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Covid-19 Information for Village Halls and Community Buildings

To reduce social contact, the government has ordered certain businesses and venues to close.

With the stricter government advice on the coronavirus being in force, halls should now be CLOSED UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE.  The Government released guidance on the closure of certain types of businesses and venues that were to cease trading from 23 March and clearly lists the ones affected by the new regulations.

‘Community centres, youth centres and similar’ (which will mean village halls) are on this list and were ordered to close.  There are however, some exceptions to this ruling that will permit certain essential activities to continue. You can view the full guidance HERE.

The exceptions affecting village and community halls are stated as:

“For the purpose of hosting essential voluntary or public services, such as food banks, homeless services, and blood donation sessions.  Public venues that host blood donation sessions can continue to open temporarily for these services only.  A distance of two metres should be maintained as per Public Health England guidelines”.

Some halls may host a variety of other essential voluntary or public services, such as community shops, Post Office services, medical surgeries, market stalls which offer essential grocery and food.

If your hall is being used to deliver essential services, then managers need to ensure that they have followed all the necessary precautionary measures and are confident that service providers also adhere to the latest government advice. 

ACRE recommends that halls should conduct a thorough risk assessment when deciding whether to close or to offer limited access for essential services.  Management decisions should be kept under constant review and properly recorded in the minutes.

This page includes information on funding currently available as well as advice on what you can be doing now that your hall is closed.

Business Continuity Planning

Business Continuity Planning (BCP) as an idea gained much attention in the early 2000’s due to disasters such as the World Trade Centre in the USA. In the face of disaster or other external factor impacting on operations, then how would the core business function continue?

Our recent CAS survey to the sector to see the impact of Covid-19 highlighted that a number of organisations did not have this in place.

There are three key steps in developing a BCP. These are:

  1. Prioritise which critical functions are required to be continued immediately or in the short and medium-term.
  2. Assess which of the prioritised functions are feasible and to what extent can they be undertaken. Taking into account constraints such as Government mandated regulations or other external function that has an impact on your operations.
  3. Execution of the plan. Bringing about the necessary changes within the organisation to ensure continuity should another pandemic or other occur.

Business Continuity Planning (BCP) involves defining any and all risks that can affect organisations operations, making it an important part of your organisations risk management strategy.

Please click on link to get to a template of a risk register from NCVO:

 Once the risks are identified, the plan should include:

  • Determining how those risks will affect operations
  • Implementing safeguards and procedures to mitigate the risks
  • Testing procedures to ensure they work
  • Reviewing the process to make sure that it is up to date
    BCPs are an important part of any organisation. Threats and disruptions mean a loss of revenue and higher costs, which leads to a drop in profitability. Organisations can’t rely on insurance alone because it doesn’t cover all the costs.

The introduction of the BCP to your existing policies will ensure you have a blueprint for working to if your organisation is unable to run as per normal in the event of any disruption.

‘Coronavirus: Just one in five small charities able to provide normal service’

If you would like help with developing a BCP, then please contact: Jayne Vaughan on: jayne.vaughan@communityactionsuffolk.org.uk or you can email: communitybuildings@communityactionsuffolk.org.uk

Annual Returns

Charities that are due to submit an annual return now or in the near future and need an extension to their deadline due to the coronavirus pandemic should contact the Charity Commission, and ask the regulator for a filing extension.

The Commission has said that during the Covid-19 pandemic, “the charity sector will face challenges of looking after its staff, volunteers and trustees who may fall ill, have to self-isolate, or have to look after loved ones”.

It added that the sector has a vital role to play in looking after its beneficiaries, many of whom will be amongst the most vulnerable during this public health emergency.

Its statement said “We want to assure charities that our approach to regulation during this period will be as flexible and supportive as possible. Charities’ primary interest, and ours, must be looking after the public and the communities that we serve”.

When contacting the Charity Commission, please include your charity name and charity registration number when you email us: filingextension@charitycommission.gov.uk

See more at: https://www.civilsociety.co.uk/news/covid-19-means-charities-can-ask-for-extensions-on-filing-annual-returns.html

MEETINGS

  • AGMs and other meetings: postponing or cancelling meetings

Coronavirus is having a major impact on charity events and the government’s health advice has lead to charities having to cancel or postpone their AGMs and other critical meetings.

As Trustees you should record this decision to cancel or postpone the meeting to demonstrate good governance of your charity. This is particularly important if it is not possible to hold your AGM, which may make it difficult for you to finalise your annual reports and accounts.

Wherever possible, we would ask you to try to get your annual reports to us on time. However, where the situation impacts on the completion of annual returns and accounts, charities with an imminent filing date can email us.

Please include your charity name and charity registration number when you email: filingextension@charitycommission.gov.uk

  • Holding meetings online or by telephone

In the current situation, it is difficult to hold face-to-face meetings. Some charities have clauses in their governing documents that allow them to meet virtually or to use telephone facilities, so we advise trustees to check their governing document and see if they can make amendments themselves to facilitate changes as to how or when meetings are held.

Where there is no such clause in your governing document and you decide to hold meetings over the phone or using digital solutions, we will understand but you should record this decision and that you have done this to demonstrate good governance of your charity.

STAFF

The Government Job Retention Scheme came into power in light of the COVID-19. This scheme allows charities and businesses to put employees who would otherwise be unemployed as a result of the coronavirus on ‘Furlough’. This means that the employee does not work and the state finances 80% of their salary up to £2,500/mth. Employers have the opportunity to top this up to 100%.

Updated guidance states that: ‘confirmation that you can only claim for furloughed employees that were on your PAYE payroll on or before 19 March 2020 and which were notified to HMRC on an RTI submission on or before 19 March 2020. Employees that were employed as of 28 February 2020 and on payroll (i.e. notified to HMRC on an RTI submission on or before 28 February) and were made redundant or stopped working for the employer after that and prior to 19 March 2020, can also qualify for the scheme if the employer re-employs them and puts them on furlough’.

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-for-wage-costs-through-the-coronavirus-job-retentionscheme

The way to make a claim is online – the service should be simple to use and any support you need available on GOV.UK. The online service that will be used to make claims is not available yet, but Government expects it to be available by the end of April 2020.

GUIDANCE FOR EMPLOYERS

Who can claim?

Any UK organisation with employees can apply, including businesses, charities, recruitment agencies and public authorities. You must have:

  • Created and started a PAYE payroll scheme on or before 19 March 2020
  • Enrolled for PAYE online – this can take up to 10 days
  • A UK bank account.

VILLAGE HALL CHECKLIST

Top tips for Trustees regarding their roles and responsibilities during Covid-19:

https://www.clapham-collinge.co.uk/news/village-halls-and-covid19-your-checklist

FINANCIAL SUPPORT / FUNDING

Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant (RHLG) and Expanded Rate Relief.

In response to the Coronavirus, Covid-19, the Government announced there would be support for small businesses, and businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors. This support will take the form of two grant funding schemes, the Small Business Grant Fund and the Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant Fund.  The schemes will be delivered by Local Authorities – if you are eligible, your Local Authority will be in touch with you to arrange payment.

Central Government will provide funding to Local Authorities that are responsible for business rate billing. Those Local Authorities will contact eligible businesses to arrange payment of the grants. Current guidance indicates that village halls are eligible for this grant funding and expanded rate relief.

Under the Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant (RHLG) eligible businesses in England in receipt of the Expanded Retail Discount (which covers retail, hospitality and leisure) with a rateable value of less than £51,000 will be eligible for a cash grants of £10,000 or £25,000 per property.  Eligible businesses in these sectors with a property that has a rateable value of up to and including £15,000 will receive a grant of £10,000. Eligible businesses in these sectors with a property that has a rateable value of over £15,000 and less than £51,000 will receive a grant of £25,000.

RURAL RESPONSE – EMERGENCY GRANTS PROGRAMME- https://rsnonline.org.uk/rural-response-emergency-grants-programme

Please look at the Community Action Suffolk Funding and Sustainability page for the full list of funding currently available.