This guidance will be kept under regular review and updated.
- Your clinic
- Sources of information and advice
- Voluntary sector resources, information and guidance
- Your clients
- The response and resources in the justice sector
- The response of funders
- Operational issues
We are closely monitoring the fast-moving situation. Pro bono clinics, as with all services, are being affected by the pandemic, both in terms of demand (i.e., people looking for information and advice), and how clinics operate and manage risks. Most clinics have decided to temporarily suspend face-to-face advice sessions, and LawWorks have received several inquiries from clinics about best practice.
This information is intended to help you decide what steps your clinic may need to take in light of the spread of the COVID-19 virus. It draws on the best available advice and guidance, including links to the latest best practice and information from the NHS and Public Health England, and decisions by policy makers. The guidance is designed to:
- Help you to develop and enhance your clinic's response:
- Enable you to continue to provide a service to your community, including alternatives ways to deliver services.
- Prioritise health and safety and protect and support staff, volunteers, beneficiaries and service users
- Support the clinics network and signpost to the most appropriate sources of expert information to help clinics manage through the crisis
The response of each clinic may be partly shaped by institutional setting, and emergency protocols, policies and guidance that will be directly relevant to that setting. For example there is government advice on hostel and day care providers, social care, and educational settings; you may want to consider if they apply to your organisation. By institutional setting we mean:
- If your clinic is attached to a law school and university, then the university's policies may provide a response framework, including on human resources issues, student welfare, risk assessment and a crisis recovery plan. Many Universities are now moving to remote learning and assessment. Universities UK have published specific guidance:
- If you are attached to an advice agency or other charity, then it is likely that the parent charity, or its relevant membership body, will have detailed materials about operating services through the crisis (see section - Voluntary Sector resources). Government have also produced guidance for the charity sector
- If your clinic is attached to a law firm you might find the Collaborative Plan’s guidance useful [forthcoming]
If you are looking for trusted, up-to-date information, some sources of information you should look the following websites:
- Government & Public Health England information
- NHS Guidance
- World Health Organisation
- Centre for Disease Control and Prevention
Your local authority may also have information specific to your area.
Many clinics are part of wider networks in the voluntary sector, and many organisations and umbrella bodies are shaping and sharing good practice, and ideas on how to manage through the crisis. We especially recommend looking at the NCVO’s guidance.
In all that clinics and partner organisation do to respond to the situation, the needs of clients should always be first and foremost, and many clients may come from groups with disabilities or other vulnerabilities which may put them at greater risk. Here are some of the resources that you may want to look at in relation to particular client groups:
The courts, regulators and professional bodies have produced sector specific information that may be relevant:
Charity funders are acutely aware of the pressures on the sector. An alliance of funders from across sectors has come together to sign a joint statement pledging to offer support to civil society groups affected by the coronavirus outbreak.
LawWorks have been collating a regularly updated funding webpage
Ultimately, the decisions as to how to maintain clinics’ services at this time are for clinics; however, we do urge clinics to adopt safe approaches for all clinic staff, volunteers and clients and follow the latest guidance and recommendations from Government and Public Health England. Please note that Government advice is that businesses and workplaces should encourage work at home wherever possible.
- April Update: In practice we do not think it safe, practical or possible for clinics in the LawWorks Clinics Network to be offering face-to-face advice appointments at this time, we have therefore recalibrated the clinics search function on our website. The search function now only contains clinics that are able to offer advice by phone, email and digitally, and will be kept under review.
- May Update: Government guidance for workplaces was updated on May 15th, it includes new specific guidance for people who work in or run offices, retail, contact centres and similar indoor environments, including minimising visits, re-enforcing social distancing requirements, and protecting vulnerable people. Currently, the guidance still says that everyone should work from home, unless they cannot. Revised government guidance has also been issued for educational settings, health and social care settings, and drug and alcohol services.
Hygiene and people in the clinic premises
If you are maintaining a physical clinic, this may be obvious, but it cannot be stressed enough that hygiene is key to help prevent the spread of COVID-19: Please refer to Public Health England Guidance, especially guidance on handwashing. The following posters, materials and resources can be displayed.
If you are maintaining a physical clinic you should look at the latest guidance and advice on social distancing - gov.uk.
Relying on virtual / remote communication where possible
There are now many options that enable people and organisations to work and interact remotely. If have decided not to continue with a physical clinic and/back office support, and are moving to remote working arrangements, you might want to consider the following.
LawWorks have produced a dedicated resource to support clinics moving to an online/remote service.
Training and events
Most organisations are having to review their training offer and requirements in this period. LawWorks for example is only providing training that can be run remotely and safely, for example podcasts and online training, and have cancelled all live face-to-face evening training sessions.
Please follow the latest advice from the Government.
Here are some tips for running online events as an alternative
- How to shift your conference online in light of coronavirus
- The common-sense guide to coronavirus and events
Revision 1.1, 23 March 2020, Updated April 7th and May 18th, 2020
If you have any comments or suggestions to include in this guidance please email [email protected]