We have published advice and information on coronavirus for:
- business and employers
- the social, community and residential care sector
- the education sector
This advice can be found at: https://gov.wales/coronavirus
The UK Government has recently produced an action plan. This outlines how the UK has planned for and what further action will be taken to tackle the current coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.
The purpose of the above guidance is to assist individuals and businesses in preparations to minimise risks and impact. We recommend beneficiaries should familiarise themselves with them, if not already done so.
The coronavirus global crisis is affecting us all. Our first priority is to maintain public health in-line with Government advice. We will aim to continue serving our customers, through the various Rural Development Programme (RDP) 2014-2020 grant schemes we administer.
We recognise that this situation is evolving very quickly with advice likely to change at short notice.
We will look to make decisions as early as possible and on a case by case basis, whilst taking into account all official advice at that time.
If you should experience any impact on the delivery of your project as a result of coronavirus, please contact us immediately.
To help deal with the current crisis we have reopened the SMU mailbox: SMU@gov.wales
Please ensure that you use the mailbox address only for all correspondence. Clearly state the project title and case ID where possible, as individual staff may become unavailable at short notice.
Customer contact centre (updated 8 July)
Our RPW Customer Contact Centre is operating with reduced resources. This is due to staff absence and adjustments to home working arrangements.
As a result we will operate revised opening hours as set out below:
|Monday to Friday||8:30am to 12:00pm
2:00pm to 4:00pm
However, the services is currently limited to calls in respect of claims and accruals by the financial year-end.
All other project enquiries should be submitted, in writing, via the SMU mailbox.
Frequently asked questions (FAQs) (updated 28 September)
This FAQ document has been produced for beneficiaries to reference before contacting RPW.
Q1. Claim deadline – do we still need to submit our claims by 6 April?
All incurred costs and expenditure within the 2019/2020 financial year needs to be claimed by 6 April. If you are unable to submit a claim on WEFO online, you should contact us immediately or alternatively provide details of all the costs for accrual.
We have suspended Digital Assistance appointments across all Welsh Government regional offices. We are no longer able to offer face to face assistance with the upload and submitting of claim(s) onto WEFO online.
Q2. Coronavirus is affecting delivery of the project and causing uncertainty
We appreciate the disruption and uncertainty that coronavirus is causing. You may know you will need to extend your project but do not know the length of the extension required. If you are in that situation you can pause your project until you are in a position to request an extension. You will need to email the request to the SMU mailbox.
Q3. Eligibility of project costs. Will project costs continue to be eligible where official restrictions - which affect ‘business as usual’ activity - are in place?
Any necessary costs already approved by RPW, featured within the operation’s Business Plan and included within the agreed Delivery Profile, will continue to be eligible. This will be the case even in situations where offices have been forced to close and staff are working at home or project activity is reduced.
For example, rental costs, other accommodation costs (including Flat Rates) and staff costs. As with all costs agreed by RPW, there is an expectation that value for money is secured. Where savings or reductions can be made then these options should be explored where possible.
Q4. Can staff costs continue to be claimed?
Yes. Staff costs for beneficiary staff contracted to work on the operation continue to be eligible. They should continue to be claimed in line with the organisation’s own policies and RPW’s eligibility rules. This has always been the case.
These costs will be considered eligible where:
- the beneficiary’s policies cover extraordinary circumstances. For example special leave for school closures.
- where beneficiaries’ policies allow for staff to continue to work at home whilst self-isolating
RPW would accept official emails to confirm an organisation's policy related to coronavirus. Sick pay continues to be eligible if claimed in accordance with the RDP eligibility rules.
Q5. What is the impact of having to extend projects and increase costs with little or no increase in targets and outputs?
If beneficiaries are unable to deliver their projects as planned because of the virus, we will consider the situation on a case by case basis. This would be the case for any other situation where force majeure or exceptional circumstances prevents a beneficiary from delivering their contractual obligations.
We will of course be sympathetic to this, and will consider extensions etc as appropriate. Be mindful that these dates cannot go beyond the Programme eligibility date of 31st December 2023. There is a preference for dates not to be later than June 2023 in order to enable all closure activity to occur.
If you are affected, please e-mail the SMU mailbox and let us know as soon as possible. Provide as much information as possible on the impact the coronavirus situation has had/will have on your ability to deliver the project.
Q6. Inspections and in-situ checks
RPW has been monitoring the COVID-19 situation closely to asses health risks for inspectors and claimants. Appropriate mitigations have been put in place. On-site inspections recommenced on 6 July. They will continue to take place, ensuring the relevant health and safety procedures are followed. These are in line with latest Government and Public Health Wales guidelines.
RPW introduced an alternative process to the in-situ requirements. Instead of on site visits, claimants were requested to submit:
- geo-tagged photographs of work completed
- documentary evidence demonstrating compliance with scheme rules.
RPW has now recommenced in-situ visits with health and safety procedures in place.
We will be asking customers, wherever possible, to provide electronic copies of their records. Where this is not possible, when checking records, we will follow:
- social distancing guidelines
- sanitisation procedures.
We will continue to monitor the COVID 19 situation closely and assess the health risks and mitigations that need to be put in place at all times.
You can help speed up the process by ensuring that your competitive tendering register is fully completed and up to date.
Q7. Would cancellation fees be eligible?
Where a beneficiary has incurred costs which turn out to be fruitless because of events or decisions beyond their control. For example, meetings are cancelled by third parties or following Government advice. That expenditure will not be made ineligible for EU funding, as long as reasonable steps have been taken to minimise that cost. For example, they have made any possible insurance claims.
Looking ahead beneficiaries should exercise caution when booking attendance events. Avoid doing so whilst movement/travel restrictions are in place, unless there is a fully refundable option in such scenario.
Q8. Restriction of travel abroad
This concerns operations/projects that:
- contain costs for travel abroad within approved business plans and/or
- those operations/projects where individual journeys abroad have been authorised by RPW
Where travel has been booked and it is to a country/territory that FCO has advised
- ‘against all travel’ or
- ‘against all but essential travel’
the beneficiary will firstly need to approach its own travel insurance provider (where applicable) and claim against the insurance. If for any reason, the travel insurance policy will not reimburse the cost of travel, the reasons for this will need to be provided to RPW.
Pending the reasons for the insurance policy not paying out and where RPW accepts as being reasonable/justified to claim from structural funds, then the foregone travel costs will be considered eligible. Insurance excess fees are considered to be an eligible cost.