COVID-19 Communities 1st Voluntary Sector Briefing 3rd April 2020

Was that only a week?

Firstly, I would like to say a huge thank you to everyone working hard to ensure that we support local people during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.  Throughout our incredible membership we have seen an amazing community response.

All through the last few weeks I’ve heard from amazing folk in other charities and voluntary organisations who are working flat out to help. They are rewiring their entire organisations to be able to do what is needed right now, to keep people safe and well. Although we’re physically distancing, being socially connected has never mattered more. Rightly, the NHS is getting a lot of attention as our NHS staff are at the frontline of dealing with the impact of Covid19. It’s also important to remember that the wider system includes social care staff in Local Authorities, care homes, agencies which provide support at home and of course thousands (and I’m not exaggerating here) of charities and community groups.

Some things we’ve done

  • Launched our Compassionate Community Connector volunteer programme - The headline has to be the fantastic response to our call for volunteers – over 2,000 people have signed up already
  • Created a space for local charities and community groups to tell us what they need
  • Added to our resources with news about funding, safe practice and much more 
  • Working with partners to gather information about what’s going on in neighbourhoods, what the needs are, what’s in place and what isn’t and how to connect it all together. We are effectively building in a matter of days a district-wide information system. The start of this is here
  • Launched our helpline for people who are in an at risk group and need help or support.  Please can complete the form here: or contact us on 020 8207 5115 or email

Some things I’ve learned this week

  • There is a massive collective effort. Each of us is just one cell in this collective brain trying to figure it out and get everything done. Without any one of us it wouldn’t be as smart, with just one of us it wouldn’t work at all
  • It’s very easy for time to be eaten up when working in a crisis. Whole days have gone by moving from one conference call to the next without time to change mental gears
  • We all need time out and time to smile. I’m still learning how to do that

Stuff still to sort

  • Some groups of people are still too invisible in all of this
  • NHS Volunteering. It’s wonderful to see so many thousands of people sign up. All that’s needed now is some ideas of how that’s going to be organised because I don’t yet understand how we are supposed to connect to it. We’ll find a way
  • Crisis funding for charities. Some funds available are listed here

So if you’re feeling that this is still an anxious time where not everything is clear, all I can say is that’s OK. Everything is still coming together but it is making a difference. It will get better, more connected and the system will improve. Last week I said, it was not a sprint, but a marathon. I’d add to that now: it’s a relay marathon where the course keeps changing. 

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 need to hear from you

If your voluntary organisation is still delivering your service, please inform us of what kind of help, support, guidance you most need from Communities 1st.

  • What are the implications of Coronavirus for your organisation?
  • Do you have or need volunteers?
  • Is your service operating?
  • Can we signpost to you?

If your organisation is facing challenges as a direct result of Coronavirus you can contact us via email on: or by completing an online form here and we will prioritise support for your organisation.

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 Colney Good Neighbour Scheme, #TeamHerts Volunteering and many other local organisations.

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 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.

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

If you want more information you can visit our website: or contact our Voluntary Sector support team on 01727 743018.  


TrustLaw: Series of webinars on the law and Covid-19

TrustLaw, the Thomson Reuters Foundation’s global pro bono network, are continuing to operate core services online during the evolving COVID-19 situation and are arranging a series of webinars with partner law firms. These webinars will provide an opportunity to ask lawyers questions on the legal implications of COVID-19.

If you would like to attend one of these webinars, register your interest here. The registration form will ask you for your contact details and to indicate the areas of law which you would most like to discuss. Once enough information has been gathered topics will be confirmed based on popularity.

Updated guidance from the Charity Commission

The Charity Commission has updated its guidance to help with running a charity during the coronavirus outbreak. In the guidance, the Commission sets out its response to the most commonly asked questions. This includes consideration of whether your charitable objects allow for your charity to offer support, how you can get support to pay staff and whether you can use reserves and restricted funds to help your charity survive the crisis.  You can here:

Furlough guidance

This guidance sets out the process to claim for your employees' wages through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. It explains who is eligible and how much you can claim to cover wages for employees on temporary leave (“furlough”) due to coronavirus (COVID-19).

There is a very important and relevant paragraph which states that if you're receiving public money to cover staff costs you cannot furlough those staff even if you can't deliver the work. This could make the process very complicated as VCSE organisations will need to look at every contract to see what the implications are. This information is detailed under section ‘Who can claim’ and under the sub-heading ‘Public sector organisations’Read the guidance here.

Community groups and COVID-19: what you need to know about data protection

Ian Hulme, Director for Regulatory Assurance at the ICO explains some of the basics of data protection, and gives new and established community groups, services and charities clarity on how to apply the law in this extraordinary time. Read this blog.

Update from Association of British Insurers.

Support those who use their cars to help their communities.  If you are using your own car for voluntary purposes to transport medicines or groceries to support others who are impacted by Covid-19, your cover will not be affected. You do not need to contact your insurer to update your documents or extend your cover. This applies to all categories of NHS Volunteer Responders, including transporting patients, equipment, or other essential supplies.  Read more.

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

In terms of ongoing support here are Radio Verulam’s community-focused initiatives:

  • Community Circle: Charities and not-for-profits can have a profile on our website, which includes a function for blog posts and occasional on-air mentions
  • Community Corner: contact Rob Pearman If clients, colleagues, the general public or volunteers need to reach each other, they can email a message which will be broadcast on our Local Life programme
  • Community Shoutouts: As above, however, people can press a button to record a message or thank you on their phone, laptop or PC, this will also be broadcast on air 
  • Local news: Charities, support groups or local organisations can share their updates, events or offers of help
  • #SideWithStAlbans: @radioverulam on Twitter, Facebook & Instagram. A community-led project created by our volunteer digital media team to encourage residents and organisations in Hertfordshire to share their positive news online 

Charity Bank COVID-19 Resource Hub

Charity Bank has created a Resource Hub which it is updating regularly to include information on topics such as HR, finance, fundraising and fraud. Take a look

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

On 26 March HM Revenue and Customs published its guidance “Claim for your employee’s wages through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme”.

This guidance sets out the process to claim for your employees' wages through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. It explains who is eligible and how much you can claim to cover wages for employees on temporary leave (“furlough”) due to coronavirus (COVID-19).

There is a very important and relevant paragraph which states that if you're receiving public money to cover staff costs you cannot furlough those staff even if you can't deliver the work.  This could make the process very complicated as VCSE organisations will need to look at every contract to see what the implications are. This information is detailed under section ‘Who can claim’ and under the sub-heading ‘Public sector organisations’. Read the guidance here.

Coronavirus and Your Charity’s Finances

A Webinar about Coronavirus and Your Charity's Finances was recorded here.

Sandy Adirondack’s legal updates

We’ve shared bits and pieces from legal specialist Sandy Adirondack before as she regularly issues mailings with relevant and clear guidance, advice and resources for the voluntary sector. Now more than ever, we recommend signing up to Sandy’s mailing list. You’ll receive updates including links to home working policies, risk assessments, HR guidance and legal advice, plus much more.

To sign up for the legal updates email list contact Sandy on


If you would like help with applying for these funds such as a read and review, Christine Halpin and Isobel Hatfield are on hand to help you through, please contact them by email at and they will book some time in to work with you.

HCF - grants of £2000 available

HCF have grants of up to £2000 available for community groups and charities dealing with emergency issues caused by the COVID-19 outbreak.

Please check the fund eligibility criteria before completing your application process.  Click here to access information from HCF about the application process.

Small grants scheme for smaller charitable organisations

Charities Aid Foundation has launched a small grants scheme for smaller charitable organisations. It’s for grants of up to £10,000 for smaller organisations affected by the virus outbreak. Details can be found here:

Nisa Stores charity funds

All Nisa Stores across the UK have a charity fund to support small, local charities. Retailers are facing unprecedented demands at the moment and are extremely busy so don’t have the time to actively seek out charities, but if you call or pop in (safely) to ask, you may be in luck! Find your local Nisa store.

National Lottery Heritage Fund (NLHF)

NHLF remains open for its current grant programmes and are seeking to reassure everyone they fund that they will be as flexible and supportive as possible.  Find out more about Heritage Fund funding.

CAF Coronavirus Emergency Fund

Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) has launched a rapid response fund to help smaller charitable organisations affected by COVID-19. Grants of up to £10,000 are available.  Find out more about CAF Coronavirus Emergency Fund.

The National Emergencies Trust

NET has launched a Coronavirus fundraising appeal to raise funds for local charities. The British Red Cross will be managing donations. Find out more about National Emergencies Trust funding.

Power to Change

Power to Change have paused their current programmes for community businesses in order to turn their attention and funding towards the support and advice the sector needs now. Find out more about Power to Change funding and support.

Esmée Fairbairn Foundation (EFF)

EFF are currently concentrating on supporting the organisations they already fund. Find out more about Esmee Fairbairn Foundation funding.

Big Society Capital

Big Society Capital is planning to launch an emergency loan fund for the sector. Around £100m is expected to be available and more details are still to be announced.  Find out more about Big Society Capital Funding.

Standard Life Foundation

The Standard Life Foundation has launched funding for work directly related to the coronavirus pandemic. Grants will be made to organisations which tackle financial problems and improve living standards for those on low-to-middle incomes in the UK.  Find out more about Standard Life Foundation funding.

John Lewis and Waitrose £1m fund

The partnership has launched a £1m community support fund. Waitrose stores will have these funds to support their local area based on the needs of the community.  Find out more about John Lewis and Waitrose funding.

Arts Council England


Emergency funding package and support for funded organisations and individuals announced.  Find out more about Arts Council funding.

The Indigo Trust

The Indigo Trust is making £2.5m available through emergency grants to help charities respond to the coronavirus emergency. The trust responded to an initiative from charity think tank New Philanthropy Capital (NPC), which has published guidance for philanthropists on how to best support charities through to the crisis.  Find out more about Indigo Trust funding.

Steve Morgan Foundation

Housebuilder Redrow’s founder Steve Morgan has also pledged £1m a week to charity, joining the list of celebrities and business people offering their support.  Find out more about Steven Morgan Foundation funding

Cadent Foundation

Charities and community groups can apply for individual grants of between £100 and £100,000 as a new foundation, funded by the UK’s biggest gas network Cadent, opens for applications.  It committed £240,000 to the Trussell Trust last week to help food banks respond to challenges presented by Covid-19.  Find out more about Cadent Foundation funding.

Youth Futures Foundation

The Foundation’s rolling grants programme is now live.  The new fund will be distributed to organisations across England that have a promising track record of supporting young people (aged 14-24) who face barriers to accessing employment.  The Foundation is also calling for government to unlock an emergency support package for charities and social enterprises working with children and young people. Find out more about Youth Futures Foundation funding.

Localgiving and People’s Postcode lottery – Magic Little Grants

Magic Little Grants of £500 are available to local charities that support and inspire people to participate in sports or exercise. Localgiving have announced that they will support projects that help people to stay active during social distancing, such as online fitness classes delivered via video conferencing software or Youtube.  Find out more about Magic Little Grants.

Emergency funding to support highly vulnerable veterans

The Covenant Fund Trust will this month be launching an emergency programme to support the Armed Forces Community with funding from the Covenant Fund and from HM Treasury; with special attention on those who have faced hardships as a result of the pandemic; on projects to help isolated people reconnect with wider communities; projects that support improved mental health and encouraging stronger links between Armed Forces Charities.  Find out more how the Covenant Fund Trust is responding to COVID-19 here.


Herts Sports Partnership launches WorkOut from Home

WorkOut From Home is the starting point to learning how you can WorkOut your Body, WorkOut your Mind and WorkOut What's Next.  It includes a downloadable, editable tracker for you to use to keep the whole family's activities scheduled on. Download it and make changes on any device, or print and pop up in the kitchen where everyone will see a daily reminder!

Hertfordshire Year of Culture – WhatsONLINE

HYOC2020 is keen to remind everyone that whilst lots of things might be cancelled, creativity certainly isn’t.  Organisations across the county are finding new ways to deliver their content and you can find it on the WhatsONLINE page on Creative Hertfordshire.  There’s plenty on here to keep your creative mind active during social distancing. Organisations can upload their own online activities directly here.  Follow @HYOC2020 across all social media platforms for some more inspiration or to share your own creations. 

Supermarket vouchers for children who get free school meals

Parents of children eligible for free school meals will begin getting weekly supermarket vouchers to try to help them through the coronavirus shutdown, ministers have announced. The government has acknowledged that the closure of schools was “dramatically affecting the lives of many families” and has introduced this new measure in a collaboration with major supermarket chains including Tesco, Asda and Sainsburys.

Schools will provide vouchers to families electronically - with parents showing codes on their phones at supermarket titles - or as gift cards for families without internet access.  You can read more on this here.

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.

Cyber Threats and Increased Risks

There are increasing risks of cyber-crime during this period of lock-down.  It is worth reminding staff who are working at home, and some of whom, may be using their own equipment of the risks and what to do/not do.  You may want to consider circulating a reminder.  The do/don’ts below should cover the majority of scenarios at present.

Top tips:

  • Check that incoming emails are from a legitimate sender. At a quick glance the email address may appear to be that of a colleague, a client, or a known third party, however, it could be just a single character different
  • Never click on links in emails from sources where you do not know the sender, are not expecting the email or the contents appear suspicious in any way
  • Never share bank details with anyone over email. Never accept changed bank details from anyone over email
  • Always follow the organisation’s processes for identity checking, verifying and double-checking bank details, confirming client identities etc
  • Never share personal or confidential details about yourself or others when requested to do so via email
  • Be wary of bogus websites that can copy the identity of a genuine firm.
  • Avoid clicking on adverts in websites that you cannot verify as genuine – they may contain hidden code to download malware
  • Be aware of the increased incidence of “doorstep” scams. Do not accept offers of help or to provide services when you do not know the caller and have not previously arranged to engage with or speak to them
  • Always ensure that your anti-virus software on your personal computer is up to date and fully operational
  • Never allow anyone else to use your login, nor access your personal computer equipment
  • Never allow anyone other than authorised personnel to download any software onto your computer equipment
  • Always check with your manager or a partner if you are unsure about the authenticity of an email, or a request to provide information or carry out a financial transaction.