About the current pandemic
Health experts have been saying for many years that a pandemic was statistically overdue. It seems it may be upon us. The World Health Organisation has declared the COVID-19 strain of coronvirus a global pandemic.
This brings with it many challenges, including travel, organising events, turning up to work, working from home potential/possibilities, our staff and volunteers taking ill and/or self-isolating, our service users/clients taking ill and/or self-isolating and the impact that panic buying/stocks of medicines, foods and so on can have on all of us, not just the most vulnerable citizens in our communities. For our sector particularly, our public sector partners are already turning to us to see how we can help them to look after fellow citizens as the impact affects the public sector workforce and the number of clients needing help increases.
Further, there's a growing recognition of the impact all of this negative and worrying news about something that has the potential to affect the global economy, our health and how we will live our day-to-day lives over the next number weeks and months. People are starting to panic and worry, with negative mental health impacts being reported as people are overwhelmed with bad news and information that can be difficult to comprehend, particularly as different countries react differently and some statistics being reported appear to be rather significant and gloomy.
Businesses (mostly retail and travel so far) are seeking financial bailouts/support already. Fewer people shopping (apart from toilet rolls, of course!), dining out, visiting the cinema, taking leisure breaks and so on is going to cost the economy a lot of money, with the result of businesses folding and jobs being lost. This also increases demand on public and third sector services.
Prescription deliveries in Fife for priority and vulnerable patients
FVA has partnered with NHS Fife, the Health and Social Care Partnership and Fife Council to launch a prescription delivery service for those in Fife that are most in need.
We're working with over 80 pharmacies across the region, with volunteer drivers uplifting and delivering prescriptions to those who are the most at risk in the event of a COVID-19 infection. Individuals must be unable to collect their prescriptions themselves and have no on who can collect them on their behalf Please respect this, so that this important service can be kept moving efficiently for those most in need.
We're seeing groups emerging across Fife on social media looking to provide support in local communities. This is great and here at FVA we're happy to assist those groups as much as we can. It is worth noting that not all of them will have insurance, policies, risk assessment regimes and proper governance arrangements, so people should be aware of the potential risks.
We would always advise volunteering through established third sector organisations where possible. We know that the vast majority of people getting involved will do good things, safely and appropriately and we don't want to stop any of that, but we also don't want people who are trying to help inadvertently put people at risk, including themselves. We would therefore urge people to consider risks, follow official guidance and put the safety and wellbeing of our more vulnerable citizens at the heart of what they do.
Most of the informal groups will be operating appropriately and will not present any specific risk and here at FVA we're keen to provide whatever assistance we can to help them to operate and manage risk.
Organisations looking for volunteers
As people self-isolate and take precautions to limit the spread of the virus and reduce risk to others, some organisations that are keen to continue to support their clients differently during this time don't have enough people or resources to help. Please use the Helping Hand register above if you'd like to help and we'll be in touch.
Information for Vulnerable People
Vulnerable people, or their families/carers, are likely to be concerned and/or anxious at this time. Keeping people safe and healthy is a fundamental aspect of society and we need to work together to ensure this.
If you are offered help by someone over the next few weeks, then they should have ID if they're working/volunteering for an organisation. If they're not, please stay vigilant and be aware of scammers and people looking to exploit this crisis. Limit access to your home and to any personal information about you. Whilst it's unlikely that people will try to take advantage, we encourage people to be cautious and alert. Here's some brief tips:
• Limit any physical or close contact (we know isolation can be lonely and talking to somebody can seem harmless, but protecting your health is the priority);
• Seek support over the telephone or e-mail wherever possible - contact a voluntary sector organisation that you already know or phone us on 0800 389 6046 or e-mail [email protected];
• Do not wait until things get desperate - make early contact and don't be afraid or ashamed to ask for help - organisations and people are keen to help and standing by, ready to do so;
• Only let somebody into your home if you know who they are and it is absolutely necessary for them to come into your home;
• Don't share your personal details, including health conditions with anybody unless you know and trust them;
• Don't share your bank details with anybody - even if they claim to be from your bank!;
• Don't give money to people for testing kits, protective equipment or anything like that - these are likely to be scams;
• Don't be tempted to visit other vulnerable people to help them out, you could be putting yourself and them at risk - please contact us, or use the register above to let us know about people who need support.
For unplanned, impromptu and informal activities, it is not necessary to carry out PVG checks on individuals. It is always necessary to manage risk though!
Regulated work, as defined by the Protecting Vulnerable Groups (Scotland) Act 2007, relates to individuals whose 'normal duties' would include:
• doing anything permitted or required in connection with the position, the opportunity to have unsupervised contact with protected adults, and
• where contact with protected adults, when the holder of the position is doing anything permitted or required in connection with the position, is more than incidental.
In situations like this, where there are undeniably unforeseen circumstances, there is no requirement to process PVG/Disclosure checks. This doesn't negate the need for basic principles in safeguarding to be applied. Follow the guidelines listed on this page to keep yourself and others safe.
If you have any questions, as always, don't hesitate to contact us.
In addition, our colleagues at Volunteer Scotland have put together a site dedicated to COVID-19-related volunteering advice (for both organisations and individuals). You can access this here.
In particular, you may wish to consider reading their guidance on PVG and Coronavirus
This is a big topic and we're struggling to find a definitive answer to cover organisations undertaking slightly different tasks. We've spoken to a few specialists in this area and they've said the same thing: Insurers know that these are unprecedented times and organisations changing what they do and how they do it, and doing some additional/different things is almost certainly not going to invalidate insurance cover! What Insurers won't tolerate is a move to additional activities that unduly create wider exposures that could be considered insured under the current business description. Why would using your vehicles to deliver essentials to those in need be any more risk than the actual carriage of people, for example?
Managing risks, documenting things, following good practice and guidance should all be happening anyway, regardless of the circumstances. It is always advisable to contact your Insurer or broker if you are unsure.
The Information Commissioner's Office (the regulator for data protection and GDPR in the UK) has formally announced that they will take a pragmatic approach to enforcement during the pandemic. They recognise that organisations are acting in the public interest and looking to protect people, so will be taking this into account. They have information on their website and you can call their helpline on 0303 123 1113.
We'd advise caution, still, and only share personal data when necessary to provide a service or keep somebody healthy and/or safe. It should be risk assessed, and sensible precautions taken over how you protect information and data about people (not just vulnerable people, but our own staff and volunteers too).
We've come across this nice resource (PDF file) to help children to understand what's happening, produced by Manuela Molina.
A new website promoting online safety at home has been launched - ThinkUKnow- providing activity packs to support children, who'll be spending a lot more time online at this time.
Many organisations will be facing funding challenges over this period as they pivot their operations towards relief efforts. We'll keep this section with details of any funding news specifically related to the crisis.
• New Universal Credit claims will all be done online and ID verification will not be required for payments to begin. ID checks will be done restrospectively once the crisis subsides.
• Disability benefit reassessments and benefit reviews have been suspended for at least the next three months.
• All job centres are closed except to the most vulnerable who cannot access services in any other way. People are encourages to go online or use the phone.
We're helping Fife's foodbanks to ensure that the people of Fife don't go hungry while self-isolating. Their resources are extremely stretched at the moment, and all donations are very gratefully received as they face unprecendented demand.
Daily conference calls are now taking place. Key updates will be posted here.
Fife Council and Scottish Government have confirmed that already-committed funding for third sector organisations is not at risk. This includes most third sector organisations in Fife receiving funding through Fife Council, most of which is on a 3 year service level agreement. What organisations do, and the numbers of people supported are expected to be impacted by the current pandemic, and there are no plans to penalise organisations so long as they have contingency plans in place, do what they reasonably can in the circumstances and liaise with their link officer.
28/03/20 - FVA has partnered with NHS Fife, the Health and Social Care Partnership and Fife Council to launch a Prescription delivery service for the most vulnerable patients in Fife.
28/03/20 - Fife's foodbanks have put out an urgent appeal for donations due to unprecedented demand.
27/03/20 - The Scottish Government is offering grants to businesses impacted by the pandemic (administered by Fife Council)
27/03/20 - Volunteer Scotland has published guidance on community volunteers and PVG checks.
27/03/20 - Anderson Strathern solicitors has produced a guidance note on what the Job Retention scheme (Furlough Leave) will mean for employers, while Citizens Advice Scotland has published guidance for furloughed employers.
27/03/20 - A Resilience fund has been launched to support third sector organisations at risk of closing due to the pandemic
27/03/20 - SCVO has created a section on its website dedicated to funding for organisations responding to COVID-19
27/03/20 - Volunteer Scotland has launched a website dedicated to COVID-19-related volunteering, with information for both organisations and individuals.
26/03/20 - We've added some links that will help you to identify COVID-19-based scams and keep yourself protected.
26/03/20 - We've included links to Fife's foodbanks, which are providing a vital service at this time.
26/03/20 - We've added some mental health resources to this page, to help you through this period of self-isolation and social distancing.
24/03/20 - The UK government has asked that benefit claimants apply online for the timebeing.
19/03/20 - launched helping hand register for people to tell us if they want to lend a helping hand in their community, but also for people to tell us if they need a helping hand at this time. We're doing this in partnership with Fife Council.
18/03/20 15:17 - emergency third sector funding is being proposed by UK and Scottish governments, details to follow
18/03/20 15:15 - a UK wide informal volunteering scheme will be launched tomorrow, details to follow
18/03/20 15:00 - FVA has sought reassurance from Fife Council about third sector funding and SLA performance targets
18/03/20 14:00 - FVA is drafting a communication to ministers around ESiF funding and the impact of the crisis on employability services
18/03/20 10:00 - added working from home staff survey, from CIPD, under HR section.
16/03/20 14:00 - published this page with links to reliable sources of information and some draft policies and documents for organisations to consider and learn from.