A community centre is defined as 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.
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 (COVID-19).
This guidance is aimed at supporting community centres to restart more public services at the discretion of Local Authorities. In this instance, the regulations define a local authority as the council of a county or county borough in Wales. Its purpose is to enable these centres to operate in a COVID-secure way and reflect the huge variety of different community centres across Wales. This should have positive impacts by expanding valuable public services 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 reopening 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.
Many community facilities are also workplaces and those responsible for the premises should therefore be aware of their responsibilities as employers. In addition, all premises open to the public are obliged in law to take all reasonable measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
This guidance will be updated as we move into the next step for easing restrictions 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 a premises delivers a mix of services, only those services that are permitted will be available.
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. The decision as to which services can be provided will rest with each the Local Authority but it is anticipated that these decisions will be reached in partnership with those managing and using the centre.
- Step 1: Is there a local need for either the essential voluntary or public service? 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? Example, risk assessments, PPE requirements if any, changes to insurance or hire agreements. WCVA has produced a set of practical guidance for community centres reopening.
- Step 3: Have you spoken to your usual contact in the Local Authority? If you don’t have one, contact numbers for Local Authorities can be found on the Welsh Local Government website.
- Step 4: 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. Each community centre should apply relevant guidance listed here, locally, depending on circumstances, including its size and type of activities it hosts, its users, how it is organised, operated, managed and regulated. Risk assessment templates and examples can be found on the Health and Safety Executive website.
- Step 5: Who runs the activity? Do those running activities understand the requirements of the regulations? Have they undertaken a risk assessment? 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, e.g. social gatherings indoors. Different activities are subject to specific reviews and guidance on when and how they are permitted to resume. Where a premises delivers a variety of services, only those services that are permitted will be available, see Additional support below.
- Step 6: What adjustments do you need to make? If you need to make adjustments, have you considered how much these will cost? If an activity cannot safely follow the advice in the relevant guidance for that activity, it is recommended it is not undertaken.
- Step 7: Are you staying in touch with your Local Authority? Is the Local Authority content that all necessary precautions have been adopted to make the centre and activities Covid safe? We recommend that you remain in regular contact with the Local Authority to discuss changes in regulations and guidance.
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 premises are expected to take reasonable measures to minimise the risk of exposure to the virus.
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. Employees, volunteers and individuals who are shielding should continue to follow the government’s advice on shielding.
Core principles for safely reopening community centres
Community centres are used for a range of purposes, and relevant guidance on specific 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:
- core public health guidance regarding health, hygiene, and social distancing
- safe workplace guidelines, to ensure employees are safe to return to work
- taking all reasonable measures to minimise the risk of exposure to the guidance.
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 social 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.
Social 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 should be followed wherever possible. However, a lesser distance is permissible in specific circumstances if appropriate mitigation measures are in place, you should consider and set out the mitigations in your risk assessment.
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 social 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 social 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 socially distanced queuing systems.
You should also follow 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 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. Managers might also 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 social 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.
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 shielding or in an ‘at increased risk group’ continues to be to minimise their contact with others for their personal protection. 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 social 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 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.
Parents or guardians should supervise their children to ensure they maintain social distancing at all times.
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.
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:
Voluntary and Public Services in multi-use community centres: signposting to relevant guidance
Community centres are currently able to open for either essential voluntary or public services – permitted activities are detailed in the Health Protection Regulations. Managers of community centres must liaise with their Local Authority to identify what additional public services could be delivered from the centre. As lockdown measures are eased regulation measures and guidance will change. This will enable new activities to take place and we recommend that you remain in contact with the Local Authority. Conversely, in the event of local outbreaks there may be a need to suspend certain activities.
Welsh Government would like to support more public services to take place in community centres, where local authorities are satisfied they can resume in a COVID-secure way.
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.
Those managing and using community centres for the following activities also need to take account the specific guidance and regulations below:
- Childcare Provision: Providers of childcare provision in community centres should follow the relevant government guidance.
- Youth Work Services: Guidance will be available here towards the end of July.
- Families First and Flying Start services: Providers of Families First and Flying Start services in community centres should follow the relevant government guidance.
- Places of worship: Guidance is available on reopening places of Worship.
- Marriages and Civil Partnerships: Guidance is available on marriages and civil partnerships.
- Use of outdoor space: Guidance on creating safer public places is available.
- Sport Recreation and Leisure: Guidance on a phased return for sport, recreation and leisure is available.
- Culture and Heritage Destination Venues: Guidance for culture and heritage destinations and venues is available.
- Wales Council for Voluntary Action (WCVA’s) practical guidance for community centres reopening.
- Funding options to support third sector organisations during the COVID-19 pandemic (including help to enable the creation of COVID safe environments for different activities).
- Funding Wales, holds information about funding opportunities for third sector organisations.