Covid-19 Communities 1st Voluntary Sector Briefing 27th March 2020

I would like to thank every single one of you for your efforts during this challenging time. I have heard many examples of the fantastic work charities, voluntary organisations, social enterprises and local neighbourhood groups are doing in mobilising communities, providing frontline services and helping the vulnerable.

I also want to thank member organisations for keeping in regular contact with Communities 1st during this time. I know from personal experience that running a charity is a full-time job even at the best of times. But the information that you have provided has been critical in our efforts to support local communities. Our members are our greatest asset, and we will never take you for granted. So, thank you again for all your help and please continue to work with us.

COVID-19 is already making radical changes to the way that people think about our society. Things that were unthinkable just a few days ago, are now received wisdom.  It’s unlikely that we’ll back to ‘business as usual’ after something of this scale. Things must be different. Our priority for the moment must be to respond to this health emergency and the needs of members and the local community. But beyond this I hope we can all commit to working together so that the sacrifices that are being made are not in vain.  I would encourage any members with thoughts or ideas about how we can achieve this to contact me.

Our COVID-19 Support and Resources webpages are being updated daily with briefings, guidance and other practical resources to help you through the coming weeks. You are not alone.

Thank you once again for all you have done and will do in the future.

Stephen Craker,
Chief Executive, Communities 1st



Support for groups/charities

We are in contact with many local charities and community groups to identify how we can help support you and your organisation in response to the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak, and thank you to those organisations who are continuing to provide valuable support to our most vulnerable residents.  We’ve added this feedback on a new community directory here so everyone can see what organisations are able to deliver during this time.

Where possible, please let us know what services or initiatives your organisation is delivering during these challenging times and how we can help you - whether that's with advice, volunteer recruitment, capacity building, accessing available funds or any other issues that you're becoming aware of within your organisation or in your communities. 

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.

New page of Ideas and inspiration for fun

Ideas to keep yourself busy or entertain the kids at home during the coronavirus outbreak

New page for funding sources following the Covid-19 outbreak  

This page is intended as a place where groups, charities and social enterprises might find additional funding which they might need as a result of Coronavirus and the general

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, London.


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 email They 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.

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 a 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: safeguardingpractical support volunteering and keeping in touch volunteering.


Six key points for community organisations to consider

COVID-19: support for businesses
COVID-19: guidance for employees

  • As a charity, community group or CIC you should see how your resources could be useful to the community in partnership with other charities etc.  This situation is a big jolt and it is a very difficult environment now – but this could be an opportunity for your charity to fulfil its objective in a way that builds its good reputation.

Filing charity annual returns during the coronavirus pandemic

Any charity that needs an extension to their annual return deadline can contact the Charity Commission to ask for one.

Talk to us if you have questions about any of the above or would like to discuss how these points relate to your own situation.

Safeguarding Factsheet: Community volunteers during COVID-19 outbreak

The government has published a safeguarding factsheet with accompanying FAQs to address specific concerns that people involved in supporting their community may have at this time. You can read the factsheet and FAQs here:

Every day counts

Last week a number of national charity membership bodies launched the #EveryDayCounts campaign. Through this campaign, non-profit organisations are asking the government to provide emergency funding that will keep charities alive and enable them to continue to serve their communities.

However, despite regular engagement with officials and some amazing support from MPs and peers of all political parties, our understanding is that this is not enough. We understand that the case is not sufficiently strong to convince the chancellor of the voluntary sectors’ need.

We are being asked for a list of charities which will be in significant financial difficulties within the next few weeks if the chancellor does not act to support the work of the sector.

Ideas, resources and templates

  • Write to your MPs – using this template
  • Mobilise your supporters – by asking them to write to their MP using this template letter 
  • Share your stories - share videos talking about your work, use local media, social media using the hashtags #EveryDayCounts and get your stories out there, in particular:
      -  what you are doing to support in response to COVID-19 crisis (through existing services and/or additional activity you have taken on)
      - highlight any increases in your activities as a result of the crisis
      - highlight any capacity or financial squeezes where you can
      - tag local media outlets/journalists/mainstream media

Using local radio to reach your clients, colleagues or the public

If you need to reach your clients, colleagues/volunteers or just the local public, you can use a special programme (Local Life) that is being broadcast on Radio Verulam 92.6 FM and live online at each Wednesday evening between 7 and 8pm and on Sunday morning from 8 till 9am, and then on Listen Again for 7 days. Radio Verulam has a coverage area of over 450,000 people and we have over 11,000 social media followers. You can either send an emailed message to the producer who will announce it or you can send a good quality (brief) audio recording which will be broadcast as soon as possible. Radio Verulam has already stepped in to help the local Talking Newspaper to reach their visually impaired listeners starting next Thursday evening from 7 till 7.30pm. If demand from other charities, voluntary groups etc is as heavy as expected, the joint team at Radio Verulam and the Talking Newspaper will expand the total broadcast time and facilities available. Contact Rob Pearman at for more information.


Look out for the blue tick on Twitter

There’s a lot of fake news out there about coronavirus so it’s really important to get your news from a trusted source. The NHS has worked with Twitter UK to make sure local NHS organisations are blue-tick verified – so it’s easier to know who to trust.

Rightsnet: corona virus support

Rightsnet provides daily news and caselaw updates across five areas of social welfare law - welfare benefits, debt, housing, employment and community care - and facilitates access to peer to peer case work support via online adviser forums.  Rightsnet has now made its resources more widely available – take a look at the website.

COVID-19 and homelessness

Homeless Link is running weekly webinars to provide updates on the situation and how homelessness services are responding to the COVID-19 outbreak. You can find webinar recordings here:

Harpenden Cares

Harpenden Town Council is supporting a new initiative called Harpenden Cares. Harpenden Cares is a community-led response to the coronavirus that involves lots of Harpenden’s brilliant voluntary sector groups. The initiative aims to support local people at risk, help keep key services running, and to be a trusted source of information.  They can be contacted on 01582 460 457 from Monday – Friday between 10am – 2pm.

London Colney Good Neighbour Scheme

London Colney Parish Council has set up a good neighbour scheme. They can help with Shopping, Posting mail, Prescription collections or a friendly Phone call, If someone you know who lives in London Colney and need helps while isolated they can call the Good Neighbour Scheme on 01727 261104 (Monday to Friday between 10am -1pm).

Support and advice for people working from home

The FSI and Skill Pill have created a free remote working pack with 6 short films to help get your small charity up and running with working away from the office. The pack includes:

  • Setting up a remote team
  • Effective virtual meetings
  • Managing remote teams
  • Working as part of a remote team
  • Building emotional resilience
  • Writing effective emails

Access your free pack via the website

Coronavirus and your wellbeing has been produced by Mind to help people to cope with anxieties about coronavirus and to deal with issues around self isolation.

Working well from home under self-quarantine for coronavirus: this guide from Leapers explores what you can do to plan for the possibility of staff needing to self-isolate, as well as tips for home-workers. Advice includes using a variety of ways of keeping in touch with colleagues, how to build a structure for your day, and ensuring you don’t neglect the important social aspect of work.

Remote working: a practical safety guide for businesses.

You can find these and other guidance on the Mental Health at Work website.

Domestic Abuse during COVID-19 Guidance & Information

Many residents will be following the national advice around household isolation and social distancing as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This advice is in place to limit the spread of the virus and keep as many people as safe and well as possible. We know that there are vulnerable people in our communities who will be more concerned than others about the prospect of staying at home for a number of reasons, including those who have been the victims of domestic abuse such as violence or coercive and controlling behaviour.

While all public services are adapting to new ways of working during this pandemic, our message to anyone who is experiencing domestic abuse is clear: You are not alone and you don’t have to suffer in silence - we will still be here for you, no matter what.

Hertfordshire Police, local authorities and providers of domestic abuse support across Hertfordshire continue working together to maintain essential services and contacts for anyone affected by domestic abuse during the weeks and months to come.

If you, your child or anyone in the family are at immediate risk of harm, you should contact the police urgently, CALL 999.

If you are experiencing domestic abuse or believe someone you know is please contact Herts Domestic Abuse Helpline on 08 088 088 088.

Further support can also be found at these national agencies:

Advice from National Trading Standards:

People are being encouraged to protect their neighbours by joining Friends Against Scams, which provides free online training to empower people to take a stand against scams. To complete the online modules, visit  

NTS is also issuing urgent advice to help prevent people falling victim to COVID-19 scams through its Friends Against Scams initiative.

Members of the public are being urged to keep in contact with family members regularly and inform them of the most prolific scams and the possible dangers to them. If someone has been targeted by a scam it can be reported to Action Fraud online at or by calling 0300 123 2040.

For advice and information on how to check if something might be a scam, visit:

The following article from Which? On how to spot them and stop them