• Recap: Coronavirus Advice Drop-in Session 03 April

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    • Recap: Coronavirus Advice Drop-in Session 03 April
    • by Emer Murphy
      Support and Engagement Executive for Scotland

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    As the situation around coronavirus, develops we want to make sure that our members can access the guidance they need to understand any actions or precautions they might need to take.  We’re regularly publishing and updating important guidance for the community transport sector which you can find on our main guidance page at ctauk.org/covid19-guidance/

    As well as this, you can also contact the CTA advice service if you need any further information, or have any more questions. The CTA team are currently working remotely, so to ensure you speak to the right person first time, please email advice@ctauk.org to receive a call back for advice and support. Our advice service operates 10:00-4:00 Monday-Friday.  

    Our weekly advice service drop-ins 

    To help support our members throughout this difficult time, we’re also holding an ‘Advice Service Drop-in’ on a weekly basis. This is an opportunity for you to share how you are being affected by the situation, to ask any questions you may have and to talk to other members about how they’re coping. Whilst we may not have all the answers, we will continue to seek clarity and guidance from the relevant bodies on your behalf and these conversations will inform what we’re doing at CTA to support you 

    For those unable to make it, we will be sharing a summary of the points that are discussed during the sessions, including any best-practice or advice from other CTA members that they share during the call.  

    Last week’s call  

    This week’s advice drop-in session will have a slightly different approach than previous weeks. Instead of focusing on one overarching theme we will explore a variety of smaller questions which have been the most prevalent on the CTA advice line. This includes

    • communication with local authorities
    • shopping payments from service user to supermarket
    • furloughing staff in the third sector

    This session will be a healthy mix of advice and facilitated open conversations with fellow members. This is a great opportunity to connect with other community transport providers. Together lets focus on solving issues and creating opportunities.

    We’ve summarised the discussion into some of the key themes that emerged during the call:

    Working with your Local Authority

    Throughout the conversation members highlighted the positive impact of working with their Local Authority. Jon Critoph of Community Voluntary Action Ledbury & District relayed how his organisation has acted as a means of identifying vulnerable members of the community to their Local Authority who are responsible for the delivery of food parcels. Similarly, Thurston Hodge of Borders Community Transport emphasised the work they were conducting in collaboration with their Local Authority to deliver shopping supplies and medicine to members of the local community. Such partnerships are proving extremely valuable to the communities they serve.

    In a similar vein, community transport providers illustrated their conscious effort to work with local enterprise and third sector organisations who are operating within their community. Localised partnerships like these undoubtedly reap both economic and social benefits for the community. Both of which are crucially to a steady recovery of local economies affected by the Covid-19.

    Furthermore, as the conversation developed members highlighted a variety of obstacles they have faced during this period and solutions they have inputted to overcome these.

    Managing payments for shopping delivery

    As previously mentioned a large number of community transport providers have been grocery shopping on behalf of their vulnerable service users. Borne in mind the demographic of service users, the majority of repayments in exchange for goods are provided in cash. As the weeks progress availability of cash is diminishing due to the fact that people cannot leave their houses to access an ATM. This in turn causes great anxiety amongst service users and places community transport providers in an awkward position. Members mentioned that they have been covering the initial cost of the shop and invoicing service users. To overcome repayment issues the following suggestions were made throughout the meeting;

    • Reimbursement by cheque
    • Utilising PayPal accounts
    • Organising for a member of the family to provide a bank transfer on service user’s behalf.
    • Some shopping outlets such as ASDA & M&S have launched volunteer shopping cards so volunteers are not having to handle cash. (Link provided below).

    Gary Christie from Fenland Association for Community Transport (FACT) highlighted the innovative security measures they have introduced whilst delivering goods for payment. With each delivery FACT will issue a notice on how to spot fraudulent online and phone scams, which are unfortunately on the rise. These notices include details of who to contact if you have been affected by such issues. In such unprecedented times securing finances may become a second thought for some. Introducing effective financial security measures like this could save a vulnerable person from being taken advantage of.

    Furloughing employees

    Furlough essentially means putting employees on temporary leave of absence where they do not work and do not receive pay, but are retained on your books to be brought back in when you need them. The Government have set up a scheme to cover up to 80% of a furloughed employee’s wages, which you can find here.

    Several members told us that furloughing employees is a process they are currently negotiating. The primary enquiry that arose during the session referred to organisations that operate both through public funding and individual fares and grants. This is very common within the world of community transport. It is regularly stated that where employers receive public funding for staff costs, and that funding is continuing, employers are expected to use that money to continue to pay staff in the usual fashion ― and correspondingly not furlough them.

    Given the complex nature of Community Transport funding this may be subject to further investigation. The outcome is determined on a case by case basis. Below you can find some resources which may help community transport operators understand the landscape of furloughing employees.

    Shared resources

    If you weren’t able to join us on the call, you can find some of the resources which were shared and discussed below. If you’ve got a template/document/ideas you’d like to share please let us know in the comments and a member of the team will get in-touch.

    Resources shared at the meeting 

    Useful resource on understanding Furloughing employees and the Job Retention Scheme.

    Volunteer Shopping Cards for Marks and Spencer and ASDA.

    Our next call

    The next drop-in will be on Friday 17 April, from 11am – 12pm. If you would like to join, please email advice@ctauk.org with the subject line ‘Covid-19 weekly drop-in’.  You can also email our advice team if you would like any support or if you would like to share with us how COVID-19 is impacting your organisation.

    We are living through extraordinary times that have presented difficulties none of us could have anticipated. These sessions have acted as a platform for shared hope, support and advice. We may not have all the answers, but together we are learning, growing and creating solutions day by day. We hope you can join us next week.

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