– avoid inviting people into their home unnecessarily.
– only give money to people you know and trust.
– not hand over personal information such as bank details.
– contact the police if in doubt.

The aim is to ensure that both volunteers and those they are helping are aware of the potential pitfalls and to ensure that people make a logical and informed decision.  

DBS Temporary Changes
Temporary changes to Standard and Enhanced ID checking guidelines have been made as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.  This will enable ID documents to be viewed either via video link or for scanned images to be used in replacement of original documents and verified via video link.  It is important to note that the applicant will be required to present the original versions of these documents when they first attend their employment or volunteering role.  Further information can be found here.

Organisations who up until now have used paper-based DBS applications are being encouraged to sign-up for the online service.  Momentum and CBR Business Solutions have temporarily waived their set-up fee and are providing additional support for customers wo want to move to the online service.  They are prioritising requests for help to ensure those organisations needing DBS checks as part of their Covid-19 response are supported first.  Further details are available at Momentum’s website and CBR Business Solutions website.

uCheck have also released information, click here, on how to apply for a COVID-19 Fast-track Barred List Check.

HR and Legal advice
Organisations are now facing significant changes for the foreseeable future.  Below are some tools and guidance to aid coping with workforce and staff changes, such as furloughing (when staff might be asked to stop working for the duration), workplace checklists, job retention and short-time working, along with some helpful letter templates. Human Resource and Employment specialists Croner have created a free toolkit, with practical and up-to-date guidance on how to manage the impact of coronavirus on your workforce. NCVO members have unlimited access to Croner’s HR & Employment Law helpline to help get answers to your HR queries and concerns on 0844 561 8133. Quote NCVO scheme number 86544 when you call.

Specialist advice for Clients and Users
Charities with specialist knowledge and expertise in relation to benefits and housing are producing online resources to support individuals and clients, see below:
– Shelter is regularly updating its ‘Housing advice: coronavirus (COVID-19)’ page with answers to frequently asked questions about eviction, rent payment problems, income and benefits, moving home, mortgage arrears and repossession and landlord access to your home.
– The Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) have set up a ‘Benefits and coronavirus’ webpage with regular updates on announcements and rule changes regarding benefits and coronavirus.  

Data Protection
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) recognises the unprecedented challenges we are all facing during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and has published ‘Data protection and coronavirus: what you need to know’.

Homeworking
A lot more people will be working from home. This has implications for individuals and organisations.

What technology do your staff need to be able to work from home?
Cloud based technologies can be ideal for supporting home working. Microsoft 365 is available to charities at a heavily discounted rate, more information can be found here. Google has a similar offer, details of which can be found here

Charity Digital has a number of articles to help you find the right technology to keep your organisation working and well connected. Information can be found here

How will you keep in contact with your team (volunteers and staff)?
Tools Like Microsoft Teams and Zoom can be helpful for staying in touch. As can WhatsApp group and good old fashioned phone calls. We have an article of video conferencing here

You need to think about wellbeing (the effects of potentially being isolated or home working)?
The NHS has a page of useful information on staying mentally well here 

Norfolk and Waveney Mind also have some information about maintaining your wellbeing and where to find support

What policies do you have to cover home working and what changes may be required?
You retain Health and Safety responsibility for people working from home. CAN uses a simple declaration form and provide guidance on risk assessment. For employees to certify their home is safe to work in (yes this does sound silly but it is part of your duty of care), you also should consider the workstation set-up your team are using. The Health and Safety executive have a useful checklist available here
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