Covid-19 Communities 1st Voluntary Sector Briefing 24th March 2020

When crisis hits, people step up – and we’re seeing lots of that right now.  So I’d like to thank all those people volunteering their time and everyone managing and coordinating volunteer efforts.

People are still keen to sign up to volunteer – which is great!  We have received nearly 1,400 volunteer applications in the eight days since our Compassionate Community Connector programme was launched.   We are busy working behind the scenes to contact everyone who has registered an interest.  We are also working closely with a range of partner organisations to ensure they are being supported during these challenging times.  However, this is a marathon not a sprint. We’re not at the peak and your help will be even more crucial in a few weeks’ time.  So, we’re continuing to collect details of potential volunteers so we can call when needed.

On a personal note, there are moments when it doesn’t feel real. And then there are moments where it feels all too real. And it hits you again, the sheer scale of what is happening. When I first started getting involved in conversations about covid19 only a matter of days ago, I couldn’t visualise where it would take us.  Every day there is something new, something else to take into account but never, never in any doubt that we should keep trying.  That is something I have seen in everyone I have spoken to or connected with or, increasingly, been in a conference call with. Despite the fast pace of change, the complexity and the uncertainty, everyone is trying their best to help. And everyone is still working out what that help might look like and how to do it.  We have to trust ourselves and each other to do our best.

Below is some information which we hope will be useful. 


Stephen Craker

CEO, Communities 1st


Compassionate Community Connector Programme
This programme is being co-ordinated by Communities 1st in response to Covid-19 and covers St Albans, Hertsmere, Welwyn/Hatfield, Broxbourne and East Herts.  Communities 1st is working in conjunction with Broxbourne and East Herts and Welwyn Hatfield Volunteer Centres, Harpenden Cares and #TeamHerts Volunteering

Volunteering: for people who are healthy and at low risk to help others.  Individuals wishing to volunteer their time can sign-up HERE or call 020 3940 4865 between 1pm – 3pm, Monday to Friday.

Supporting Individuals: People who need help whilst isolated (or someone on their behalf) can complete an online form HERE or call 020 8207 5115 or EmailThey will then be either matched with one of the Compassionate Community Connector volunteers, offered support immediately or signposted/referred on to a local voluntary/community organisation.  

Local Groups and Organisations: Can your organisation be contacted by local residents needing help or make use of additional volunteers? If you are contacted by a resident needing help, but don’t have a suitable volunteer available, or if you have a volunteer available, but don’t have a job for them you now can work together with other organisations by completing an online form HERE. If a group or local organisation would like to discuss anything, please Email or call on 01727 743018 .


Can anyone set themselves up as a support group? 

Anyone can set up a group and its great people have a natural impulse to do so. Once you start to form an organisation you encounter more legal responsibilities by default. This includes how you’re managing safeguarding and a common part of doing that is criminal record checks along with references. We’ve made our Being a Good Neighbour Booklet - Top Tips to help others guide free for everyone to access.  We have also produced a short video on recruiting and retaining volunteers.

The laws around volunteer safety and safeguarding can be quite complicated.  We’re doing what we can to support groups that are setting up to make sure they’re safe and effective.  If you want more information you can visit our website: or contact our Voluntary Sector support team on 01727 743018.  

If you would like to join the Communities 1st family which will then allow our insurance to cover your group, please review our template partnership agreement and contact the Voluntary Sector team on

We’ve produced some animations to share with volunteers, including: safeguarding, practical support volunteering and keeping in touch volunteering.

New Disclosure and Service Barring (DBS) Checks Information
On 19 March 2020, the DBS updated how they are currently accepting new DBS checks with volunteers to make it easier to process so volunteers do not have to physically meet Volunteer Managers with proof of ID & Documentation. They can do this via Video Online and scanning documents. See full details here:

Communities Prepared – Public Health Emergencies Training
Communities Prepared has developed training resources to help Community Emergency Volunteers and spontaneous local groups better understand public health emergencies and their potential role in supporting community resilience at this time.

Health Education England e-Learning for Healthcare (HEE e-LfH)
This programme has been created by Health Education England e-Learning for Healthcare (HEE e-LfH) in response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) global pandemic.  The programme includes key materials to help the health and care workforce respond to Coronavirus. This link may be useful to share with your volunteers (formal or informal groups):

Coronavirus and your charity - Free webinar, Wednesday 25 March,10am: 

NCVO are hosting a webinar on Coronavirus and your charity: Key legal issues to consider  with legal experts Bates Wells who will be advising on:

  • HR and employment law 
  • contracts, insurance and serious incident reporting 
  • governance and solvency considerations 
  • legal considerations when managing volunteers 
  • meetings and decision making.

There will also be a Q&A session for any questions you have. Register now

Coronavirus financial support for charities

NCVO is working closely with government on a package of financial support specifically aimed at supporting the voluntary sector as the coronavirus emergency unfolds. This forms part of a coordinated effort with sector partners in highlighting to government that charities, like business, are experiencing financial pressures because of coronavirus, while also being on the frontline of supporting vulnerable people at this crucial time.

National Emergencies Trust coronavirus appeal – Funding Available through HCF

The National Emergencies Trust (NET) has launched a fundraising appeal to help people most affected by the coronavirus emergency. The appeal will raise funds for local charities and grassroots organisations that can provide vital support to people in the quickest way possible.

Individuals and charities should not apply directly to the NET for funds. Applications for grants of up to £2,000 for groups dealing with the emerging issues in the community caused by the threat of the Coronovirus (Covid-19) outbreak can apply through Hertfordshire Community Foundation (HCF).

The focus of emergency funding is being prioritised to organisations providing services and support to older and vulnerable people as well as those with low and insecure incomes.  They are also inviting applications from groups applying to support people of all ages with mental health issues. 

Visit for the fund criteria and how to apply.

Data Protection and Coronavirus

On the 12th March the Information Commissioners’ Office (UK regulated of Data Protection Law) released the following statement:

‘We all share the same concerns about the spread of the COVID-19 virus. The need for public bodies and health practitioners to be able to communicate directly with people when dealing with this type of health emergency has never been greater.

The ICO is a reasonable and pragmatic regulator, one that does not operate in isolation from matters of serious public concern. Regarding compliance with data protection, we will take into account the compelling public interest in the current health emergency.

The safety and security of the public remains our primary concern. We are here to help our colleagues on the frontline. We can offer advice to make sure the law around data protection and direct marketing is clear. Information is available on our website or you can call our helpline on 0303 123 1113.’

Online isolation notes launched – providing proof of coronavirus absence from work

 People unable to work for more than seven days because of coronavirus (COVID-19) can obtain an isolation note through a new online service. Isolation notes will provide employees with evidence for their employers that they have been advised to self-isolate due to coronavirus, either because they have symptoms or they live with someone who has symptoms, and so cannot work.

As isolation notes can be obtained without contacting a doctor, this will reduce the pressure on GP surgeries and prevent people needing to leave their homes.

The isolation note service can be accessed via the 111 online coronavirus service or www.NHS.UK/coronavirus as well as via the NHS app

Individuals on Benefits and coronavirus

The national charity Turn2us which provides practical help to people who are struggling financially has created a complete guide to financial support during coronavirus. It includes guidance on the various benefits available in the event of self-isolation and a useful benefits calculator based on the latest government policy.

Message from the Hertfordshire Beacon Victim Care Service

The Hertfordshire Beacon Victim Care Service is still providing a service for anyone who has been affected by crime in Hertfordshire. If you require support from Beacon, please email  and a Case Manager can get in touch to provide support, including helping with:

  • Providing someone to talk to about the crime
  • Practical support and information, for example, how to keep safe.
  • Support with contacting other organisations who are involved, for example, the police
  • Information about other organisations that can help

The main phone line, is more limited than usual, however you can leave a voicemail and someone will get back to you: 0300 0115 555 (option 3).

Community Action Response – five things you can do:

  1. Think of others, consider your actions & be kind: People in every community will face the challenges of Covid-19 in some way – from needing basic provisions to help while they are unwell.
  2. Connect and reach out to your neighbours: as self-isolation increases, we need to find new ways to stay connected and check in on one another for our physical and mental wellbeing. Share phone numbers and stay in touch.
  3. Make the most of local online groups: Keep up to date, share information and be a positive part of your local community conversations using platforms like Nextdoor.
  4. Support vulnerable or isolated people: different groups in our communities are at increased risk and social isolation and loneliness are key concerns for all ages. There are things you can do like volunteering for local support services or donating to food banks to help.
  5. Share accurate information and advice: Support anyone who may be anxious about Covid-19. Sign post them to the correct advice from Public Health England and encourage people to follow the correct hygiene practices.