It’s important we all continue to take steps to prevent the spread of the illness, and support our staff and volunteers in different ways as restrictions change.
COVID-19 Response in England
The government has published the ‘COVID-19 Response - Spring 2021’, setting out the roadmap out of the current lockdown for England.
There is a Stakeholder Influencer Toolkit (last updated 29 March 2021)
Vaccinations and testing
Vaccine Information from Connected Voice Haref
Our Haref project strives for health equality for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities. They have been working with key organisations to produce useful resources around the COVID-19 vaccine. These are available on our website to share.
People aged 16-64 with underlying health conditions and people aged over 50, can book a vaccine online.
You can only use this service if any of the following apply:
- you are aged 50 or over
- you are at high risk from coronavirus (clinically extremely vulnerable)
- you have a condition that puts you at higher risk (clinically vulnerable)
- you have a learning disability
- you get a Carer's Allowance, get support following an assessment by your local authority or your GP record shows you are a carer
If you think you are an eligible unpaid carer who has not been contacted for your coronavirus vaccination, speak to your GP surgery.
You may find it harder to book 1st vaccination appointments in April. If you are eligible to use this service but cannot get an appointment, speak to your GP surgery.
You must be registered with a GP surgery in England to use this service. You can register with a GP if you do not have one.
Vaccinations for Newcastle’s frontline health and staff and volunteers
In line with the JCVI prioritisation, vaccinations for frontline health and social care workers in Voluntary and Community organisations in Newcastle are now available. Frontline health and social care workers have been identified as a priority group as they are at increased personal risk of exposure to infection with Covid-19 and of transmitting that infection to susceptible and vulnerable people in health and social care settings.
If you are a Voluntary and Community Organisation working in Newcastle, you will be re required to pre-register your organisation using the online form below. As part of pre-registering, you will be asked to confirm how many frontline health and social care staff and/or volunteers your organisation has working within the boundary of Newcastle upon Tyne. A member of the team will then contact you with booking information for you to share with your frontline workers so they can book their vaccination on days and at venues allocated for the vaccination of frontline workers. This will also include Frequently Asked Questions about the vaccine that can be shared with your frontline workers. Important - please note this offer is for frontline health and social care only. Any staff/volunteers who do not fit the criteria cannot be offered a vaccine.
Please only complete one form per organisation. Where organisations operate across multiple Local Authority areas, please ensure the form you submit relates to service delivery in Newcastle only.
The link to pre-register here.
Vaccinations for front line staff in voluntary organisations in Gateshead
The QE site at Gateshead has now stopped doing vaccinations and we understand that frontline VCSE organisations have now had their vaccines. We are waiting for further information about vaccines for other VCSE staff and will share this as soon as it is available
Covid-19 Vaccines - Frequently Asked Questions - please see attached document at the foot of this page.
Register your organisation for regular lateral flow tests
You have until 12 April 2021 to register your organisation for lateral flow tests.
You can order free rapid lateral flow tests to test your employees twice a week in the workplace.
If you have 10 or more employees, from early April you’ll be able to order tests for your employees to collect from their workplace and use at home twice a week. You can do this if you cannot provide testing in the workplace.
You must register by 11:59pm on 12 April 2021. If your business is closed or you cannot provide tests now, you should still register so you can order tests in the future.
Most businesses in England can register via an application form on the government's website. Charities and other organisations, including those who are a building society, a partnership, a sole proprietor or an Act of Parliament, will need to register by email.
Lateral Flow testing available to organisations in Newcastle
A lateral flow coronavirus testing facility is now available in the Banqueting Hall at the Civic Centre in Newcastle (operating 8am to 4pm). Key workers, including those in frontline VCSE organisations, are offered up to two tests per week with the results available in 30 minutes. If you receive a positive result you are advised to follow government guidelines and get a PCR test. Please remember that staff should still work from home where possible. If staff cannot work from home then this test is available but all COVID-19 secure working practices must still be adhered to. Please see this document for further details.
Lateral Flow testing in Gateshead
The Government is sending out supplies of lateral flow tests to care homes which will allow them to screen visitors who are coming into those settings. However, as the tests are not 100% accurate, visitors will still need to wear PPE to make sure that they protect their loved ones. During the current lockdown restrictions, this form of visiting is only available in exceptional circumstances.
Lateral flow testing is now provided to staff in primary and secondary schools. It is the schools responsibility to deliver these tests.
Lateral flow testing will also be offered to frontline council staff who have to go into the homes of vulnerable people in the community, and staff whose work means that they are at higher infection risk as they have to travel together in vehicles for example Care Call, refuse services, home adaptations and repairs.
Depending on the setting in which the Lateral Flow Testing is being offered, you may still be asked to book an appointment at a local testing site to undertake a PCR test to validate the result.
Lateral Flow testing is not available to the wider public at this time as they are targeting our asymptomatic testing resource for staff teams who are working with the most vulnerable residents in the community.
What we're doing
Due to the latest Government restrictions, the Connected Voice team will be continuing to work from home. Our services are still available and our phone line is diverted so you can still speak to the team any time you want. We will be continuing to do most of our work digitally for the time being and this is being regularly reviewed.
We have been continuing to work with Newcastle and Gateshead Councils on their community response and the latest information and advice from the Councils can be found at the following links:
To request help and support from the Councils visit:
The #BeatCovidNE digital hub is now live. This is a regional campaign and the website contains all of the most up-to-date advice for the North East, and other sources of support you might need. For more information please click here.
Our Events and Services
Many of the staff within our team are carrying on their work as normal, albeit remotely - particularly the Advocacy and Business Services Finance teams.
Our Advocacy Services are still running with a combination of remote/homeworking and essential visits. You can find out more here: Advocacy Services during COVID-19
The Support and Development team are available for advice and support via email and telephone. Please let us know if you would like some practical support.
We have been running our events and training as Zoom sessions and will continue to do so for now. For more information about the Training programme and booking links visit: Connected Voice Training.
Key advice for your organisation
We have had a high number of requests for support from organisations on how to ensure their volunteers stay safe, and they manage their community facilities safely.
The government guidance is now:
- Wash hands - keep washing your hands regularly
- Cover face - wear a face covering in enclosed spaces
- Make space - stay at least 2 metres apart - or 1 metre with a face covering or other precautions
If you have Coronavirus symptoms:
- a high temperature
- a new, continuous cough
- a loss of, or change to, your sense of smell or taste
Do not leave home for at least 10 days after your test.
Current National Restrictions: Lockdown in England
Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced England is in full national lockdown. View the Government guidance.
Everyone must now stay at home at all times except for essential reasons. These include to:
- shop for basic necessities, for you or a vulnerable person
- go to work, or provide voluntary or charitable services, if you cannot reasonably do so from home
- exercise with your household (or support bubble) or one other person, this should be limited to once per day, and you should not travel outside your local area.
- meet your support bubble or childcare bubble where necessary, but only if you are legally permitted to form one
- seek medical assistance or avoid injury, illness or risk of harm (including domestic abuse)
- attend education or childcare - for those eligible
From Monday 14 December - There was a change to the self-isolation period from 14 to 10 days. Read the government's official announcement here.
Useful information for charities and organisations
The Government has updated its guidance on the safe use of multi-purpose community facilities.
This Government guidance aims to help organisations and groups understand how to safely and effectively involve volunteers during the pandemic.
NAVCA have produced a quick guide to decision-making in relation to volunteering activity.
The Charity Retail Association has created a charity shop operational guide which gives advice and guidance on the reopening of charity shops.
NCVO has produced detailed advice for VCSE organisations, which links to the relevant public health information. The information is changing on a daily basis so rather than replicate it here we urge you to look at the links.
Community buildings re-opening advice: Risk assessment templates to ensure the safety of staff, volunteers, community members and customers: Risk Assessments for Community Buildings
Changes to DBS ID checking guidelines - guidance allows:
- ID documents to be viewed over video link
- scanned images to be used in advance of the DBS check being submitted
Read the updated guidance at https://www.gov.uk/government/news/covid-19-changes-to-dbs-id-checking-guidelines
Benefits advice: Newcastle City Council now has a special webpage on Coronavirus and benefits: Newcastle City Council Benefits guidance
Business Services advice: Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (Furlough) extension guidance.
Businesses who are required to close due to the local or national restrictions will be eligible for a business grant dependant on the business property rateable value, this is as follows:
- Rateable value of £15k or under grant of £1,334 per month or £664 for two weeks
- Rateable value between £15k-£51k grants of £2,000 per month or £1,000 for two weeks
- Rateable value of £51k or over, grants of £3,000 per month or £1,500 for two weeks
These grants should be paid by the local authority automatically similar to the last time, however if any updates are issued we will provide updates.
Working from home: We realise that digital working is not possible for everyone. For those of you who can do it, Charity Digital has produced some useful guidance on tools for working remotely. Mark Shilcock, OurGateshead Officer, has written a useful blog on his experiences of working from home - Top Ten Tips for Working from Home
Preventing the spread of Coronavirus
Detailed guidance is available on the government website:
Supporting diverse communities
Haref continues to share information with BAME community groups across Newcastle and Gateshead.
Members of some communities are experiencing acts of racism, discrimination and verbal abuse with the outbreak of the virus. Stop Hate UK is providing anyone experiencing or witnessing such discrimination with a confidential 24-hour third-party reporting service.
Doctors of the World has translated advice into a number of languages https://www.doctorsoftheworld.org.uk/news/coronavirus-information/