News Coronavirus: Potential Impacts on Bath & NE Somerset Third Sector
The country is preparing for Coronavirus (also known as Covid-19), but whilst there’s a lot of information available, there’s not a lot of advice tailored to the needs of small, local third sector organisations. This webpage aims to direct you to the information that is available, and to fill some of the gaps.
If you have any questions, or ideas on other information that it would be useful to add to this webpage, then please contact:
James Carlin / 3SG Director / 07816910572
Key information sources
There are a number of webpages giving up to date, reliable information on Coronavirus. Given the advice is changing fairly frequently, we recommend you visit these for the most up to date information.
What’s happening in Bath and north east Somerset?
People who are concerned they are suffering symptoms that may be due to Coronavirus can use the tool on the NHS 111 website in the first instance where possible or phone 111 only if you are not online
People interested in volunteering their support to 3rd sector organisations in Banes are encouraged to register via a Google Form we have set up:
Larger third sector organisations will find useful information on the government’s webpage for businesses. Some of the information will also be relevant to smaller organisations and to volunteers as well as staff.
This includes information on when employees should stay away from work, how to respond to employees who need to take time off work, and how to clean premises after someone develops Coronavirus.
Health and Care
The government advice for social and community care providers may be useful to a number of third sector organisations:
The full list of government guidance can be found here:
Coronavirus and your wellbeing
Mind are offering advice around how to help your wellbeing if you are required to self-isolate or worried about the coronavirus and covers the following areas: Plan for staying at home or indoors/ take care of your mental health and wellbeing & a checklist to see if you are ready to stay at home for two weeks?
What can small voluntary and community organisations in Bath and north east Somerset do to prepare for Coronavirus?
At this stage, one of the most useful things that organisations can do is to think about how their organisation will cope if a high proportion of their staff or volunteers become ill or unavailable at the same time, and what steps you might take to avoid this happening. Many of these steps involve reducing the time people spend together in order to reduce the chances of Coronavirus spreading between them (and affecting a lot of the people you work with at the same time)
Remember that people may be unable to work even if they have not become ill themselves – it could be, for example, because schools have closed and people need to stay at home to care for their children or grandchildren.
Potential impacts of the Coronavirus on third sector organisations in Banes
Business Continuity Challenges
Like other sectors, Third Sector organisations are likely to face challenges in maintaining their normal services and activities if a high proportion of staff or volunteers are unavailable due to self-isolation, illness, or caring responsibilities. There are a number of challenges unique to a sector with many small organisations and where delivery of many activities depends on volunteers.
It is a sector with many small organisations, each employing only a handful of staff. This means that in many organisations, a single member of staff may be covering many roles (from finance to volunteer management), and so the organisation has a limited ability to continue to shift work between staff and to continue to run if a key staff member is unavailable.
• Many staff within the third sector work part time, often in order to fit work around caring responsibilities (for children or adults). These staff may find these caring responsibilities increase (for example, if schools close or statutory sector health and care services become stretched) and so their ability to work, particularly from their normal office base, may be limited.
• Many volunteers will also have caring responsibilities and their availability for voluntary work may decrease for the reasons above.
• This pressure could be eased to some extent if other employers were to offer their staff more flexibility for caring responsibilities – many staff and volunteers have other family members who work full time, but could take on some of the informal caring responsibilities if their employer were to offer more flexibility (even on a short term basis). We realise other employers will also face business continuity challenges, but these changes could be as simple as allowing staff to start half an hour late/finish early, take a longer lunch break, work from home to cut down on commuting time or similar. At the moment, we consider there is a danger that the consequences of an increase in informal caring responsibilities may fall disproportionately on smaller third sector organisations, that may be less able to cope with it.
• Many volunteers are older and may be more likely to become seriously ill if they contract Coronavirus.
• Smaller organisations often have less resilience to business continuity challenges; in addition to the points above:
o Many may have done little thinking or planning around their business continuity, and there is little national guidance for small third sector organisations that would not necessarily consider themselves to be “businesses”
o Small organisations are likely to be less able to access supplies (e.g. hand gels) that are in short supply that they use in their day to day business
o Small organisations may not be insured for business interruption, or may find that the excess on a policy is too high to make it worthwhile claiming (although the small organisations may still find these costs hard to absorb)
o Some organisations make limited use of IT, and are unfamiliar with options for online meetings, teleconferences, etc
o Many have limited financial reserves (and at least 15% report having no financial reserves) – presenting challenges around sick pay and loss of income (explored in more detail below).
There is a danger that staff and volunteers will want to continue to work/volunteer even when they are feeling ill themselves, as they will be concerned that no one else is able to take on their role; we will be encouraging them not to do so through our networks.
Increased demand for services
Many third sector organisations could face a significant increase in the demand for their services, but no increase in funding.
• Organisations with a high proportion of their income coming from grants tend to operate with an income that is relatively steady, and that it is not directly linked to the number of people using their service (for example, Citizen’s Advice and Carers organisations).
• This operating model has been a poor fit with previous government grant schemes to support businesses following disasters, which have often required organisations to show a decrease in their income in order to be eligible.
• Many third sector organisations are anticipating that their workload could increase if statutory sector (health and care) services become stretched, or that they will be asked to support the statutory sector more directly (for example, following national coverage of new “NHS Volunteers”). It is not clear to what extent this might be funded if it is not within the scope of existing contracts – and it may place organisations and sector in “competition” for volunteers.
• This “gap” in support has sometimes been filled by grants from appeal funds, but it is not anticipated at this stage that a local or national appeal will be launched around Coronavirus.
Many organisations could expect to see a drop in their income (with some overlap with those seeing an increase in demand for services). This may be more likely to be covered by any government grant scheme for businesses, but we would suggest that any such grant scheme needs to be advertised through third sector networks as well as traditional business networks.
• Many local charities rely on income from fundraising events – gala dinners, sponsored runs, etc – that may be cancelled as Coronavirus concerns rise. It affects a number of the larger, more formal organisations that provide key services – for example, local Hospices.
• Many third sector organisations rely on earned income from events – either as their main activity (e.g. theatres and other arts venues) or less directly (e.g. income from room hire for events) – and again, are likely to see a fall in this income as large events are cancelled.
• Decreased income from investments is a potential challenge for some third sector organisations, and may also decrease the amount of funding available from grant making trusts.
3SG have purchased a licence for Funds Online which means we can support our members to research new funding sources.
Organisations may need to change the way in which they deliver services (for example, providing telephone support rather than a drop-in service), be unable to deliver parts of their normal service, or discover that new services are needed to meet emerging demand. Some organisations have expressed concern that their funders may not be willing to allow flexibility if targets (particularly from contract funding) cannot be met due to Coronavirus restrictions, and they might face financial penalties from the funder as a result (whilst staff costs would remain the same).
Organisations expressed concern that staff might need to work extra hours to cover the absence of colleagues, that their work might become more stressful (as the clients they work with are becoming extremely anxious about Coronavirus), and it would be more challenging to support staff working remotely.
Concern about vulnerable people
Although not directly a financial impact on the third sector, we are hearing many third sector organisations raise concerns about the impacts of Coronavirus on vulnerable people in Banes particularly those on low incomes. We are aware that similar concerns have had some national coverage. The points raised include:
• Many people on low incomes will struggle to follow current advice on self-isolation – for example, it is relatively easy for many people to remain at home and order food online, but it is difficult if you are used to shopping daily in cash, can’t use a debit/credit card (because you are overdrawn) and don’t have a fridge, making it difficult to store food.
• People on zero hours contracts are likely to need to work despite illness, and many people are concerned about missing DWP appointments.
• Organisations are not currently clear what discussion or planning is going on around these issues, or how they should raise/escalate such concerns.
•This may have direct impacts on local third sector organisations such as Foodbanks and advice organisations.
• Many organisations work with vulnerable people, fear that they will not be able to provide their normal level of support (for example, supporting by telephone rather than face to face), and that this may, for example, lead to a deterioration in mental health and an increased demand on statutory sector services (perhaps in the longer term).
Please contact James Carlin 07816910572 for any requests for additional information or updates.
Thanks to Cumbria CVS for their advice with this guidance