Coronavirus (COVID-19): Civil society support

Please note that we will be updating this page regularly.

Supporting civil society organisations

We are aware of concerns about coronavirus (COVID-19) and how this may affect civil society organisations and the people they support. 

Civil society plays a crucial role in supporting London's communities and the work of charities, faith organisations, un-constituted groups and volunteers must be protected during this period of uncertainty. Below, we have provided information on available resources to support civil society through the coronavirus outbreak.

If you are a volunteer looking for ways to safely support London's communities during the coronavirus outbreak, please visit our volunteering page.

Available support for civil society organisations

We are working to ensure we can help you to continue to operate during this difficult time. We are doing this in a number of ways. Please read our FAQ section below for more information on support available.

If you have remote volunteering opportunities or opportunities that support with providing food to vulnerable people (via food bank donations etc.) contact us via the button below. If appropriate, we will list the opportunities on our listings page.

What can we continue doing/delivering?

NCVO has clear and pratical advice for civil society organisations operating during the coronavirus outbreak - including protecting staff, volunteers and visitors. 

Please read NCVO's guidance for more information.

Face-to-face contact

The government has issued guidance that all face-to-face contact should be reduced to what is essential only. As a result, many organisations have already taken steps to stop their face-to-face services and, where possible, move them online.

Examples of what other organisations are doing can be found by following the links below: 

What support is available to help us?

The Mayor has joined with City Bridge Trust and London Funders to launch an emergency support fund – with an initial £1 million provided by City Hall and £1 million from City Bridge Trust. 

Funding available now

Wave 1 Small Grants: This first wave of funding is for urgent needs so that you can cover costs that you are incurring right now to support communities affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak and the move to social distancing, with a focus on food and essentials.

Apply for funding

To read more about the funding, please visit the London Funders site.

Can we volunteer?

Londoners have always pulled together in tough times and there has already been a fantastic community response to coronavirus with lots of volunteering going on at a local level.

Please read our guidance on how you can safely support yourself and your community during this time.

How do we operate digitally?

The GLA is working with partners to support civil society organisations with their increasing digital needs as the ability to work and deliver services remotely becomes necessary. We are having weekly calls with organisations working to support in this space.  

We have also created a Digital Support Access Form to help you find the right digital support for the new and evolving tech and digital challenges. Complete the form, and colleagues at the GLA and across London's Digital and Tech Support sector will be in touch to begin working through your query. 
 

CAST (Centre for Acceleration of Social Technology) is a charity working to help people use digital for social good.  

They are working hard to support charities to use digital tools to ensure business continuity and provide support to the communities you work with online. They have developed a wide-ranging offer including free consultations and guides: 

Catalyst, a new UK collaborative to massively accelerate UK civil society’s use of digital, have also created and collated various guides to support charities at this time.

Catalyst is also making available Digital Teams to help charities who need support right now with digital challenges. Catalyst Digital Teams will be made up of a combination of digital, design and data expertise to help charities go through urgent, sometimes radical transitions. If you are an anchor organisation, infrastructure body or federated charity, or an organisation that supports, connects or coordinates a network, and you're interested in applying for support from a Digital Team, please read this blog post for more information.

Covid Tech Support has over 200 tech volunteers who are here to support with your tech needs from getting used to using online documents, setting up whatsapp groups to creating website to support your service. 
 
Superhighways have created some useful guides for getting started with Microsoft Teams. Including an introduction to Teams and how to use the chat, calls and meetings functions.

Is the Mayor aware of the challenges civil society is facing?

On 18 March, the Mayor met with senior community and voluntary sector stakeholders to discuss the impact of coronavirus (COVID-19) on London’s communities and the voluntary sector to explore options to help mitigate the situation. 

Representatives discussed challenges facing organisations, and concerns for service user groups. They identified key asks for both local and national government.  

Organisational challenges as a result of coronavirus include: 

  • Lack of funds as donations fall and fundraising activities are curtailed, impacting their ability to operate while creating uncertainty for their own staff  
  • Lack of staff as they self-isolate  
  • Need to restructure service delivery as face-to-face interactions become more difficult 

Attendees highlighted various concerns for service user groups, including:

  • Insufficient safety net for those on no/low pay and in insecure work 
  • Poor access to advice and guidance both for those with accessibility needs, such as those with disabilities, and those with limited access to technology, including older people 
  • Insufficient support for vulnerable groups including migrants, asylum seekers and the homeless 
  • Specific challenges around access to food for vulnerable groups including older Londoners 

Representatives highlighted concerns around mental health and well-being of staff and Londoners more broadly, calling for more positive messaging around coming together and recovery. 

There were calls on government to: 

  • Increase both eligibility for and levels of Statutory Sick Pay 
  • Make reforms to Universal Credit to issue more generous payments quicker 
  • Increase support for foodbanks from both government and business 
  • Have a clear plan for supporting children in poverty in lieu of free school meals, due to school closures 
  • Scrap conditions for No Recourse to Public Funds conditions and for wider relaxations of Home Office migration policies linked to documentation and deportations 

Representatives called on the government to support the sustainability of the voluntary and community sector, in a similar way to the support that is being offered to businesses. 

Representatives highlighted the need for a coordinated effort across London to identify need, marshal and deploy resources - including volunteers. They emphasised the important role that local authorities and the GLA can play. 

The Mayor will be meeting with the advisory group again and has committed to taking the concerns raised to government. We will continue to work with and support the sector in the upcoming weeks and months.

The GLA has signed the London Funders statement to stand with the sector in this time of crisis.

We are also keen to hear from organisations impacted by the coronavirus outbreak. Please email [email protected] and we'll get back to you.

My faith community wants to help. How can they connect with others?

Faith communities play a vital role in supporting Londoners in times of need. The GLA is working with a wide range of faith organisations to coordinate support across London, including the London Resilience Faith Sector Panel, London Borough Faith Network and Faith Forum for London. 

If you would like to find out more please email [email protected].

How can we help those who speak English as a second language?

On our Coronavirus advice and guidance hub you will find a page dedicated to information on Covid-19 for non-UK nationals.

This page includes information on access to healthcare, visa and immigration advice and the EU settlement scheme.  

You will also find links to the World Health Organisation’s own language resources, which are in French, Chinese, Arabic, Russian and Spanish

Doctors of the world are also producing their own language advice about coronavirus for patients in a range of languages.

How can we make sure we’re still GDPR compliant?

Organisations may have concerns about breaching GDPR rules when using volunteer data to coordinate support during the coronavirus outbreak. Follow this advice from DataKind UK:

  • Only store data from volunteers (never of people who need help) and what they can offer. This should be done with a simple GDPR-compliant form
  • Make a centralised part of your group responsible for dealing with incoming requests, this will help manage risk assessment and minimisation. Read this sample risk assessment spreadsheet.

The National Food Service and Mutual Aid groups also have information about remaining GDPR compliant during the coronavirus outbreak.

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