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Guidance on the reopening and safe use of multi-purpose community centres.

First published:
30 July 2020
Last updated:

This guidance is national guidance that applies across Wales. 

Please consider if local restrictions are in place when reading and implementing this guidance.

This guidance is for those managing community centres, village halls, church halls and other community centres, on safely re-opening multi-purpose buildings. However, it will also be relevant to those hiring or using a community centre.  A community centre is is not defined in the Coronavirus Restrictions Regulations, but for the purposes of this guidance is consider to be a building or place owned or controlled by a public authority or a body of persons which may provide for the physical, social, cultural or intellectual development or welfare of the community.

Background

Community centres, village halls, and other multi-use community facilities support a wide range of local activity. However, their communal nature also makes them places that are vulnerable to the spread of coronavirus.

Regulation 12 of the Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (No 2) (Wales) Regulations 2020 (as amended) allow for the reopening of Community Centres but place a duty on those persons responsible for the centre to take reasonable measures to minimise risk of exposure to coronavirus at the premises or the spread of coronavirus by those who have been at the premises. Failure to do so will constitute an offence. This duty includes the collection of contact information.

Detailed guidance is available on how to take reasonable measures to minimise the risk of exposure to coronavirus in workplaces and premises open to the public  which falls broadly into 3 areas:

  1. take all reasonable measures to ensure that a distance of 2 metres between all persons is maintained on particular premises;
  2. ensure that other reasonable measures are taken to minimise risk of exposure to the virus, in particular by limiting close face to face interaction and by improving hygiene; and
  3. provide information to those entering or working at premises about how to minimise risk.

In order to understand which activities are allowed to take place those responsible for the centre must also familiarise themselves with, and adhere to, regulation 14 of the Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (No 2) (Wales) Regulations 2020  which details the restrictions on indoor gatherings and regulation 14A in respect of outdoor gatherings and the reasonable excuses for doing so in both cases.

Many community facilities are also workplaces and those responsible for the premises should therefore be aware of their responsibilities as employers.

Within the regulatory context set out above this guidance is aimed at supporting community centres to restart activities in a COVID-secure way. The guidance reflects the huge variety of different community centres across Wales and the positive impacts of expanding valuable public services and activities in the community, including supporting safeguarding efforts to respond to the many problems that sadly may have been hidden or exacerbated during lockdown

It is primarily for those managing multi-use community centres to prepare for re-opening when restrictions have lifted. It signposts to relevant guidance on a range of different activities that can take place in these spaces. However, it is also relevant to those wishing to hire a community centre.

This guidance will be updated as the Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (No 2) (Wales) Regulations 2020  are amended and when other guidance relevant to multi-use facilities are produced. Different activities are subject to specific reviews and guidance on when and how they are permitted to resume.

Where  premises delivers a mix of services, only those services that can be carried out in accordance with the Coronavirus Restrictions Regulations will be permitted.  Those responsible for community centres will need to ensure that anyone attending can do so in accordance with the rules on gatherings. It is important to note that the restrictions and requirements under the Regulations are being amended frequently.  You should ensure you are up to date with the latest position.

Steps for reopening

Our community centres have already played a vital role in supporting our most vulnerable citizens and will continue to do so. They can also play a vital role in enabling people of all ages to connect with others and to feel engaged in their communities in a meaningful way. In recognition of this, we are encouraging those managing centres to contact their local authority to determine which additional public services they could provide. 

As you go through the process of reopening your community centre by taking reasonable measures to minimise risk of exposure to and spread of coronavirus (including 2m physical distancing, hygiene, use of PPE, potentially collecting contact information) there are some additional issues it may be useful to consider:

  • Step 1: What activities are you thinking of running? If you do not own the setting - have you spoken to the owner? Do you have an agreement/charter with the owner?
  • Step 2: Do you know what you’ll need to do? For example, changes to insurance or hire agreements. WCVA has produced a set of practical guidance for community centres reopening that you might find useful.
  • Step 3: Have you undertaken a risk assessment? Those responsible for the community centre (the management) will still have discretion over when they consider it safe to open for any activity permitted by legislation. Part of your risk assessment should consider how you will respond to a ‘local lockdown’. Risk Assessment Templates and examples can be found on the Health and Safety Executive website. 
  • Step 4: Who runs the activity? Do those running activities understand the requirements of the regulations? Have they seen the risk assessment for the setting? Have they undertaken a risk assessment for the activity? Are they aware of this guidance? Are they aware that WCVA has produced additional help? Remember there are some activities that still cannot take place, for example gatherings indoors without a reasonable excuse. Permitted activities will have their own specific guidance on when and how they are permitted to resume.. If an activity cannot safely follow the advice in the relevant guidance for that activity, it is recommended it is not undertaken
  • Step 5: What adjustments do you need to make? If you need to make adjustments to minimise the risk of exposure to coronavirus in the centre, have you considered how much these will cost? See Additional support below.
  • Step 6: Are you in touch with your local support infrastructure? There are different support arrangements available for each county. If you already have a contact in the Local Authority we recommend that you remain in regular contact to discuss changes in regulations and guidance. We also recommend that you contact your local County Voluntary Council as they may be able to provide support. They will also be able to inform you if any local restrictions apply.

If you hire a community centre then steps 4 to 6 are applicable. 

Key responsibilities

Those responsible for the setting or activity should take into account that community centres are also workplaces and be aware of their responsibilities as employers. The government is clear that no one is obliged to work in an unsafe workplace. All workplaces and those responsible for premises are required to take reasonable measures to minimise the risk of exposure to the virus and the spread of coronavirus by those who have been on the premises.

They also have a duty of care to volunteers to ensure, as far as reasonably practicable, they are not exposed to risks to their health and safety and are afforded the same level of protection as employees and the self-employed. See government information on coronavirus volunteering and how to help safely

Core principles for safely reopening community centres

Community centres are used for a range of purposes, and relevant guidance on specific permitted activities is signposted below (Additional support). In order to open there are general principles that all managers and users of community spaces should follow.

Any reopening plans should be consistent with:

Anyone with control of non-domestic premises (such as a community centre, village or community hall) has legal responsibilities under health and safety law, and must take reasonable measures to ensure the premises, access to it, and any equipment or substances provided are safe for people using it, so far as is reasonably practicable.

To help decide which actions to take prior to reopening the building for permitted activity, a COVID-19 risk assessment should be completed, by the building owner/manager taking account of the core guidance on physical distancing and the points set out below. This will be in addition to any general risk assessment that is already in place for the community centre. See guidance on completing a risk assessment.

Those responsible for the setting or activity of a community centre have responsibility for managing risks arising from their own activities when they have control of premises and should undertake their own risk assessment as well as taking account of any guidance relevant to their specific activity or sector. Activity organisers (when not part of the setting’s organisation) must also take account of the centre’s COVID-19 risk assessments and management systems when devising their own activity risk assessments.

Physical distancing and capacity

Measures should be in place to ensure all users of community facilities follow the up to date guidelines on staying safe and social distancing. A distance of 2 metres is specificed as the most appropriate physical distance and must be followed wherever reasonable to do so. Guidance on how to support physical distancing is available. It is accepted that there might be some, limited circumstances where a distance of 2 metres cannot reasonably be maintained. In such circumstances you must consider other reasonable steps to minimise risk of exposure to coronavirus by taking appropriate mitigation measures. However, if 2 metres can reasonably be maintained then you are under a duty to take measures to do so.

The size and circumstance of the premises will determine the maximum number of people and the number of activities that can be accommodated while also facilitating physical distancing. In defining the number of people that can reasonably follow 2 metre distancing guidelines the total floor space as well as likely pinch points and busy areas should be taken into account (e.g. entrances, exits) and where possible alternative or one-way routes introduced to prevent the congregation of people in areas of high usage.

A risk assessment should determine the maximum capacity of a hall or hire space whist able to maintain physical distancing according to the relevant guidelines. It should also identify points of high risk in the building (such as entrances, waiting areas etc) and mitigating actions to address the identified risks. Those managing and using the centre should also consider what changes might be needed to enable safe access to the building. These may include:

  • Making use of multiple exit and entry points: to introduce a one-way flow in and out of the premises, with appropriate floor markings or signage. Any changes to entrances, exits and queues should take into account the need to make reasonable adjustments for those who need them, such as disabled people.
  • Managing the arrival and departure times of different groups to reduce the pressure at exits and entrances.
  • Queue management: the flow of groups in and out of the premises should be carefully controlled to reduce the risk of congestion. It may be necessary to introduce physically distanced queuing systems.

You must have regard to the guidance to ensure you are taking all reasonable measures to minimise the risk of exposure to coronovirus in the workplace and premises open to the public.

Cleaning and infection control

COVID-19 is mainly spread between people who are in close contact with one another and by droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. It can also spread through contact with a surface or object that has the virus on it.

Cleaning to an appropriate standard helps minimise the spread of COVID-19. A cleaning regime should be established based on the risk assessment and use of the building. High usage areas and anything that is frequently touched, especially if it is touched by lots of people, will need more regular cleaning than normal. Guidance on cleaning to the appropriate standard can be found on the Health and Safety Executive website in addition to the following specific guidance on cleaning of non-healthcare settings.

If the setting is used for certain activities, for example childcare, higher levels of cleaning/ infection control will be required. Managers and operators should see the relevant guidance in section below.

Hand hygiene and face coverings

Practicing good hand hygiene is important. Users of the facilities should have access to soap and water to wash their hands for at least 20 seconds or access to hand sanitiser when entering and leaving the building or being in a public area. Handwashing is particularly important after coughing, sneezing or blowing their nose before touching any surface. There is a statutory duty under regulation 12 of the Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (No 2) (Wales) Regulations 2020 to provide information to those entering and working in premises on how to minimise the risk of exposure to coronavirus, which will need to include information on hygiene control. Managers will want to consider:

  • signs and posters to build awareness of good handwashing technique, the need to increase handwashing frequency, advice to avoid touching your face and to cough or sneeze into a tissue which is binned safely, or into your arm if a tissue is not available with hand washing following straight afterwards
  • providing hand sanitiser in multiple locations, such as reception areas, in addition to washrooms
  • providing hand drying facilities (paper towels or electrical dryers). Towels and tea towels should not be shared.

The evidence remains clear that the most effective way to protect yourself and others from infection is to follow physical distancing rules, avoid touching surfaces and your face, and wash your hands regularly.

Face coverings are not a substitute for these measures, but in some circumstances where it might be difficult to stay 2m away from others, we are advising the use of three-layer, non-medical face coverings.

More information about the use of face coverings.

Attending a community centre

Those experiencing coronavirus symptoms which include those listed below should not attend a community centre in any capacity:

  • new continuous cough.
  • high temperature.
  • loss of or change to your normal sense of smell or taste (anosmia).

Individuals who are self-isolating due to a possible or confirmed case of coronavirus (COVID-19) in the household or their extended household should stay home and not attend or if they are a contact of a case and have been advised to self-isolate.

The advice for individuals who are extremely vulnerable and previously shielding or in an ‘at increased risk group’ to strictly follow social distancing guidance. However, they may decide, for their wellbeing, to attend a community centre despite the additional risk this poses to them. In this case they and anyone with them should strictly follow the physical distancing guidance.

Those wishing to use a community centre should consider how far they need to travel and how they will travel to and from the building safely. Members of the same household should travel together. The Welsh Government's advice on travelling safely should be followed.

If anyone becomes unwell with symptoms of COVID-19 in the community centre, they should be sent home and advised to follow the self-isolation guidance and to apply for a coronavirus test.

If they need clinical advice they should go online to NHS 111 Wales (or call 111 if they don’t have internet access). In an emergency, call 999 if they are seriously ill or injured or their life is at risk. They should not visit the GP, pharmacy, urgent care centre or a hospital.

Other people who may have been in contact with the person who has become unwell should wash their hands thoroughly after the interaction, but they do not need to take any other specific action unless they develop symptoms themselves. If they develop symptoms they should follow the self-isolation guidance and apply for a coronavirus test.

The areas used by these individuals should be thoroughly cleaned according to the guidance on decontamination in non-healthcare settings.

In circumstances where young children mix with others, it may not be practical to attempt to maintain continual 2 metre distancing (between children, or even between children and adults). This is in part because it is harder for younger children to understand the concept of physical distancing, and in part because appropriate support from carers will often require closer contact.

For young children (those of primary school age or younger), it is in any case less essential to attempt to rigidly maintain continual 2 metre distance between them, or between the children and any adults outside their household or extended household. Studies have found that young children are less likely to transmit the virus, whether to other children or to adults, and the virus appears to take a milder course in children than in adults for most cases. 

However as young children can still transmit the virus, parents of young children should still exercise their good judgement and take care especially to encourage their children to follow hand hygiene measures and keep close contact to a minimum wherever possible.

The Welsh Government Test, Trace, Protect strategy sets out the approach to tackling coronavirus, testing people with symptoms in the community, tracing those who have come into close contact with people who have tested positive for coronavirus and protecting family, friends and our community by self-isolating. 

Regulation 12 of the Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (No 2) (Wales) Regulations 2020 places a duty on those responsible for the centre to collect contact information from each person at the premises or, in relation to persons from the same household, from one of them, and retaining it for 21 days for the purpose of providing it to the Welsh Ministers or to a public health officer upon either’s request.

Further information about Test, Trace, Protect is available, along with guidance on keeping records of staff, customers and visitors, and practical guidance for community centres reopening.

Toilets

Portable toilets and toilets inside premises should be kept open and carefully managed to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19. Guidance is available on how to provide safe toilets for public use.

Travel and parking

Car parks are permitted to be open and managers of premises and councils should consider practical measures such as changing the car park layout to help people socially distance. Decisions to reopen car parks are to be made locally.

Guidance on social distancing relevant to transport, parking and the public realm:

Enforcement

To ensure compliance with the requirements in regulation 12, a specific system of enforcement has been created. This means that enforcement officers from local authorities can require certain (specified) measures to be taken in relation to premises, including closing them if necessary.

The enforcement system is set out in Schedules 5 and 6 to the Regulations and is based on the issue of a “Premises Improvement Notice” or a “Premises Closure Notice” or both, depending on the circumstances. In making the decision to issue these notices an enforcement officer must consider whether taking the measure is necessary and proportionate means of ensuring compliance.

The following guidance has been issued to enforcement officers.

Premises Improvement Notice

An enforcement officer may issue a premises improvement notice to a person responsible for the premises if the officer considers that the person is not complying with the obligations imposed on the person by regulation 12(2). The notice must specify the measures that must be taken in order to ensure that the person complies with the obligations imposed by regulation 12(2). The notice must specify a time limit for compliance (not less than 48 hours) and set out the right of appeal.

Premises Closure Notice

An enforcement officer may issue a “Premises Closure Notice” to a person responsible for the premises referred to in regulation 12(1) requiring the premises, or part of the premises, to be closed for up to 336 hours (14 days) at a time.

A closure notice can be issued following the issue of a premises improvement notice if the officer considers that a person has failed to take the measures specified in the notice within the specified time and the closure notice must specify what measures have not been taken if this is the case. Where a Premises Improvement Notice has not been issued, the Premises Closure Notice must set out the reasons why the enforcement officer considers that the responsible person is failing to comply with regulation 12(2).

Notices and Signs 

Where a community centre has been served either a ‘Premises improvement notice’ or a ‘Premises closure notice’ these must be displayed in a prominent place near every entrance to the premises and the enforcement officers will arrange for the notice to be published on the website of the local authority for the area in which the premises are located.

Alongside the notice a sign must also be displayed, the form of which is set out in the Regulations and in guidance. The notice and sign must continue to be displayed and published for as long as they have effect.

A person to whom a Premises Improvement Notice or Premises Closure Notice is issued may appeal, within 7 days, to a Magistrates’ Court against the notice.

Voluntary and Public Services in multi-use community centres: signposting to relevant guidance

In order to understand which activities are allowed to take place those responsible for the centre must familiarise themselves with, and comply with regulation 14 of the Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (No 2) (Wales) Regulations 2020 which details the restrictions on indoor and outdoor gatherings along with a non-exhaustive list of  reasonable excuses for doing so.

Community centres, such as miner’s institutes and village halls, are used for a wide range of local activities and services – from childcare provision to hosting social and recreational clubs. Different activities are subject to specific reviews and guidance on when and how they are permitted to resume. Where a premises delivers a mix of services, only those services that are permitted will be available.

Below is a list of the more relevant permitted activities along with links to specific guidance for those activities that you must take account of.

As lockdown measures are eased or increased regulations and guidance will change to enable new activities to take place, or, in the event of local outbreaks, to suspend certain activities. You should ensure you are up to date with the latest position.

If you are part of a national organisation they might have produced some specific guidance for you to safely use hired facilities. However, these should be used in conjunction with this guidance and not as a substitute.

Additional support

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