2nd Dec 2020

So, as we head towards Christmas, Trustees of volunteer led community buildings are once again challenged with further change.

From 2nd December County Durham has been placed in Tier 3, the ‘very high alert’ category of the latest COVID-19 restrictions

We understand that in a world where new announcements overwrite previous guidance, it is hard to keep up with what is the right thing to do about the community and voluntary service operating within community buildings and venues.

With the new ‘Tier 3’ restrictions in place, it will no doubt continue to affect the level of activity within community buildings and the services they provide.  

Trustees once again face some tough decisions about how best to respond as they try to understand the latest guidance (alongside the additional guidance for activities falling between 23 and 27 December) as they make plans and adapt activities and services on the run up to Christmas.

COVID-19: Guidance for the safe use of multi-purpose community facilities states that ‘Community centres, village halls, and other multi-use community facilities support a wide range of local activity. However, their communal nature also makes them places that are vulnerable to the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19)’

It also tells us that ‘COVID-secure community facilities are permitted to hold social groups, clubs and activities but these are subject to wider rules around social mixing dependent on an area’s COVID local alert level.’ 

As County Durham is in Tier 3, there are further specific restrictions where ‘social interaction and shared activity must be limited to groups of the same household or support bubble.’

When we reduce our day-to-day contact with other people, we reduce the spread of the infection and this has led the government to also state ‘we strongly advise that activities where there is a significant likelihood of groups mixing and socialising (and where it will be difficult to prevent mingling and therefore breaking the law) should not take place in a community facility.’

So, once again, the need to really focus on the precise nature of activities being undertaken is the key to working through what can and cannot take place. The COVID-19: Guidance for the safe use of multi-purpose community facilities signposts to relevant guidance on a range of different activities that can take place in these spaces.

Managers of community facilities will have discretion over when they consider it safe to open for any activity permitted by legislation and may decide to remain closed if they are not able to safely follow the advice in the relevant guidance, to make the space COVID-19 secure.

However, it is very clear that Community Buildings that do decide to remain open to provide permitted activities must make sure that the venue is COVID secure as per previous guidance.

We recognise that the guidance is complicated, often confusing, and sometimes contradictory when people are attempting to understand the effect on the activities and services they provide.

As a member of Action with Communities in Rural England (ACRE) we have been working alongside our network colleagues to provide support to organisations getting to grips with the ongoing changes and our latest ACRE information can be found here

As we learn more, we will update our information pages, so please keep an eye on our social media channels and our website.

In the meantime our staff team are available to help you understand what the changes may mean for your community building and to provide you with information, advice and support with any queries or concerns you may have.

If you have already been in contact with one of our Community Support Team, contact them in the usual ways or email and your enquiry will be directed to a member of the team.

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