Visionary Covid-19 Briefing – Special Edition – 20 March 2020

Visionary Covid-19 Briefing – Special Edition – 20 March 2020

Working Together For People with Sight Loss

Standing together while far apart

We know that you will have faced one of the most difficult weeks in your organisation’s history. Many of you have had to make the difficult decision to close face to face services and are refocusing and adjusting your services to ensure you can continue to provide the vital services to your local communities. You are likely to be worried about finances, how to approach HR issues and how to plan for the future.
At this time, more than ever, Visionary has a crucial role to play; a role that we are fully committed to. This is a time for sharing, where working together to support each other is really important so Visionary want to increase opportunities to bring members together, provide a listening ear to all of you who need it, give clear information and meaningful support and to be the conduit to ensure a coherent, sector-wide approach to this unprecedented crisis.

What is Visionary doing?

This week we held our Board meeting and Member Consultative Group (MCG). The focus of both of these meetings was discussion on how Visionary can best support our members through this crisis to ensure that we are a central point of trusted information and offer opportunities for you to get together to share how you are facing things.

How Visionary will support you

  • We will continue to share information via special briefings and our Covid-19 web pages
  • We will facilitate new, regular online regional meetings where local organisations can share their approach to Covid-19 and areas of concern. We hope these meetings will also encourage organisations within regions to join up to ensure the most effective support for people locally. Key regional staff from national organisations will also be invited. Please email us to express your interest in joining these meetings – we will be sending out further invitations next week.
  • We will offer regular closed CEO support sessions, hosted by our own CEO. Being a CEO can be lonely, particularly in times of extreme stress, so these sessions will be an opportunity just to talk and share how we are feeling.
  • We are gathering local sight loss organisation specific advice, FAQ’s, action plans, risk assessments and examples of what people are doing. These will be shared and published as soon as we can on the web-page.
  • We also are aiming to set up a help desk for you to contact us about any issues or questions you have – watch out for further information.

MCG meeting

In addition to hearing from MCG reps about how their organisations are dealing with the current crisis, in the second half of the meeting, we invited leaders from TPT, RNIB and Blind Veterans to join in the discussion (Guide Dogs were unfortunately unable to attend – however we hope that Guide Dogs and Vision UK will join future sessions). Our purpose was to ensure strong information sharing and the development of a joined up, collaborative sector wide approach to the crisis. There was a strong commitment to this. This group will now meet fortnightly and we will keep you informed of outcomes from these discussions.

The national organisations have also committed to:

  • Opening channels of communication, using Visionary to share information about what they are doing in response to this crisis.
  • Sharing information on their lobbying activity and inviting Visionary and local organisations to support and feed in. Linked to this, Visionary are supporting a letter sent today by Guide Dogs to UK supermarkets about access to grocery shopping. Read the full letter here.
  • Through Visionary, listen and learn about the services that local organisations are offering regionally in response to Covid-19 and signpost people to you for help where appropriate.

Update from RNIB on their response to Covid-19

  • RNIB’s Helpline (0303 123 9999) remains open on weekdays (from 8am-8pm) and on Saturdays (9am-1pm). In addition to the usual advice and support about anything to do with living with sight loss, their team can offer further support to anyone with sight loss who becomes isolated or is concerned about accessing information, products or services. Their team of advisers will help to connect people to sources of local support. They are working with public information providers to ensure information is accessible, including image descriptions online.
  • As people are spending more time at home, RNIB is offering more opportunities to connect with others via telephone and online by again calling the Helpline. Their regional Facebook groups are very popular at the moment with many people sharing local information, useful hints and tips and interesting things they have been up to. View all groups here.
  • RNIB’s online shop and equipment service is working as normal and has new supplies arriving shortly. It can be accessed here. If anyone is experiencing issues accessing equipment, please contact RNIB.
  • RNIB have increased the number of Talking Books for USB users so you can now have three books at a time. In anticipation of potential issues producing and delivering USB sticks over the forthcoming months, RNIB would encourage as many customers as possible to receive Talking Books via their new digital service.

Visionary Coronavirus webpage

This web-page is being up-dated, almost daily, with any information which we feel anyone connected with Visionary may find useful. It currently contains information and links to:

  • Visionary’s response
  • How other members are reacting (including copies of policies, procedures, risk assessments)
  • Organisational issues
  • Employer issues
  • Business issues
  • Where to get further advice

It’s all about the money

Quite a few Visionary members have been in touch to talk about financial issues. Common issues are fundraising events being cancelled, concerns about unmet outcomes for grants, reserves plummeting – all of which can lead to cash flow problems and worries.

We don’t have all the answers, but we will share information about what is being offered to the sector to help as the government announces it. Financial concerns and how to cope is one of the issues we hope to cover in our support sessions – so if this is something which does concern you, watch out for the opportunity to join in the facilitated discussions.

Unmet outcomes for grants

We hope that we will see flexibility on outcomes and reporting from funders. As a priority – contact your funders and speak to them about how you can use the funding. We have already seen from Sport England that, for an initial period of three months, they will be introducing significant flexibility in how they manage awarded grants this includes the following confirmation:

“You may want to use the money you receive from us in a different way, or on different things, to respond to the current situation or to keep your organisation going – we can be clear now that you are able to do this, and should discuss with us the changes you’d like to make.” We hope that other funders will follow suit. Read more here.

And in the meantime:

UK national disaster relief fund launched to help most vulnerable 
The National Emergencies Trust has launched a new fund that will funnel donations to frontline charities supporting those hit by coronavirus crisis

Money Saving Expert Launches fund 
Martin Lewis, the money saving expert, has made £1m available to fund urgent coronavirus grants of £5k to £20k to small registered UK charities, or local arms of bigger charities. He wants to deliver at speed and in the next few weeks. Deadline is midnight 25th March apply here.

The Charity Retail Association Calls Upon the Chancellor to Provide Vital Assistance to Charity Retailers
The Charity Retail Association have written to the chancellor to ask for support as charity shops find themselves in an unprecedentedly precarious position due to the outbreak of COVID-19. Read more and look out for updates here.

In Scotland:

The Scottish government announce new fund ‘Helping communities affected by COVID-19’
The £350 million fund will support those most affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The funding will be made available to councils, charities, businesses and community groups and designed to be flexible, cutting down on red tape to enable them to respond swiftly and according to local need for people impacted economically or through reduced contact with society, including anyone struggling to access food. More here.

ECLO services 

With all the disruption to Eye Departments all over the UK the RNIB have been working to ensure that all ECLO’s (their own and others) can continue to provide support.  The RNIB ECLO service will be delivered via telephone to ensure people can still access practical and emotional support.

The RNIB would like offer local all Visionary members ECLO’s the option to join their local RNIB ECLO teams for peer support during these challenging times. There are teams across the UK contact Donna Ledwidge. Does your ECLO know about the EISN email network – it’s an email forum where ECLOs can get the latest info and also ask questions. Details here.

HR Issues

Homeworking support for employers from our partners Roots HR CIC
Many of you will be supporting your employees and workers to work from home for the first time ever, or in many cases, for the first time on a long term (rather than occasional or ad hoc) basis. Roots HR suggest two key actions:

  1. Devise a form of words for formalising the change in contractual terms with your employees (for speed at this time, some employers may prefer to convert this wording and send it out as a group email to all relevant staff). Click here to download this document.
  2. Display Screen Checklist for employees to complete and return to you in order that you can be sure the home working environment is as safe as possible and can consider any adjustments that need to be made. Click here to download this document.

Working well from home under self-quarantine for coronavirus is an excellent resource from Mind and their Mental Health At Work portal funded by The Royal Foundation as part of their Heads Together campaign.

To receive up-dates on all things HR related then sign up to the Roots HR CIC mailing list here.

Sharing the Love

If you have a policy, any questions you want to ask or just want to share a story or example of a challenge you have or how you’ve overcome something then please email us. Please let us know if you are happy for us to share your story.

Metro Blind Sport keeping people fit while isolated
Check out these audio exercise videos that Metro Blind Sport have made available on their website. These videos from Eyes-Free Fitness® are completely free and allow you to stretch, strengthen, condition, and tone at home.

Other news

Coronavirus (COVID-19) guidance for the charity sector – Guidance to help with running your charity during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak

Charities should “reflect seriously” on whether to continue their public fundraising activities during the coronavirus crisis

Over 500 small charities tell PM they have been ‘overlooked’

Face-to-face health assessments for benefits suspended

Complete ban on evictions and additional protection for renters

Filing charity annual returns during the coronavirus pandemic

Charities and Coronavirus Excellent advice which is relevant to all charities, regardless of where they are based

COVID19: Five things government must do to help charities maintain services 

Government talking to charity leaders about support to deal with Covid-19 impact

Official Coronavirus (COVID-19) up-dates

The government is regularly pumping out updates on all sorts. If you haven’t already then sign up for those updates here. When the PM and his advisors say something at their daily 5pm news conferences then the actual detail of the what and how it will all work comes out via these e-mail updates.

Here are some possible useful links relevant to our sector:
•    Guidance for employees, employers and businesses
•    Responding to COVID-19: the ethical framework for adult social care
•    Coronavirus (COVID-19): hospital discharge service requirements
•    Business rates: expanded retail discount – guidance

Keep up to date

To receive Visionary briefings upon Coronavirus (COVID-19) and our work with local sight loss charities  then please sign up here to get future information from Visionary direct to your inbox.

Also keep up to date by following us on Twitter – @visionary_uk


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