Opening services and the workplace as COVID-19 restrictions ease

Here you will find notes from our online Opening services and the workplace as COVID-19 restrictions ease sessions (held since late September), with most recent first. You will also be able to access any resources and useful documents shared from these sessions:

15 October 2020

This regular session discusses issues and solutions as members deliver services and activities in these COVID-19 affected times.

This week’s session started with a brief discussion about the recent announcements and the new Tier alert system. The core feedback being that nothing in the Tier system meant sight loss organisations had to change what they were doing – other than the message to work from home where possible. However public perception of charities activities was discussed.

Wearing face coverings within an office environment was discussed, especially as some members were facing challenges with some, albeit a minority, of staff who didn’t want to wear them in an office. It was clarified that whilst the wearing of face coverings in an office is not a mandatory requirement of COVID-19 regulations, if an organisations risk assessment and control measures identifies their use then all staff are required to wear them – it would be a disciplinary offence if people didn’t comply. We also discussed the mental health impact of COVID-19 and how being around people in an office environment for some has a positive impact, for others it can be stressful and that managing such tensions/issues is an active issue for people.

Home visiting was discussed with members sharing their approaches to such service provision. A number of resources to aid home visiting service development have been shared by members on the COVID-19 Knowledge Hub. These resources include pre visit screening and also a useful “managing expectations” document to outline to service users how the service will be conducted in a COVID secure way and what this looked like.

There was also a discussion about the demand for services and their resumption felt by many members. A key point for members to reflect upon is to identify where this demand is coming from – is it externally from service users or internally from staff/volunteers/trustees? More often than not, the demand is internally driven and when services are resumed service user engagement is low as people are worried/scared about social contact. We also explored public perception of a charity being seen to be “out and about” and that whilst exemptions for activity can be claimed, just because we can should we?

Andy from Visionary shared a recent example of a COVID-19 situation with a member’s small staff team and how the organisation was handling it. This highlighted the tension between what the official guidance outlines and the human aspect of implementing policies and procedures whilst managing a staff team with varying degrees of anxiety and attitudes to risk and COVID-19.

Finally we discussed the approaches of volunteers and members to their use in service delivery. Again the question was asked of where the demand/need for volunteers coming from? – is it a demand from service users for support or from volunteers keen to be active? The feedback amongst the group appeared to show it was from volunteers keen to be active. Concern was also expressed by several members that despite training and support there were difficulties in ensuring that volunteers followed COVID secure practices.

As can be seen from the above, the session is very much an opportunity to explore both policy and practice and wider COVID-19 issues. Do consider coming to the next session on 29 October, 10am to 11am. Registration details are here. If you have any queries at all then please do contact us direct anytime visionary@visionary.org.uk

1 October 2020

This regular session was established to support members with the two main aspects of resuming activity as COVID-19 restrictions eased, Health and Safety and HR matters. Until recently the focus a has very much been Health and Safety issues, however HR matters are increasingly rising up the agenda and they did so at this session.

We discussed handling staff who were refusing to wear face coverings, despite the organisations risk assessment and control measures identifying the requirement as official policy. Face covering exemptions were discussed, including highlighting the issue that being visually impaired does not grant someone an automatic exemption from compliance with face covering requirements.

Exemptions to the rule of 6 were explored, including establishing whether the activity was nice versus necessary and steps to take if the activities to be delivered were to claim an exemption to the rule of 6.

There is considerable experience expertise across the Visionary network regarding COVID-19 Health and Safety and HR issues. If you have any questions or queries then please do contact us and also consider coming the next session on 15 October 2020. Register here or if you have previously registered for this forum, please use the same joining details you received when you registered. For a reminder of your joining details, email Visionary.

17 September 2020

This regular session about Health and Safety issues in COVID-19 times focused upon some key points coming up as services and workplaces are opening.

We explored issues associated with home visiting, space and venue within the home for the visit and what PPE staff should wear – the main take away point being that PPE must always be viewed as the last resort because it is the weakest of control measures and relies on the user to fully co-operate completely, other measures such as hands face space are a priority.

The difference between a face covering and a face mask were explored. Face masks are designated as PPE, manufactured to a recognised standard and in COVID-19 times should only be worn in certain healthcare and clinical settings as outlined by PHE. Employers should not encourage the precautionary use of extra PPE to protect against COVID-19. Face coverings are not classed as PPE.

Temperature checking of service users/staff/visitors was explored, with the main guidance point being that such activity has little to no benefit in terms of COVID-19 control measures, however could play a role in providing reassurance and comfort for vulnerable service users/visitors.

Staff testing policies were discussed, with the guidance being that only those exhibiting symptoms should seek a COVID-19 test. Private testing of course could be arranged with policies needing to be agreed in consultation with staff.

We also explored potential “gathering” exemptions for some activities, especially as social isolation is becoming such an issue. Key points to consider were highlighted, with the main point being that anyone seeking to hold an activity and claim an exemption to do so should first consult with their local Health Protection Team.

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