Clinics: COVID-19 - Information and guidance

As the situation with the current COVID-19 pandemic develops, LawWorks is doing its upmost to keep all staff and volunteers healthy and safe while also minimising the disruption to day-to-day operations.

This guidance will be kept under regular review and updated.

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 Introduction

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

Your clinic

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]

Sources of information and advice

If you are looking for trusted, up-to-date information, some sources of information you should look the following websites:

Your local authority may also have information specific to your area.

Voluntary sector resources, information and guidance

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.

Your clients

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 response and resources in the justice sector

The courts, regulators and professional bodies have produced sector specific information that may be relevant:

The response of funders

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

Operational issues

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.
  • June Update: Government guidance is being updated throughout the month in order to start the process of easing the lockdown restrictions, we suggest you regularly check this guidance in planning how your clinic can operate; there have been some new FAQ's issued on public and work activity. Some non-essential services are expected to be able to start re-opening later in the month under new guidelines, and the situation is evolving. However, currently the guidance still recommends homeworking at this time. We will be updating this page and producing new resources shortly such as risk assessment guidance for clinics consider, when clearer guidance becomes available on coming out of lockdown.   

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.

Social distancing

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

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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]

Details

Year of Publication

Date of publication

Friday, March 20, 2020

Date last reviewed

Tuesday, July 21, 2020