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Last updated: 22 June 2020

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, we are updating our news pages with advice and information for voluntary and community organisations.

What we're doing

Connected Voice is following government advice and most of our staff are working from home. This is not possible for all of our services, particularly statutory advocacy, so some of our staff will still be out in community settings, but this will be limited.  We will be doing most of our work digitally for the foreseeable future. Our phone line is diverted so you can still speak to the team any time you want to.

New website resource to support volunteers and communities

We have been working with Newcastle and Gateshead Councils on their community response. We have created a website where you can log a request for support for someone, or link to organisations who are providing support. This is now live and you can read the press release from Newcastle City Council here. In Newcastle the City Council will also be launching a helpline in the next few days, and we have had input into how this will work.

We know that a huge number of people have signed up to help in their local communities through various Facebook groups. This is encouraging to see, but at this point it has created a great deal of work for a very small number of volunteers who are trying to manage the groups. Our advice is to think local first. Check up on the people in your surrounding street/ estate who might need a hand. If you wish to do something more long term then please contact one of the many hundreds of organisations that already exist across our communities to support people – they are in a great position to let you know what is a priority.

Our events, training and services

We have postponed all our events and training for March and April and you will have received a confirmation about this if you have booked on to anything.

Many of the staff within our team will need to carry on their work as normal, albeit remotely - particularly the advocacy and finance teams. The Support and Development team will have some capacity to do other work as their usual training and networking events have now been cancelled. We will of course be available for advice and support via email and telephone, but we also want to make sure we put our resources where they are most useful. We are talking to our members about what to do, and we will keep you updated. Please let us know if you would like some practical support.

Key advice for your organisation

We have had a high number of requests for support from organisations on how to ensure their volunteers stay safe, and they manage their community facilities safely.

The government guidance is now:

Stay alert

We can all help control the virus if we all stay alert. This means you must:

  • stay at home as much as possible
  • work from home if you can
  • limit contact with other people
  • keep your distance if you go out (2 metres apart where possible)
  • wash your hands regularly

Do not leave home if you or anyone in your household has symptoms.

Full details can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus

The government advises that people who are vulnerable should be particularly stringent. This includes people who:

  • are over 70
  • have an underlying health condition
  • are pregnant

More details can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-guidance-on-social-distancing-and-for-vulnerable-people/guidance-on-social-distancing-for-everyone-in-the-uk-and-protecting-older-people-and-vulnerable-adults

There is new guidance on shielding extremely vulnerable people at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-on-shielding-and-protecting-extremely-vulnerable-persons-from-covid-19/guidance-on-shielding-and-protecting-extremely-vulnerable-persons-from-covid-19

Lockdown Easements and Returning to Work

Return to Work Information Sheet

With the easing of some Lockdown restrictions, we've produced a useful information sheet with guidance for voluntary and community organisations thinking of returning to work: Download pdf

Risk Assessment advice for Community Buildings and Services

During the COVID-19 lockdown Connected Voice and our Support and Development team have continued to support the wide range of voluntary and community sector organisations in Newcastle and Gateshead. We know that some of you have had to close your buildings and have adapted what you offer so that you could continue to support some of the most vulnerable people living in our communities.

As lockdown begins to ease we have been talking to a number of you about how you plan and approach the future. How can you ensure the safety of staff, volunteers, community members and customers when you think about re-opening your building and the reintroduction of some of your activities and services?

The following documents have been developed to give some guidance to those of you who operate from a community building. We recognise that each of your organisations will have specific and particular risks unique to you. These could include the age range, the abilities and the needs of people who use your services and it will almost certainly include the design, size and layout of your building.

These documents will assist as a starting point for you to look in more detail at your environment so that you can make an informed decision about when you might reopen and what you can safely offer while making sure that you continue to keep yourselves and the people around you as safe as possible.

The first document is an option tree. It can be used as you and your team take a virtual walk through your building and it will help to suggest areas and issues that you need to consider, discuss and decide upon. Click here to download the Option Tree.

The second document is a risk assessment template or framework that will help you and your management committee/staff and volunteer team to assess the level of risk associated with areas of your building, activities or services. It is not comprehensive. It is a starting point. Connected Voice has added some points to it in order to illustrate the sort of information and detail that you will need to consider. You should remove some of the information and add your own details so that it meets the needs of your organisation. When you complete it with the details that are specific to your surroundings and the people who use the space, it will help you to make considered decisions about what you can provide as safely as possible. Click here to download the Risk Assessment Template.

DSC (Directory of Social Change) has published a summary of the Government's policy on ending COVID-19 Lockdown at: https://www.dsc.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/DSC-summary-of-UK-Govt-document-Our-Plans-to-Rebuild.pdf?dm_i=6S7,6W0UP,V4BIBU,RO07Q,1

Changes to DBS ID checking guidelines - new guidance allows:

  • ID documents to be viewed over video link
  • scanned images to be used in advance of the DBS check being submitted

Read the updated guidance at https://www.gov.uk/government/news/covid-19-changes-to-dbs-id-checking-guidelines

Benefits advice: Newcastle City Council now has a special webpage on Coronavirus and benefitshttps://www.newcastle.gov.uk/services/welfare-benefits/welfare-rights-and-money-advice/coronavirus-and-benefits-special-page

Charity Business Services advice: covering the job retention scheme, statutory sick pay, business loans and grants https://www.connectedvoice.org.uk/latest-news/741-charity-business-services-covid-19-information

See COVID-19 Payroll Update 8 June 2020

Safeguarding: Newcastle City Council has also produced safeguarding guidance for adults self isolating and a general adult safeguarding poster that can be shared.

Specific information for charities: NCVO has produced detailed advice for VCSE organisations, which links to the relevant public health information. The information is changing on a daily basis so rather than replicate it here we urge you to look at the links.

Working from home: We realise that digital working is not possible for everyone. For those of you who can do it, Charity Digital has produced some useful guidance on tools for working remotely. Mark Shilcock, OurGateshead Officer, has written a useful blog on his experiences of working from home - Top Ten Tips for Working from Home

Staying safe: Sadly with the rapid changes brought about by Coronavirus there has been a spike in cyber crime. Some methods are quite sophisticated. Cleveland Police's latest newsletter lists a few of the common scams that have surfaced, which have cost victims in the region of £800,000 in just one month: Cyber Crime - Cleveland Police Newsletter 

Preventing the spread of Coronavirus

Detailed guidance is available on the government website.  https://www.gov.uk/government/topical-events/coronavirus-covid-19-uk-government-response

UNICEF has released guidance on breastfeeding and Coronavirus: file:///Users/user/Downloads/Unicef%20UK%20Baby%20Friendly%20Initiative%20statement%20on%20infant%20feeding%20during%20the%20Covid-19%20outbreak.pdf

A guide and execises on Coronavirus for kids: file:///Users/user/Downloads/COVID-kids.pdf 

Supporting diverse communities

Haref continues to share information with BAME community groups across Newcastle and Gateshead, including public health information in other languages. See below, subscribe to the Haref bulletin and email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you have any questions. Members of some communities are experiencing acts of racism, discrimination and verbal abuse with the outbreak of the virus. Stop Hate UK is providing anyone experiencing or witnessing such discrimination with a confidential 24-hour third-party reporting service.

Public Health England has produced information posters in various languages:

Doctors of the World has translated advice into a number of languages https://www.doctorsoftheworld.org.uk/news/coronavirus-information/

There is also an easy read photo poster which you may find useful to display on site: