Dear colleagues,

We hope this message finds you as well as can be expected in these challenging times. As you are aware, Birmingham has entered into 'Tier 2' Covid restrictions based on the new national scale.

A number of you have asked for guidance as to what constitutes permissible activity for the voluntary sector at this level, and we hope this message will go some way towards providing you with this. We recognise that achieving clarity around this matter is quite challenging and not always clear-cut. The new guidelines are more complex, and therefore create more areas of ambiguity. However, with an approach that combines sensible adherence to the guidelines, appropriate risk assessment, and ensuring that appropriate safety measures are in place, the majority of VCFSE activity should be able to go ahead. This may mean, however, the method of delivery of some activities needs to be modified. 

Clearly, each organisation must take responsibility for reading and following the guidance, and making reasonable and proportionate decisions where the guidance isn't clear. Here are our reflections, which we hope you will find helpful.

Clearly permitted activity

This will apply to the majority of support activity undertaken by formally constituted groups. What you could do previously under the enhanced measures is still permissible, and vital for maintaining support for some of Birmingham’s most vulnerable citizens. The requirements for voluntary organisations are for us to undertake and follow an appropriate risk assessment for our activity and to ensure it is carried out in Covid-secure ways. Please consult the guidance provided by Public Health and the information provided by the governing bodies relevant to your activity.

Clearly prohibited activity

There are some activities run by the VCS that have a purely social function. These often take place indoors and involve household mixing and are now not permissible. We advise that you redesign to an online format or shift to groups of six or less and meet outside (weather permitting). We recognise that for some groups and activities this is not possible and for these groups we encourage you to support participants towards other available activity.

Activity for which no clear guidelines exists

For a small minority of groups there will be no clear line about the permissibility of your activity. This will largely be for activity that isn’t easily classifiable, and could therefore fall in-between two conflicting sets of guidance. We would encourage you not to be unduly cautious to the extent that vulnerable groups are cut off from support, but equally, not to assume that your activity is of the type that has the more lenient restrictions around it. An appropriate gauge for the type of activity you are delivering is how would your activity be viewed by a ‘reasonable person’ and how does this look against the requirements. The rule of thumb here should be that if in all aspects the activity resembles a prohibited activity it should be considered as such. For example, simply saying that an activity is support-based may not be enough if, to all intents and purposes, its purpose is more focused on socialising. This may mean your activity needs to be adapted to design out the aspects that are now not permitted or that you need to suspend your activity until the regulations change.

We understand that for this last group quite complex decisions need to be made, and offer the support of BVSC in doing so. We would also encourage you to recognise that Public Health and the Police are pursuing flagrant breaches of the regulations and activity where risk assessments have not been undertaken or followed. There is little interest in focusing on marginal interpretations of the regulations provided a reasonable assessment has been undertaken, and provided that  all appropriate mitigations in place. If you are still unsure about the angle to take, or if you are facing a challenge around the activity you are providing, please contact BVSC for advice and support. You'll find contact details at the end of the guidance below.

Kind regards,

Stephen Raybould, Programmes Director

Read the guidance by clicking on the link below:

Covid-19 Tier 2 FAQs for VCFSE