• Recap: Coronavirus Advice Drop-in Session 29 May

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    • Recap: Coronavirus Advice Drop-in Session 29 May
    • by Dylan Gallanders
      Support and Engagement Executive, North Wales

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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  

    Updates from members 

    At the beginning of last week’s advice drop-in, our members shared updates about the services that they’re  currently operating and some of the things they’re thinking about for the future. One of the main concerns they raised was to do with social distancing. We know that social distancing in a car can be very difficult and that on a minibus it dramatically reduces capacity. Organisations operating under a Section 22 permit are worried that this could result in passengers becoming stranded if their buses become too busy. Operators with home to school contracts are also considering how they will be able to deliver services as some schools across England start to welcome classes back. Some councils have been issuing guidance to contract holders so, even if you haven’t yet been asked to restart, it may be worth contacting them so that you can prepare. As a control measure to the risks of coronavirus, members have also been exploring different cleaning products and protective barriers. If you have found a product or a supplier which you think would be useful to share with others as part of our guidance, please email advice@ctauk.org so that we can gather a list for those who are going through the same process.

    Government Guidance

    Following updates from members, we also shared some of the latest Government guidance which has been published to help transport operators deliver services safely. We know that throughout this crisis, many operators have had to completely transform their services or to put them on pause. As some of the lockdown restrictions begin to ease, one of the largest concerns is now how regular services can be delivered safely. It is important to note that Government guidance still states that journeys should only be made if essential. It is also advised that individuals should consider walking, cycling or travelling in a private vehicle before exploring other alternatives. So far, separate guidance has been released by the UK, Scottish and Welsh Governments, so please make sure that you are familiar with the appropriate guidance for your nation.

    UK Government

    Scottish Government

    Welsh Government

    The Northern Ireland Executive will be issuing guidance shortly, but it will be broadly in line with what the UK Government and Devolved administrations have issued.

    One of the most important things you need to do before starting to operate any passenger journeys is to complete a comprehensive risk assessment. We know that it is difficult to completely remove the risks associated with Covid-19, so it is important that you have considered what steps you can take to minimise them. You should try to complete your risk assessment in conjunction with your staff and volunteers and ensure that it is reviewed regularly. A template for a risk assessment from the Health and Safety Executive can be found here. We are also working on some further guidance to support you through this process. If you would like to share any risk assessments with us which you have produced, please send them to advice@ctauk.org.

    Volunteers over 70

    One of the topics which we discussed was how organisations can protect volunteers who may be older or classed as vulnerable. We know that many invaluable volunteers have had to self-isolate or to shield throughout the lockdown as they are at a higher risk and that some of them are now starting to express an interest in returning to their previous roles. For many of the volunteers involved with community transport, there are as many benefits for them as there are for the passengers. This makes it extremely difficult for organisations who are legitimately concerned about safety when a volunteer is keen to return to driving.

    When considering how you want to manage volunteers returning, you should be aware that there is a possibility of some individuals being classed as clinically extremely vulnerable. This is the category which will have received a letter from their GP advising them to shield. The guidance if you are in this category is that ‘you’re strongly advised to stay at home as much as possible and keep visits outside to a minimum (for instance once per day).’ Please also see the specific guidance for Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. It would not currently be advisable for anyone in this group to return to a driving role. However, they may be able to offer support in other ways, such as telephone befriending.

    For volunteers who are over 70, the current UK Government guidance defines them as clinically vulnerable. “This means that you are at higher risk of severe illness from coronavirus. You are advised to stay at home as much as possible and, if you do go out, take particular care to minimise contact with others outside your household.” Again, please also see specific guidance for Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. As the guidance is not as prescriptive for this group, we have heard of some individuals feeling that they would be happy to return to volunteering despite being at a higher risk. If this is something which you are considering, we would advise extreme caution and to ensure that you complete a suitable and sufficient risk assessment. It may not be helpful to create a blanket policy about whether to allow older volunteers to return or not. Instead, it may be more appropriate to consider each volunteer individually, the role they are volunteering for, and to create a specific risk assessment for each one. Although this process may be time consuming, it may help both you as an operator and the volunteer to feel more confident.

    Where possible you should first consider offering volunteering roles which can be done from home. You could also consider offering roles where maintaining social distancing is easier, such as making deliveries. Where social distancing is not possible you will need to carefully assess what control measures you can put in place and whether you are then left with an acceptable level of risk. It may be worth discussing this with your insurers to understand what cover you have in place regarding volunteers. NCVO have produced some guidance about insurance for volunteers and have also shared a useful webinar about Covid-19 and managing risks.

    Volunteers’ Week

    We know how valuable volunteers are to community transport and that they help to make a huge difference to the lives of the people which you support. As many organisations start to consider how they can restart some of their services, keeping staff, passengers and volunteers as safe as possible will be a priority for everyone. This week, to celebrate Volunteers’ Week, we have loved seeing so many organisations saying thank you to their volunteers on social media. Remember, if you don’t have any photos to share then there are some images on our website which you can download to post on Twitter. You can also send any pictures to tom@ctauk.org and we will share them for you.

    Our next call

    Our next advice drop-in calls is taking place on Friday 05 June from 11:00-12:00. This week we’re looking at how volunteers can best be supported and safeguarded during the coronavirus pandemic. If you would like to join, please email advice@ctauk.org with the subject line ‘Covid-19 weekly drop-in’.

    As ever, you can find our latest coronavirus guidance at  ctauk.org/covid19-guidance/and, if you need advice or support on this or anything else, or if you have any ideas for topics you want to be discussed at future drop-ins, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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