CORONAVIRUS COMMENT AND ADVICE
RICHARD BLAUSTEN, editor of CHARITIES MANAGEMENT, writes: This issue the section is about charities transitioning to the new normal however that further evolves. It is divided into two parts: the first with comment from charities about how they themselves are undertaking the transition and also with their advice to other charities; the second with practical advice from professionals and others, ranging from accounting to health and safety in care homes.
The comment from charities includes a medium term perception that a return to the old normal is not yet within sight. The advice from professionals shows that the basic old normal requirements for running charities still continue but exist in a very different new normal which requires new emphasis – whether in financial reporting or staff health protection.
Please scroll right down through this section as it is full of valuable input from our contributors, whether charities or professionals.
HOW CHARITIES ARE TRANSITIONING OUT OF EXTREME CORONAVIRUS TO THE NEW NORMAL
Good governance will become even more essential
ROSEMARY MACDONALD, chief executive of UK COMMUNITY FOUNDATIONS, observes: The last few months have proved why local charities are never more needed. From day one of the pandemic, they have been on the ground listening to the needs of vulnerable and deprived communities and delivering aid, support and comfort to those who have needed it most.
UK Community Foundations - a national network of 46 community foundations has been fundamental in bringing these people together with their local grassroot charities. Since the outbreak of Covid-19, we have seen a huge increase in vulnerable people and communities in need of urgent support whether that be with housing, food, education, or health and/or social care.
The coronavirus has meant that the daily activities most people take for granted - such as having food on the table, casual conversation with a neighbour or even visiting a doctor - have been near impossible for many vulnerable people up and down the country.
To help support the people and communities in such situations, it was essential for grassroots organisations to move quickly and effectively. At UKCF, weve partnered with the National Emergencies Trust and British Red Cross and have so far distributed 51.2 million of funds raised from their Coronavirus Appeal to over 6,708 local grassroot charities and groups supporting some of societys most vulnerable people throughout the outbreak (as of 24 June).
ROSEMARY MACDONALD of UK COMMUNITY FOUNDATIONS continues: Whilst working with local charities at ground level, we've found that most organisations have used the funds provided from their local community foundation to adapt their existing services so that they can continue to support their local communities throughout the pandemic.
For example, Churches Housing Action Team offers face to face and phone support to people affected by homelessness and poverty in mid-Devon. In response to the pandemic, it has now put its foodbank on the road to ensure essential supplies still reach vulnerable people in the area.
Each community foundation in our network has an in-depth understanding of its local area, where the priorities lie, and how best to tackle local issues. When foundations are working tirelessly, supporting their local community, its our role to ensure the right funding reaches the right organisation at the right time. Within just two weeks of it being launched, UKCF had already delivered 7.5m of funding from the appeal to grassroots organisations and in need.
ROSEMARY MACDONALD emphasises: However, its crucial that the work does not stop there. As all industries begin to adapt to a new way of working, it is important we do the same within the charity sector. Funders can strengthen their grant making processes to set guidelines for good governance, and further refine their framework for high quality standards that frontline service providers can follow. This is to ensure and protect the safety and security of not only staff, but also beneficiaries on the assumption that Covid-19 wont ever fully disappear.
Charity programmes which involve practical interventions - such as visits to the elderly, befriending services, and food delivery - should assess each activitys risk to make sure they continue to comply with social distancing guidelines. Where it is necessary, updating strategies and mitigation plans to reflect the evolving landscape will help to ensure all activities remain safe for both beneficiaries and staff.
From a governance perspective, trustees and CEOs can play their part by making sure that new regulations are complied with and continue to uphold charities high standards for risk management and mitigation.
The future of Covid-19 is uncertain, but what we can make sure of is that community groups are able to continue the valuable work they are doing to ensure vulnerable individuals and groups across the UK feel heard, supported and cared for.
Being adaptable with grant making
TINA COSTELLO, chief executive of HEART OF ENGLAND COMMUNITY FOUNDATION, says: 2020 has been a rollercoaster and, like everyone else, Heart of England Community Foundation has had to adapt to ensure it continues to support community needs across the West Midlands. Community foundations are built to respond to a crisis, and we wanted to be the best-placed charity in the region to do that.
Whilst staff adapted to home working, we quickly pulled together a grants programme and public campaign to address the resulting and emerging problems Covid-19 posed to the community. The Foundation has only run a handful of public appeals, but our Coronavirus Resilience Appeal brought in 408,000 - a combination of the general public, existing and new donors who wanted to give their support. Alongside this, money from the National Emergencies Trust enabled us to award over 1.3m in Covid-19 relief.
We wanted to stay ahead of the curve and whilst we could never have predicted the impact of the pandemic, we knew one thing: grassroots organisations would have to change the way they deliver their services. From this, the Doing Things Differently Fund was born. We have now awarded over 1m to groups enabling them to diversify and change the way they operate to continue to support their communities over the next six to 12 months.
TINA COSTELLO of Heart of England Community Foundation continues: Furthermore, we had previously suspended all our funds to regroup and focus on the bigger picture. Since then we have been working closely with our fantastic donors, including the likes of Wesleyan Assurance and Coventry Building Society, to broaden our criteria and aims to ensure our grants are aligned with communitys needs.
We have been working hard to map the future, which has been no easy feat! To do this, we needed to find out how grassroots organisations in the West Midlands had been affected by the pandemic and how we can best serve them as a result. Over 100 groups from across the West Midlands, varying in sizes and structure, have given us invaluable information that we can analyse to ensure we maximise the results of the foundations recovery response.
We, along with national funders, need to be flexible in our approach to grant making, we need to truly respond to the emerging needs of our West Midlands communities helping our vibrant sector to recover and survive.
TINA COSTELLO concludes: We know that the effects of the pandemic will be felt by the charity sector for a while to come, and that our own existing and potential donors will have to think even more carefully about how they deliver their CSR and social investments. However, we hope that our quick pivoting, turning response into action, has provided them with more brilliant reasons to work with the foundation. Moving forward, were continuing to look at how we diversify our income to keep pace with our communities.
Although this is by far the worst crisis any of us have ever known, we are a foundation which remains positive for the future. Working with our board of trustees we are now shaping and developing our three-year strategic plan and although we accept the landscape may look a little different, the level of humility and generosity weve seen in our region gives us optimism for both our future and the hundreds of small voluntary organisations we support.
Transitioning for staff as well as beneficiaries
HADASSA KESSLER, director of operations and development at learning disability charity KISHARON, explains: As lockdown unfolded, we anticipated that returning to a new normal would be more complex and challenging than its inception. Like many support providers, we took the difficult decision to lockdown earlier than the Government suggested, and applied a series of restrictions. Whilst these changes were challenging for people and their families, they were necessary and were followed by government guidelines that we were able to draw on.
As lockdown eases, we are dealing with a dynamic situation that changes on a weekly if not daily basis. Guidelines are often open to interpretation, and there is a lack of clarity in many cases.
Kisharon is a learning organisation, and one of our greatest strengths is our ability to reflect. We use several internal forums to discuss plans and ideas, reflecting on measures that have brought success and those that have not. We have a diverse platform of services which include a nursery, school, further education, supported living, day opportunities and social enterprise, which allows us to share knowledge across sectors.
Many questions colleagues pose in one area are thematically similar to those faced elsewhere, and we draw on those themes in our weekly meetings to consider different perspectives and creative ways of working. Contributions from members of the team at all levels are crucial to this, and meetings use coaching-style techniques in order to encourage people to share their ideas.
HADASSA KESSLER of KISHARON observes: We have seen the unpredictability of how people are able to adapt in a dynamic environment. Some thrive with the opportunity to think differently, and others struggle, and we will help support them. We are aware that some sectors will continue to face significant risks and will need to find new ways of becoming relevant in this period of change.
One way we help our staff to adapt is by offering a front-line weekly reflective group, facilitated by our social worker and registered manager. These sessions evolved early into lockdown as a platform to provide additional support to the team, especially those facing exceptionally challenging working environments in addition to managing their own Covid fears. Opportunities have arisen from the sessions which has resulted in a dynamic team environment and effective decision making.
Pre Covid, we worked with Joolz Casey, an external consultant and coach, to explore how to increase purpose at work through self-managed teams, alongside person-centred thinking and planning for people we support. This work is ongoing, and front-line staff and management have reported they are feeling energised and positive about it.
HADASSA KESSLER reflects: Without doubt, the transition will have a significant impact on people we support. Many miss going to work and using public transport. Although some elements of lockdown have eased, there are still restrictions in place. Anxiety is present with the virus (to be expected) and people worry for personal safety and that of their loved ones - especially parents who are older and potentially vulnerable.
On a positive note, alternatives to traditional provisions are being explored which are over-due, in particular for traditional day centres.
Aside from our supported living provision, many services we provide have adapted significantly and continue to evolve and change throughout this period in particular for our social enterprises and employment services.
Unsurprisingly, our bike shop, EQUAL Bikes, has seen a huge boom in trade since reopening. However due to social distancing, numbers are reduced including people we support who work in the shop. We are expanding our web offer for our gift shop, EQUAL, which aims to give more work-related opportunities to people we support who havent been able to return to their mainstream employment placements.
Responding to everything changing
JUDY PARKINSON, founder and director of DRAWING LIFE, writes: Drawing Life brings art to people living with dementia and other age-related issues. I established Drawing Life five years ago by merging two different interests: life drawing and memory. As an artist I have exhibited life drawings, and as a writer I penned the best-selling book about mnemonics, or memory devices, I before E, except after C.
In order to launch Drawing Life, I approached a local care home in my hometown Hastings to see if their residents, many of whom live with dementia, would enjoy a life drawing class. They did, and the creative results were amazing. National Lottery grants enabled me to get the project up and running, and last year Drawing Life became a registered charity.
Before coronavirus we held regular art classes, providing a place for social interaction and individual expression. Our classes would consist of one professional artist as the tutor and one (clothed) model with an eye-catching accessory such as a hat or colourful scarf. We have a relaxed pace, giving participants one instruction at a time, encouraging an "anything goes" approach.
Participants use a variety of charcoal, chalks, felt pens and pencils on paper to express themselves in all sorts of different styles, thereby marking their still relevant place in the world.
Drawing gives carers and family members a different perspective too, prompting new subjects to talk about with those who may have lost the art of conversation. The sessions are more than just an activity for those with dementia; they also provide unique and significant support for the carers - which makes us better carers, says Daniel, one of our participants husband and carer.
JUDY PARKINSON observes: Drawing is a proactive rather than passive task, inspiring a sense of purpose. During every class there is a remarkable sense of concentration that sometimes breaks out with funny comments and laughter. Many activity coordinators have told me that our classes reduce anxiety as soon as people sit down with paper and pencil, and they can remain calm for quite a few hours afterwards.
The Covid-19 outbreak changed everything, putting our classes on hold and closing care home and gallery doors. In response we created a unique sketchbook as an alternative to face-to-face drawing sessions. There has been fantastic demand for the books and weve sent copies all over the country.
We are contributing to regular Zoom sessions with various regional Stroke Association art clubs and we are planning to make some short videos of actual drawing sessions featuring our tutors and models in a studio. We will upload these videos to our website so that people in care homes and in their own homes can enjoy making drawings with the help of our creative team, even if they are not actually in the room with them.
We are very grateful to the National Lottery Community Fund for their support, and sketchbooks are free of charge until our coffers run dry.
Innovating and introducing new ways of working
HELEN BERRESFORD, a director at NACRO, writes: Nacro supports people leaving prison, provides education and training and helps people who have complex issues with mental health or substance misuse, or are facing domestic violence. We are often a vital lifeline for our service users so when coronavirus hit we needed to make sure that that support was still there.
In line with government guidelines, our education centres closed their physical buildings and we developed a range of learning interventions, including daily calls, hard-copy packs and online sessions to ensure we reached all our learners. Our resettlement teams based in prisons moved to home working with unparalleled challenges of contacting and helping the people they support from outside the prisons. And our housing teams implemented a mixed model of remote support with some face to face.
Our staff have worked incredibly hard to innovate and overcome challenges to make sure they could provide the support so desperately needed, whether this was increasing the number of mental wellbeing check-ins, helping people access laptops or phones, or meeting people for socially distanced catch ups in gardens and on walks.
With over 800 staff members spread throughout the country, many working outside regular office environments, ensuring our staff were supported and safe was our priority throughout the pandemic. For example, a reduced service in our supported housing meant that we had more lone working staff.
To counter the isolation and increased stress this could cause we put in place a buddy system. Colleagues doing the same shift but in a different location could phone each other during their shift and talk whenever they needed to. We also changed the shift patterns in places so staff had more days off at once, allowing them to fully unwind.
In front-line teams where staff were shielding we redistributed the workload so those who needed to stay at home took on telephone support and more administrative tasks, which helped those continuing to go into housing services and deliver face to face support.
HELEN BERRESFORD of NACRO continues: We knew that communication would be key and we made sure we were regularly sharing the latest information available, with a member of the executive leadership team responsible for responding to all staff queries and providing FAQs. We also provided opportunities for staff to speak directly to senior leaders and ran a pulse survey to understand the main concerns people had and how we could address them.
As Covid landed, Nacro, like many other charities, was already facing financial challenges and we had just started an organisational change programme. We worked closely with our recognised trade union throughout this period to put in place as much support as we were able, and to help ensure we are able to continue delivering services and supporting those most disadvantaged for many more years to come.
We have an absolute focus to help the most disadvantaged in society but also to influence the public debate to improve public services. To help us as we move forwards we have recruited five new trustees with extensive experience across government, housing, rehabilitation, policing and education.
We know the barriers which the people we work with face, exacerbated by Covid, will not suddenly disappear. The pandemic has hit the sectors we work in hard. In prisons we have seen people locked in their cells 23 hours a day to prevent transmission, with visits, work and education coming to a halt. Young people now face an uncertain future and across the country are bearing the brunt of the Covid-related downturn.
HELEN BERRESFORD concludes: But we also recognise that the pandemic has led us to innovate and introduce new ways of working which we and others will take forward. For example, our learners will now have the option of attending our education courses online, and weve found new and better ways of engaging with young people over recent months.
We found some of our service users prefer shorter, more frequent support sessions so this is something well be taking forwards. And we also know that some of the government initiatives in our areas have made a difference too and we will be campaigning for these to continue. For example, a dedicated fund to help prison leavers find somewhere to live and a dedicated DWP phone line for prison leavers to secure Universal Credit.
Whilst the coronavirus crisis has undoubtedly been hard, it has been through the flexibility, dedication and commitment of our staff and our service users that we have been able to deliver the level of support we have across our services.
Working and planning in the new normal
MADELEINE CASSIDY, CEO of THE BOBATH CENTRE, says: There has been a lot of speculation about the new normal and what the future Covid-19 world holds for us. We believe the future for The Bobath Centre lies very firmly in our hands and we intend to create new and better services for people with cerebral palsy.
When lockdown hit us we had to suspend all our hands-on therapy and re-fashion how we delivered our services. We are a specialist treatment and training centre in Watford, dedicated to supporting children andfamilies living with cerebral palsy and similar neurological conditions. Our team of physio, occupational, and speechand language therapists immediately had to stop all treatment sessions and cancel all in-person training courses.
In the months since March we havent been able to provide our usual therapy, which hit us hard because we are unable to support those who need us most. We know there are babies with developmental delay who havent been able to access our early intervention support. Children with cerebral palsy that have not been able to receive their routine therapy, hampering their physical progress.
Weve heard from adults that they have experienced physical decline and increased pain through not being able to access their therapy. Weve done our best to support them by adapting to a new way of working, with virtual consultations sessions being conducted by Zoom.
MADELEINE CASSIDY of THE BOBOTH CENTRE continues: Throughout this period we have kept in close contact with our members. Re-opening our centre in July has come as a relief to many; but while some are still shielding, others have contacted us for care and, given our reduced capacity to treat, we are endeavouring to meet the demand for our services.
The short term importance of safely handling a re-opening of a treatment centre goes hand in hand with the longer term work of creating a new strategy for a post Covid-19 world.
The lockdown afforded time to think about the future direction of the charity. Our short term focus is to reconnect, rebuild and refresh. We are already a lean organisation, so our approach is to keep costs low by delaying some capital projects. Like most charities, non-essential spending has been limited, including a switch to the use of short term contractors and volunteers rather than automatically replacing employees who leave.
Boosting funding through trading and income generation remains a priority. All our services will be restored in time, but we plan to operate both in-person and virtual services for the next year. The same applies to our training courses, as we foresee the move to online training will be an effective learning model for therapists interested in learning about the Bobath therapy approach.
For us, the biggest change will be in our fundraising, and we have invested in strengthening our team, to try to recoup our lost income.
MADELEINE CASSIDY observes: As a charity we were fortunate to have reserves to see us through this difficult time. However, this approach is in no way a sustainable solution for us. So our new longer term strategy is in development and we are excited to share with you our approach.
One unintended, yet positive, consequence of lockdown was the appetite of people to volunteer, which was a golden opportunity for us. We now have a team of volunteer researchers who have developed a programme to provide us with insights regarding the needs of people with cerebral palsy.
This autumn we are expecting to develop our new strategic plan, based on the evidence it provides. This means we have an exciting opportunity to put the current and future needs of people with cerebral palsy at the heart of our new plan for the centre.
As they say, the future has not been written, but whats for certain is that this challenging time will pass. By having a clear plan in place, we are confident our charity will rebuild and be better able to serve those who need our care.
HOW CHARITIES SHOULD BE OPERATING DURING THE NEW NORMAL
Charities as going concerns during Covid-19
REZA MOTAZEDI, head of charities at accountancy and consultancy firm DELOITTE, says: With so many charities facing extreme financial pressure at the moment, the question of whether a charity should be considered a going concern becomes a crucial matter for financial reporting. So it is particularly important to provide users of the financial statements with appropriate insight into the charitys current resilience and to understand the key assumptions and judgments made when preparing financial information.
There is an expectation by regulators that there will be more material uncertainties reported. Relevant judgments and assumptions might include the availability and extent of support through government support measures that have been announced (and there may be issues in establishing what can be recognised and when, depending on the certainty over receipt of the funding, compliance with the conditions and confirmation received).
Then there is the availability, extent and timing of sources of cash, reflecting the nature and variety of the charitys income streams (and including compliance with banking covenants or reliance on those covenants being waived where applicable). Plus the duration of social distancing measures and their potential impacts need to be considered.
There is not a single view on how the Covid-19 pandemic will evolve and its impact on the economy. This lack of consistency makes the need for full disclosure of judgments, assumptions and sensitive estimates significantly more important than usual.
REZA MOTAZEDI of DELOITTE observes: Covid-19 is disrupting the operations of many charities. They will need to consider whether such disruption will be prolonged and result in significant liquidity shortfalls through fundraising events being cancelled or postponed.
There will also be the issues of significant reductions in the ability to operate (closure of retail outlets); significant reductions or non-delivery of planned activity (services delivered through schools or in face to face settings); and increased demand for services and support as beneficiary hardship levels increase with limited staff and volunteer availability.
Also to be addressed is the reduction in asset values due to assets not being in use or changes in ways of working when the measures are removed. There are the legal or contractual implications of agreements, income or expenditure, if obligations cannot be met.
The importance of reserves to all charities (and other organisations) has never been so stark. Whilst there is government support available and support within the sector itself as well as changes in activities that may mean cost savings or deferrals, immediate shortfalls may need to be met by drawing on reserves.
These considerations and the impact of other significant changes in the operations will influence assessment of whether the charity may be able to continue as a going concern for at least, but not limited to, 12 months from the date of signing the trustees report and financial statements.
REZA MOTAZEDI concludes: Financial statements are prepared on a going concern basis unless trustees intend either to liquidate the charity or to cease trading, or they have no realistic alternative but to do so.
When making their assessment, if the trustees are aware of material uncertainties related to events or conditions that may cast significant doubt upon the charitys ability to continue as a going concern, the trustees must disclose those uncertainties in the trustees report. The existence of such uncertainties is also likely to require reporting to the Charity Commission.
Where there are material uncertainties the auditor will make reference to these in the audit report and report this to the Charity Commission as a matter of material significance reportable to UK charity regulators.
Filling the communications gap for age sector charities
ORIT EYAL-FIBEESH, chief executive officer of technology company SPARKO VIRTUAL RETIREMENT COMMUNITY, writes: The mission for many age sector charities is to promote and improve the wellbeing of older people by offering and delivering services including befriending, clubs and classes to their membership bases. Coronavirus lockdown and, more recently, both ongoing and sporadic social restrictions have made this much more challenging.
This means that older people living on their own will largely continue to receive wellbeing and other social communications in their homes, and unless age sector charities are able to adapt to this fact they could find themselves having difficulty in fulfilling the mission they were created to accomplish.
Despite the much proclaimed switch to digital communications there still remains the digital divide for older people. Many older people are not connected to smart technology and often cannot afford it. Many have also lost out on receiving information and communicating with loved ones through video calls during coronavirus isolation. There has been a big wake up call that a solution is urgently required for digitally excluded members of the community.
This presents a major challenge. With services now being delivered online, those charities which relied so heavily on a combination of volunteers and community activities have found that the nature of interaction with members has changed. Charities are transparent about the fact that their ability to reach many older people is now restricted and a large portion of their membership base is lonely and suffering as a result.
ORIT EYAL-FIBEESH of SPARKO VIRTUAL RETIREMENT COMMUNITY continues: As the balance shifts from services that can be offered in community centres by volunteers towards those that require more substantial funding, charities are finding themselves needing to reconsider their delivery methods in their effort to help make later life a fulfilling and enjoyable experience. Yet they are faced with a major challenge, since many of the people who now need them the most either can afford digital solutions the least or simply can't work them.
It is time to stop thinking out of the box and indeed go back to the box. The television screen is a very familiar medium for older people and one with which they are comfortable, unless they are visually impaired. Television technology has dramatically improved over recent years, incorporating a mass of new channels and platforms. But particularly useful for older people, particularly those who are clients of age sector charities, is where a platform, via modification of the existing TV set, adds the capability of interactive communication. In this way there can be direct communication with other people with either party making live video calls, including being able to attend live classes, all via a modification to the television set.
This new technology, and the video chats and live video classes which it enables, connects people via their home television sets, acting as a conduit to help age sector charities expand the reach of their membership base and deliver services more effectively. Older people can stay connected, remaining active and fulfilled, which is so vital for their health and wellbeing. Charities can communicate live and direct with members through these platforms, delivering services and increasing community engagement.
ORIT EYAL-FIBEESH concludes: It is time for charities to join forces and strengthen partnerships with the NHS, local authorities, loneliness campaigns and coalitions, and many other crucially important links in this complex chain. For charities to continue helping the aged it seems prudent to combine their efforts, rely more on each others services and adapt communications strategies to include more on-screen interaction and delivery. Screen based communications via home television sets have a key part to play.
Health challenges for the charity care sector
CHARLES SPENCER, principal health and safety consultant at law firm ELLIS WHITTAM, warns: Despite promising signs that things are improving for charity care managers, with the recent reintroduction of visitors being a pivotal turning point, those charities managing care homes, day centres and sheltered housing must remain vigilant to avoid further Covid-19 outbreaks. This means taking a proactive approach to risk and monitoring government guidance and the wider situation closely so that you can respond quickly and refine your control measures accordingly.
There are three core groups that need to be protected: residents, staff and visitors, and there are a number of practical ways to mitigate the risk of transmission between these groups. The most effective way, of course, is to prevent the virus from entering the building in the first place, and central to this is safe visiting arrangements.
The Public Health England guidance on care home visits emphasises the need for risk assessment, taking into account the specifics of the home and the community context, supported by a visitor policy. The guidance provides a useful starting point when deciding on appropriate controls, but broadly speaking, the following is recommended:
- Follow the basics. Social distancing, handwashing and cleaning measures are fundamental to the fight against coronavirus, so your assessment for visitors should be based on these basic principles.
- Have a system for managing visiting hours, including who can attend and the number of people who can visit at one time.
- Ask visitors to provide details of any potential symptoms they have or have had to prevent the virus from entering building.
- Set up hand sanitiser stations within the entrance and exit areas, as well as in the visiting area, to encourage good hygiene.
- Make sure visits take place where there is adequate and effective ventilation, as this has been shown to reduce the potential for the virus to spread via air droplets. Make use of outside areas where possible.
- Consider entry and exits points and any areas where visitors could potentially come into contact with people other than the resident they are visiting.
- Ensure social distancing of two metres can be maintained within the visiting area. Although the guidance now advises a distance of one metre plus with additional controls, being that the care sector is so vulnerable to outbreaks, social distancing should be managed as stringently as possible, for example by using screens.
- Encourage visitors to wear face coverings when entering and moving around the home.
CHARLES SPENCER of ELLIS WHITTAM continues: Agency staff and contractors are also potential vessels for the virus and therefore checks should be completed prior to them arriving and completing work within the building.
Should the virus enter the building despite these precautions, measures such as PPE and regular disinfection of visiting areas, corridors, entry points and toilet facilities supported by clear communication and signage will keep the risk of infection to a minimum.
Government guidance is exactly that, guidance. The purpose of it is to help comply with, follow or meet a standard or piece of legislation. Where the guidance presents issues, or is lacking, keep in mind that it is health and safety legislation rather than the guidance itself which is legally enforceable. However, if you do deviate from it, you must be able to demonstrate that you are taking other equally effective measures.
CHARLES SPENCER concludes: There have been, and are still, areas where more guidance is required to give care homes the reassurance that they are doing the right thing by their residents, staff and others. Unfortunately, where this is the case, it falls to care home leaders to make their own determinations based on what is reasonably practicable, i.e. weighing up the time, energy and cost of implementing a control against the reduction in risk. Precautions must be taken unless the former grossly outweighs the latter.
With care homes all too familiar with the devastating effects of an outbreak, it is far better for those charities managing them to do too much rather than not enough.
Managing a healthcare testing programme
MARTA KALAS, co-founder of THOMSON SCREENING, says: Adapting to Covid-19 is posing huge challenges for charities and their various settings. In an evolving situation how will you know when your risks increase and you need to change procedures? Will you be able to identify a new source of infection quickly? This is where regular and methodical testing can help.
It is important to understand that testing can only help if it is effective, and that means being part of a concerted effort with a systematic plan.
The topic is confusing with good advice difficult to find so lets look at practical steps for managing testing in your care home, day care centre or other settings:
The best advice is still to ask staff to monitor symptoms and be aware of additional risks each employee may be exposed to. For example, are they part of a large family with most members working? Are they using public transport? An increased risk doesnt mean they shouldnt be working but its something to consider when developing your testing plan.
There are several issues to consider when setting up a testing programme. It is not simply a medical or clinical question, the personal privacy aspects are just as important.
When designing a testing programme ensure it is:
- Planned and documented.
- Systematic (even if you are doing random checks, you need to make it clear who is tested, when and how).
- Actionable: you need to know what specific action you will take if certain results are found.
- Follows Public Health England (PHE) guidelines and if possible is carried out under clinical supervision. The latter may not be possible, although many occupational health physicians can provide this as a service.
The testing programme must also avoid these pitfalls:
- Improvising/introducing the latest test available without considering the implications.
- Testing must not lead to discrimination or the perception of discrimination.
- Once the data is no longer needed it needs to be destroyed and the process documented.
- Using tests that are not approved by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
- Using a system where security of data cannot be guaranteed (e.g. Excel).
MARTA KALAS of THOMSON SCREENING continues: Here are some questions to ask when designing a testing programme. What type of information will you be collecting and what action will you follow if you find it? For example, will it lead to more testing of a specific group? How will PPE use need to change? Will shift patterns or workflow etc. need to change?
What other information will you need to record in order to give context to the testing? For example, this could be linked to risk factors like ethnicity or sharing a household with a person who is at higher risk.
What type of test needs to be carried out in relation to any symptoms? Will tests need to be repeated and, if so, at what intervals?
How will you manage repeated testing? How long is the information valid?
The timing of these questions and answers as well as the related test result is really important; each test is only effective for a very precise period. Testing at the wrong time means results will lose their meaning.
Sadly, it is unlikely that your current system for recording HR data is sufficient, so a new system of Covid-19 testing is needed.
You want a software platform that manages the testing process, irrespective of where, how and what test is carried out. By using a dedicated testing platform to manage the process, it will be much easier to track the results, know what actions to take, and ensure that everyone who needs to be tested is tested.
MARTA KALAS concludes: Be open and transparent about why and how you want to manage the testing, and, if necessary, get some advice/training about sensitive communication with employees at risk.
Before the programme commences talk to your staff about a) the reporting procedure if a staff member is found to have Covid-19; b) how testing will change or increase if a visitor or supplier reports they have Covid-19; c) what actions will be taken if a test is positive.
With specific advice on the legal and clinical aspects of your plan, and clear and transparent action steps, you can make your testing programme work in your charitys locations.
Writing successful funding bids during Covid
JULIAN MAY of donor matching platform THE GOOD EXCHANGE writes: The process of applying for funding is onerous at the best of times, and disappointing if ultimately unsuccessful. This is especially difficult in the current landscape where the coronavirus pandemic causes stress and strain for most charities. It is important now more than ever that those who need funding are able to receive it.
Luckily, while grant funding organisations are all different in terms of the ways they work, the vast majority share common themes regarding the bids they are likely to support. As the world transitions out of the most economically damaging times in recent history, the following grant application tips can help maximise your chances of a successful funding bid.
ELIGIBILITY – The first thing a funder considers is if the applicant is eligible for their funding and, if so, does the application meet the funder’s aims and objectives? While this seems obvious, it is all too easy to forget to research the funder properly when caught up in the rush to apply. So, remember to check because funders want to support charities which share their interests.
TRANSPARENCY – Be very clear in your application about what your charity does, why and how you do it, and who your beneficiaries are. Be transparent about exactly what you are seeking the funding for and how it will be spent.
THE PITCH – Keep your grant funding proposal description clear, concise and evidence based. Show how you are different or unique compared to other similar organisations and make sure you include previous successes.
JULIAN MAY of THE GOOD EXCHANGE continues: HUMAN INTEREST – Funders and grant makers want to help improve the lives of the people in your community, so tell your story through the eyes and mouths of your beneficiaries. This builds a more compelling story than focusing solely on your charity or community organisation.
PHOTOS AND VIDEO – As well as backing up your application with positive PR coverage, case studies and annual reports, make sure to use photographs and video to illustrate your cause. These act as a strong visual aid that will round out your message. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words.
DUE DILIGENCE – Funders must carry out due diligence about the governance of your charity and how well it is run. Be prepared to answer questions, ensure that your accounts are up-to-date and be ready to share the information.
RESERVES – If your charity has ring-fenced reserves, explain why the money is there and what it’s for, even if it’s detailed in your accounts. If grant funders see high reserves but no immediate explanation, they may decide not to offer funding.
ACCOUNTABILITY – Be completely clear about what you will achieve if you receive the money and about what you have already achieved. Be prepared to back up any claims you make in your application with evidence.
IMPACT – Funders want to generate as great an impact as possible through their support so tell them what impact you expect to be able to have. Make it clear why you need the funding and what difference it could make to your cause.
GOOD PRACTICE – Finally, have a look at applications from similar charities which have been successful in applying for fundraising. It can be useful to see how others have structured their applications and how they have communicated their message.
JULIAN MAY concludes: The good news is, funders know the impact that the cancellation of fundraising events has had on charities and so are setting up dedicated Covid-19 funds. Also they are applying their normal funding streams more flexibly to accommodate annual/multi-year core operating cost applications. When it comes to dedicated Covid-19 applications, applicants shouldn’t be afraid to embrace and include use of technologies for fundraising.
The applications themselves should be focused on evidence/demand and be clear about the impact on beneficiaries - funders appreciate you may need to work differently. Use first person beneficiary stories/anecdotes, and split beneficiaries into geographies – existing and new. Also make sure to be targeted. Don’t create new projects for the sake of it. Finally, be sure to emphasise the impact of Covid-19 on your reserves.
A good pitch can be the difference between being granted funding and being rejected.
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