News from Reading Neighbourhood Network – 27 May 2020

Welcome to the latest Reading Neighbourhood Network newsletter, where you will find all the latest news and events from our members and the local voluntary sector. All our news and much more can be found on our website at

UPDATE: In the current coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis we are compiling a map on our website of local groups that are offering support in their neighbourhoods. Would you like to be listed?
RNN members: please check your contact details at and let us know at
Other groups: please fill in the short form here.

News articles

  • #Coping guides for children, young people and families

    28 April 2020 #Coping guides for children, young people and families

    #Coping is a new guide offering support to families struggling during the coronavirus lockdown. It has been produced by a group of leading local health and social care organisations and it signposts people to a range of information, and to groups in Reading, Wokingham and West Berkshire who are experts in dealing with mental health, anxiety, stress, self care, wellbeing and sleep issues. The guide is being distributed via schools, the NHS, local authorities, and voluntary and community organisations and via the Berkshire West Safeguarding Children Partnership’s website.

    The unprecedented nature of coronavirus, and the sudden and massive impact it has had on people’s everyday life, has thrown up big challenges for most people. Feedback from a range of agencies shows parents and carers are finding their changed circumstances particularly challenging. They are often trying to deal with the impact coronavirus has had on employment and finances, as well as coping with concerns about their family’s health, and the uncertainty about how long the pandemic will last. Added to that are the problems posed by children off school for lengthy periods and unable to get out and meet their friends.

    The guide is available on the Berkshire West Safeguarding Children Partnership’s website and on the Berkshire West CCG website.

    The guide has been produced by Berkshire West Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), West Berkshire, Reading and Wokingham Councils, Berkshire Healthcare NHS Trust, Brighter Futures for Children and the Berkshire West Safeguarding Children Partnership.

  • How to hold remote committee meetings

    26 April 2020 How to hold remote committee meetings

    News from Reading Voluntary Action

    Over the last month, charities and community groups have adapted to holding trustee meetings remotely. This may be a new process for many charities, whose trustees would normally meet in person. The Charity Commission has therefore issued a timely reminder of its guidance CC48: Charities and Meetings to help trustees to review the requirements of a valid meeting. This is particularly important at the moment as many charities will be making very important decisions.

    In particular, most charities will have already started holding trustee meetings through video conferencing and there are a number of platforms for this such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts Meet and others, some of which are free of charge. This article highlights some key things to consider when deciding what method to adopt when holding your meetings.

    The first place to check is your governing document (you may refer to this as your constitution or Memorandum and Articles depending on your structure). Your governing document will specifically state the number and type of meetings that must be held. It may also authorise other ways to hold a meeting such as via teleconferencing or by circulation of papers.

    However, if your constitution is silent on other ways of holding meetings, then CC48 clarifies that “a valid meeting normally consists of at least two people who can both see and hear each other”, which would exclude telephone conferences. In a separate press release of 8 April, the Charity Commission stated: “Where there is no such clause in your governing document and you decide to hold meetings over the phone or using digital solutions, we will understand but you should record this decision and that you have done this to demonstrate good governance of your charity.”

    Actions for you to take:

    -Review your constitution – what forms of meeting does it permit? If it allows for teleconferencing, then you can proceed with that but you may still choose to opt for video-conferencing where possible, as it means you can see the other trustees too, which may enable better discussion of key decisions before you proceed towards voting on matters. Remember that the purpose of holding trustee meetings is to allow for discussion of key issues in order to make informed decisions collectively as a Board of trustees.

    -If your constitution does not allow for teleconferencing, then following case law you would be required to use videoconferencing during the pandemic as the only method for ‘seeing and hearing’ your fellow trustees at trustee meetings. Please research the various options and what works best for all your trustees to access, taking into account any alterations that may be needed due to a disability, and record your decision-making for these alterations.

    -Invest in some learning as a committee: The lockdown may continue for some time yet and therefore it is worth investigating online tools and what works best for you as a team. Take a look at this RVA How to Get Online and these top tips from the FSI on Making Virtual Meetings work for Charity Trustees. 

    Links to resources and support:

    NCVO guidance on holding meetings

    CC48: Charities and Meetings

    Charity Commission: Coronavirus and Guidance for the Charity Sector

    CC27: Charities and Decision-Making

    The FSI: Making Virtual Meetings work for Charity Trustees

    RVA Guide: How to Get Online 

    Contact if you have specific questions about your constitution or meetings and would like advice.

  • Calling all trustees and managers: how can we help you?

    24 April 2020

    News from: Herjeet Randhawa (RVA Advice Worker)

    First of all, a big thank you to all those involved in social action in Reading! Not only those kindly volunteering on the front line, but also everyone behind the scenes: trustees, managers, ‘office’ staff, volunteer managers, fundraisers, treasurers, bookkeepers and more. We might not be able to see you in your home offices, but we know you’re there providing invaluable support, skills and experience to Reading’s charities.

    It has been quite the month and the landscape has shifted very quickly. This week saw the Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme go live for applications, which will be a relief for some charities. We are also starting to see more funding for the sector. Your trustee board will have been meeting more regularly and our Advice Service has been dealing with legal and governance queries both about the immediate situation and the future impact.

    It’s not always easy to make decisions in a crisis, but taking a measured step back to appraise the situation and reassess objectives, whilst remembering your organisation’s values and charitable objectives, will go a long way; as well as communicating with your team and seeking support and advice when you need it. You’re not alone.

    How can we help you over the next 6 months?
    Now that we’re all past the first month of lockdown and the immediate pressing issues, we would like to look a bit further ahead at the next 6 months and hear from you about what support you would like in your trustee or manager role. As always, this can take the form of one-to-one sessions, group sessions, or wider training. We’ll provide these based on the answers we receive from you, so do let us know.

    Complete the survey (10 minutes max – grab a coffee too)

    If you have any other governance or legal questions, feel free to contact me at and I’d be happy to arrange a telephone or video call with you. Thanks again for everything you’re doing for your beneficiaries, staff and volunteers!

  • Do you need more volunteers? Team Reading is ready for action

    21 April 2020 Do you need more volunteers? Team Reading is ready for action

    News from Reading Voluntary Action

    There has been a fantastic response to the call for coronavirus response volunteers in Reading. Almost 2,000 people from across the town have registered to be part of Team Reading. Organisations who are currently registered with RVA can call upon this pool of volunteer support if you:

    -Face increased demand for your vital services as a result of the outbreak
    -Are delivering new services in response to the outbreak
    -Require support to deliver vital services due to reduced capacity during the outbreak.

    If you’d like to request support from Team Reading, please complete this form. Our Volunteering Development Manager, Steve Hendry ( is available to help if you have any questions or need assistance completing the form.

    Once submitted, tasks can be sent to a targeted subset of Team Reading, based on location within the town, availability, existing DBS (self-declared) and access to own transportation. Those interested can then contact organisations directly or complete an expression of interest that will be managed by the RVA team, to avoid the possibility of front line services being overwhelmed by volunteer enquiries.

    You will find a wide range of information on our dedicated Coronavirus Community Action page, including links to the latest government advice and guidance to ensure activities are delivered in a way that is safe for all.

  • BCF coronavirus funding update – rolling funding round

    21 April 2020 BCF coronavirus funding update – rolling funding round

    News from: Reading Voluntary Action

    Berkshire Community Foundation’s coronavirus support fund is open on a rolling basis. This means that applications received by 17:00 on a Wednesday are taken to the grants panel on the Friday each week. Successful groups will receive funding into their nominated account early the next week. Groups can apply for up to £5,000 under this fund.

    More details and eligibility requirements.

    Funders will often require supporting documentation such as a copy of your most recent accounts, your constitution, a safeguarding policy and equal opportunities policy. If you need further support in relation to policies and procedures contact

  • Free Red Cross online training for volunteers who are responding to Covid-19

    20 April 2020 Free Red Cross online training for volunteers who are responding to Covid-19

    The British Red Cross has made available a free short online training course for volunteers in charities and community groups who are responding to Covid-19, such as shopping volunteers. The course takes under 30 minutes to complete and includes a short quiz at the end. Community groups and charities may like to use this as part of their training for their volunteers. To get the best out of this course, we would recommend that it is used as part of a safer recruitment and induction process.

    You can access the free Red Cross Training for Coronavirus Response Volunteers here.

    Here are some top tips for safer recruitment:
    -Ask volunteers to provide names of two referees.
    -Check whether the role requires a DBS check and the level.
    -Try and have a face-to-face video with the volunteer to go over the role, ask questions and check ID.
    -Provide them with a role description and your volunteer policy.
    -Give them information about your organisation’s public liability insurance and ensure that they understand this only covers them for activities they carry out in line with the role description.

    Let volunteers know:
    -About any training you are providing and when and how they complete this.
    -How they keep people’s information confidential.
    -The contact details of their supervisor.
    -How they can report any concerns, including safeguarding concerns.
    -What to do if they start feeling unwell or have caring responsibilities and who to contact.

    Further information
    -You can also access the RVA Guide for Voluntary and Community Groups – Staying Safe Whilst Volunteering here and other online safeguarding resources here.
    -If you have any questions or would like support in adapting your services, contact

  • Coronavirus Mental Health Response Fund – applications open

    18 April 2020 Coronavirus Mental Health Response Fund – applications open

    News from: Reading Voluntary Action

    Voluntary and community sector (VCS) organisations have a vital role working alongside NHS colleagues to support anyone who has a mental health problem. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, demand for mental health services is increasing. To help VCS organisations based in England continue to provide mental health services, organisations can apply for a Coronavirus Mental Health Response Fund grant.

    This new grant funding is focused on supporting VCS mental health providers to respond to an anticipated increase in need as a direct result of the coronavirus pandemic.

    The funding is available for registered charities to either:
    -Scale up existing activity – for example, your organisation may manage a helpline or a forum that is experiencing an unprecedented amount of requests.
    -Adapt existing activity – for example, you may have traditionally delivered all of your services in-person and now want to adapt them in order to continue meeting the needs of existing, or new, service users.
    -Introduce new activity – you may want to introduce a new service that will meet the specific needs of your service users that arise due, in part, to the coronavirus crisis.

    The £5 million government fund will be administered by Mind and charities will be able to apply for grants of £20,000 or £50,000 for projects lasting up to 12 months. Applicants are invited to apply at any time and the fund will remain open for mental health voluntary sector organisations for as long as funds remain.

    Further information:
    More information and online application here.
    Detailed guidance notes available here.
    -For funding support contact

    Support for smaller organisations and groups: As part of this funding programme, the National Survivor User Network will be administering a fund to support user-led organisations and smaller, unconstituted community organisations, who might not otherwise be eligible for a grant. Details will be available from Monday 20 April on the NSUN website.

  • Primary Care Hub to open at Walk-in Centre in Broad Street Mall

    4 April 2020 Primary Care Hub to open at Walk-in Centre in Broad Street Mall

    News from: NHS Berkshire West CCG

    Berkshire West CCG are opening a Primary Care Hub for local people with coronavirus symptoms who require clinical assessment in the community at the Walk-in Centre in Reading’s Broad Street Mall. The Hub is due to open its doors early next week (week beginning 6 April) and will offer specific patients quick and easy access to expert medical assistance.

    The Hub will only be available to patients who have already gone through a structured medical triage system and have been identified as requiring further clinical assessment. Patients with coronavirus symptoms are initially advised to self-isolate at home, if their symptoms worsen during this period they are advised to contact NHS 111.

    NHS 111 will refer patients to primary care where appropriate, with some patients then receiving assessment at a Hub.

    The Reading Primary Care Hub will cater for people from Reading and Wokingham and will be open seven days a week from 8:00 to 20:00. Patients who are registered at the Walk-in Centre are being temporarily moved to the neighbouring Milman Road surgery and will be contacted separately to let them know of the arrangements.

    No walk-in care will be available at the Centre at this time and patients with urgent care needs are therefore being advised to contact their registered practice or NHS 111. We have endeavoured to work with partners to support groups of patients who frequently access walk-in care.

    Full details of the hub and how it will operate will be on the CCG website

    Photo: Stewart Turkington.

  • Mental health and wellbeing during the coronavirus outbreak – round-up of support and information

    3 April 2020 Mental health and wellbeing during the coronavirus outbreak – round-up of support and information

    News from: Reading Voluntary Action

    A round-up of information on mental health and wellbeing during the coronavirus outbreak

    Government guidance: This week the government issued new guidance for the public on the mental health and wellbeing aspects of coronavirus. It includes how you can connect with others during this time, helping those around you, looking after your physical wellbeing and managing your media and information intake.

    A list of NHS recommended helplines.
    Carers Direct has a helpline open from 08:00 to 21:00 Monday to Friday, and from 11:00 to 16:00 at weekends, call 03001 231053.
    Carers UK has a helpline open from 10:00 to 16:00 on Mondays and Tuesdays, call 08088 087777.
    Samaritans 24/7 freephone number is 116 123.
    Mind’s helpline is available Monday to Friday, 09:00 to 18:00, call 03001 233393.

    Every Mind Matters: The Public Health England and NHS England mental health campaign Every Mind Matters is now tailored to support people through social distancing and home isolation. Find guidance, advice and tips on how to maintain your mental wellbeing if you need to stay at home or are worried and anxious about the outbreak.

    Anxiety UK: Easy access to a range of information, resources and support for helping you understand how to deal with your anxiety during these difficult times while coronavirus is impacting on our lives.

    Talking Therapies: The new Talking Therapies website from NHS Berkshire Healthcare has self-help guides and resources for everyone.

    Samaritans: Resources to help you if you’re worried about your mental health during the coronavirus outbreak.

    Mind: Lots of things to try to help your wellbeing.

    Mental Health Foundation: The Mental Health Foundation is part of the national mental health response providing support to address the mental health and psychosocial aspects of the Coronavirus outbreak, alongside colleagues at Public Health England and the Department of Health and Social Care. Read more on their page about looking after your mental health during the coronavirus outbreak.

    Staying active at home
    How to stay active while you’re at home – Sport England
    Get Berkshire Active – Active at Home

  • Guide for community groups offering coronavirus support services

    31 March 2020 Guide for community groups offering coronavirus support services

    Thank you to all the community groups and charities in Reading, who are adapting their services and providing invaluable, additional support and services during this time. It really has been inspirational to see local social action.

    Your group may now be offering those who are self-isolating the following services:
    1. Shopping volunteers
    2. Collecting prescriptions
    3. Driving to essential medical appointments
    4. Telephone befriending

    RVA has prepared Staying Safe whilst Volunteering: A Guide for Voluntary and Community Groups to assist established groups to deliver services safely during this time, with suggested best practice. This guide includes:
    -Public health guidance on Coronavirus Covid-19
    -Volunteer recruitment best practice
    -How volunteers should protect themselves – NHS guidelines
    -How volunteers can protect other people’s personal data including confidentiality
    -How to keep others safe: Safeguarding duty
    -Specific guidance for individual volunteer roles

    The guide can be adapted to suit your services and then implemented in your group and shared with volunteers.

    We will continue to update the guide as and when any further government guidance is received, so do check out Coronavirus Community Action page for updates.

    If you would like any further support or to discuss how you can implement this best practice in your group, do get in touch on

  • Telephone befriending – training package

    31 March 2020 Telephone befriending – training package

    News by: Rhiannon Stocking-Williams (Ready Friends Coordinator, RVA)

    Keeping in touch with people if you are feeling lonely and isolated has never been more important and this need will increase as the weeks pass. Existing befriending schemes are now switching from face-to-face to telephone-based befriending. Other voluntary, neighbourhood and community groups are looking into how to make the most of their volunteers to offer telephone befriending to their clients across Reading. New groups are popping up, often at a street level and want to set up telephone befriending.

    For any organisation wishing to start up or transition to a telephone-based befriending service, take a look at the training package on the Ready Friends webpage: (

    For anyone wanting to set a telephone befriending scheme from scratch, there are lots of important things to think about to make what you are offering safe and reliable for your group, your volunteers and for the people you want to help. You will need to have processes in place around:
    -Data handling
    -Volunteer recruitment and induction
    -Volunteer training, support and supervision
    -Paying volunteer expenses and managing costs

    If you find anything in the training materials that you don’t understand or would like more information on, please get in touch with Rhiannon by email at

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