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Covid-19 update: Government guidance changed on 19 July 2021 - we're currently updating our information in response to this. In the meantime, visit the government's guidance on lifting restrictions.

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Delivering activities and services

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This page explains what those involved in service delivery and digital support need to consider in light of the covid-19 pandemic. It offers practical guidance and signposts to helpful resources on planning for the easing of national lockdown, data protection, ensuring business continuity and moving your services online. This page is primarily aimed at senior leaders and anyone involved in managing the operations of a voluntary organisation.

Planning for the roadmap out of national lockdown 

  • On 22 February 2021 the government set out a road map to ease national lockdown restrictions in England.
  • Here are some questions to ask yourself with the easing of restrictions:
    • Which services or activities are you able to resume or deliver in person and when? You will need to follow covid-secure guidance. Risk assessments will need to be updated. Read our managing covid risk guidance to help you prepare.  
    • Are there opportunities for blended service delivery - some in person and some online? Do your staff and volunteers have the skills to do this effectively? Read our digital and technology content to find out how you can develop the digital skills of your team
    • Do you have the human capacity to support any changes to service delivery?  Preparing for change will require additional capacity. Policies and procedures might need to be updated.  Staff and volunteers will have to adapt to new ways of working.  
    • Are there activities or services you no longer need to deliver? Does the easing of lockdown have implications for your organisation’s strategy? 
    • How will you continue to support staff, volunteers and beneficiaries that are clinically vulnerable? Is there additional support you need to put in place for staff working from home long-term? Read our guidance on supporting your beneficiaries
    • Do you know how staff and volunteers are feeling about any planned changes? It will be important to address any anxieties about returning to a workplace in advance. Read our guidance on working with staff.
    • How will you maintain the involvement of volunteers?  What additional support might volunteers in particular roles need?  Those resuming roles in person may need additional support and training. Read our involving volunteers section
    • What plans do you have to support the mental wellbeing of staff and volunteers during this period of change? Levels of anxiety may increase particularly for those who are themselves more vulnerable and or have caring responsibilities. Read our guidance on supporting staff wellbeing.
    • How are you going to effectively communicate changes to services with your beneficiaries/service users? Consider how you will tailor communication to the needs of your beneficiaries.  
    • Can you work with other charities and local stakeholders to address changing needs?

Developing a business contingency plan

  • Given the economic uncertainty facing many organisations, it is helpful to plan for different eventualities.
  • Scenario planning is a useful tool to help you assess uncertainties in your external environment and consider how you might respond to future challenges. Read our updated guidance on scenario planning.  
  • With significant changes taking place in the external environment, you will probably have to re-revisit your strategic plans. Our paid for guidance called Tools for tomorrow provides you with a useful set of tools to help you think about strategic planning.  
  • Making significant strategic decisions during a time of uncertainty is difficult. For more information about how you can approach this, see our decision making matrix.
  • The Charities Facility Management Group has more information on how to develop a business continuity plan, including identifying threats to your charity and analysing their potential impacts.

Renegotiating with existing funders

  • Many funders have tried to support existing grantees during this difficult period. 
  • If you are concerned, about not being able to meet anticipated outcomes and outputs set out in grant agreements, you can:
  • Revisit your project outline. Be clear about what can and cannot be achieved and why. Questions to consider include: 
    • Do resources need to be shifted?
    • Do outcomes need to be amended or adapted?
    • Do timescales need to be modified?
  • Contact your funder to discuss how the current situation is affecting your ability to deliver previously agreed outcomes and timescales. Look to agree on new achievable ones.
  • Allow for a delay in funders responding to you as they may be receiving an influx of similar queries from other investees.

Moving your services online 

Here we outline some steps to take for moving your services online:

Understand your users’ needs

  • Before designing or building any digital services, consider your users’ needs.
    • Who are your service users?
    • What services do they use?
    • Have their needs changed due to lockdown restrictions? If yes, how have their needs changed? 
    • Do you need to amend your services to reflect any changes in needs?
    • How do you engage and communicate with your users already? Is there potential to build upon these platforms?
  • It is important to begin with these considerations as any digital services should meet the users’ preferences and behaviours as well as social needs.
  • If the time and capacity is available, it would be helpful to conduct some user research to develop a deeper understanding of your users’ behaviours and preferences.
  • For more information on user testing see our guidance on how to carry out effective user research.

Explore options and talk to others 

  • After identifying user needs, examine the digital tools and platforms that are available.
  • Consider existing internal resources. What tools and platforms are you currently using and can they be developed further, used in another way or are they already satisfying user needs?
  • Are there other organisations addressing or looking to address similar user needs? Reach out to them to discuss ideas, gain inspiration and explore new partnerships.
  • Look for inspiration beyond the sector. Are there organisations within the private sector that have designed digital services to address similar user needs?
  • Assess the risks involved in using certain digital tools. SCVO’s blog New world, same rules: safeguarding and privacy offers guidance on adapting safeguarding practices. This includes topics such as privacy, keeping personal data safe, confidentiality, and safeguarding vulnerable groups.
  • Consider how you can be inclusive when designing your digital services.  You need to ensure that your service will work for users who have different needs. The government has developed some detailed guidance on making your digital services accessible.

Develop your service and seek feedback

  • Building digital services takes time, so start with small and incremental steps.
  • Start small so you can test your approach. Build on your ideas if they prove successful and learn from your failures.
  • Be willing to change your digital services over time. Listen to our users about what works and what doesn’t work.
  • When developing digital services, it is important to remember that not everyone has the same access to digital tools or technological literacy. Where possible, traditional forms of communication should be maintained to support service users unable to access digital services.
  • Be inclusive when designing your digital services. Ensure that your service will work for users who have different needs. The government has developed some detailed guidance on making your digital services accessible.

Helpful resources

There are many resources available to learn more about delivering services online.

Cybersecurity during coronavirus

  • If your services and activities have moved online as a result of the pandemic, you should consider the cyber security measures you have in place. 
  • As a starting point, think about what risks working online presents. Some potential risks are mentioned below. 
    • An increased reliance on digital technology such as web hosting, credit card processing and productivity tools such as email, video and chat.
    • Changes to resourcing requirements which means updating existing service level agreements.
    • Staff using their own devices to access services and data meaning you may be more exposed to malware attacks.
  • You can assess your organisation’s security status by answering the National Cyber Security Centre baseline questions.
  • You should talk to your IT service providers to check that you are happy with the cyber security measures you have in place. The National Cyber Security Centre has developed a series of questions for you to ask your IT service providers.
  • For more information about how to improve cyber security within your charity, read our guidance on five steps to cybersecurity.

Data protection during coronavirus

Page last edited Jun 21, 2021

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