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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 local lockdowns, moving your services online, data protection and ensuring business continuity. This page is primarily aimed at senior leaders and anyone involved in managing the operations of a voluntary organisation.

Planning for a return to local tiered restrictions 

  • Currently a national lockdown is in place in England. To understand what you can and cannot do during this time, read national lockdown: stay at home guidance on GOV.UK. You can also read our guidance on managing covid risk.
  • When national lockdown ends, local tiered restrictions may be reinstated and there is the possibility that local areas will move between tiers.
  • Here are a few questions to ask yourself in preparation for possible future changes:
    • How are you going to effectively communicate changes to services with your beneficiaries/service users?
    • Which services can you offer in each tier? Can you move services online or are there other ways to provide these services? Read our guidance on moving your services online.
    • How are you going to identify who may require additional support during a local lockdown? Risk assessments may need to be updated. 
    • Can you accommodate workshops or support groups with a reduced number of attendees? Have you planned to make your offices covid-secure?  
    • How will you respond to an increase in demand for services?
    •  Can you work with other charities and local stakeholders to address changing needs? 
    • How will you maintain the involvement of volunteers?  What additional support might volunteers in particularly affected areas need?  For more information on involving volunteers, read our involving volunteers section. 
    • What additional support might staff need in particularly affected areas? For more information on working with staff, read our working with staff section.

Providing charitable lunches under local tiered restrictions

  • On 2 December, the government introduced revised local restriction tiers. Each tier includes gathering restrictions to reduce social contact.
  • In all four tiers, charitable lunches over the festive period are not included in these gathering restrictions, provided they follow the covid-19 secure guidance for restaurants and takeaway services and working safely during coronavirus.
  • Volunteers and staff are allowed to leave home to work at a charitable lunch as they are providing voluntary or charitable services.
  • Those attending a charitable lunch must follow gathering restrictions that apply to their tier.
  • For example, if a charitable lunch is taking place indoors in a tier two, tier three or tier four area, an attendee may attend and either sit:
    • alone
    • with members of their household 
    • with their support bubble, depending on their circumstances.
  • Further information on social distancing in an indoor setting, with more than one household, can be found in the guidance for restaurants.
  • In all four tiers, a restaurant can host a charitable lunch for vulnerable beneficiaries even if their premises would otherwise be required to close.
  • If you do not have catering facilities and have previously hosted charitable lunches in a restaurant or venue, you can continue to do so in all four tiers.
  • For further information see advice from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

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 because of the pandemic or 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.

Data protection

  • Data protection rules will not stop people from helping others during the coronavirus outbreak but should be considered if you are asking for personal data.
  • Personal data is information that relates to an identified or identifiable individual – this could be a volunteer, or someone being helped by a volunteer.
  • The law contains standards to help you handle peoples’ information. Whether you are a small community group or an established charity, you need to know who is handling data and that they are doing it in a responsible way.
  • Here are six points to remember:
    • Clarity: Be honest about what your organisation will do or is doing with personal data. Tell volunteers not to ask for or share anyone’s personal data or health data, unless there is a specific reason to do so.
    • Sharing: This is only acceptable for specific reasons. Public safety is one of them. Your organisation may be able to lawfully identify other reasons to slow or prevent the spread of coronavirus. Don’t share anyone’s personal data on websites or social media platforms.
    • Act lawfully: Handling personal data is only allowed in certain situations. Common reasons include the person would expect you to be handling their data (legitimate interest), you have the person’s consent, or someone’s health or safety is at risk. If someone is likely to be surprised you are handling their data, more steps should be taken to tell them what you are doing and why.  
    • Security: Store personal data securely. Try to use password-protected documents or devices. If using paper, lock it away. We have guidance about how to store personal data.
    • Minimise: Only ask for the data you need. Don’t keep it when you no longer need it.
    • Record: Keep records of decisions your organisation has made about the use of personal data. These could be as simple as bullet pointed notes or a list in a spreadsheet, or in a data protection policy
  • Certain sensitive information, including health data, is classed as ’special category data’. This data should only be handled with consent, to safeguard someone at risk or to save someone’s life.
  • For more information look at the six data protection steps suggested by the ICO , or check out our data protection and volunteers guidance.
  • The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) understands that organisations may struggle to maintain data protection standards at this time. They have said they will not penalise organisations where they have had to divert efforts away from activities such as responding to subject access requests. You can find out more information about their approach, in their blog post outlining what you need to know during coronavirus

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-visit 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, read our guidance on decision making and making good decisions.   
  • 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.
  • Watch our risk webinar series with Zurich Insurance focused on organisational resilience and learning from the pandemic.

        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.
        Page last edited Jan 11, 2021

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