Happy New Year - our first newsletter of 2021! Throughout this year we will continue to bring you news and developments relating to the charities sector. We hope that you find our newsletter useful and if you have any suggestions about what you would like to see in future editions we would be grateful to receive your feedback.

The country started 2021 in pretty much the same way as we spent most of 2020. However, there is light at the end of the tunnel with various vaccines being rolled out to those most in need. This will be a lifeline for many who have been isolating since March last year. For others it will mean getting back to normality (as much as possible) by seeing their friends and family, celebrating missed events and going back into the office to see colleagues. 

The Government continues to adapt its guidance for social distancing and the rules relating to lockdown. It is, therefore, important that you keep regularly updated on the guidance on the Government’s website.

Unlike in the previous lockdown in March 2020, places of worship can remain open. However, people from different households or who are outside a support bubble must not mix. Weddings should not take place unless there are extenuating circumstances. In these cases, there must only be six people (or less) in attendance although this does not include anyone who is working at the wedding. 

There also remains a limit on the number of attendees at a funeral. There must be no more than 30 people in attendance, and again those working are not included. 

Food banks
Food banks are a lifeline for vulnerable members of society. They are currently needed more than ever, given increasing job losses and those struggling to make ends meet due to being furloughed or having their working hours cut or who would usually rely on free school meals.

Food banks rely on the kindness of volunteers. However, according to the Independent Food Aid Network (IFAN), the number of volunteers is falling. It is likely that the requirements around social distancing and advice around shielding have had a big impact, drastically reducing the number of people who feel able to help food banks at this difficult time. Current restrictions also impact upon those who would usually provide food supplies to their local food banks but who may themselves be struggling financially or may be reluctant to visit a food bank to make a donation for fear of virus transmission.

Food banks are regarded by the Government as a key service during the pandemic and so are able to remain open provided that they can adhere to Government guidelines. If your charity runs a food bank then it is important that the trustees have appropriate safeguards in place to protect the charity’s staff, volunteers and beneficiaries during the pandemic such as ensuring that social distancing measures are observed at all times, suitable handwashing facilities are available and there is a system in place to ensure that regular handwashing takes place. If any of your staff or volunteers are regarded as high risk, then they should be asked to remain at home. It may also mean reducing opening hours to ensure that there is less face-to-face contact. Food parcels could be packaged and delivered where possible or an appointment system introduced to reduce the numbers attending the building at any one time.

If you are able to support a local food bank please look on the Trussell Trust or IFAN websites which can signpost you to your nearest food bank. 

Local Connections Fund
The National Lottery has announced a Local Connections Fund, worth £4m, which is designed for charities and community groups in England who tackle loneliness in their area. Applications for the first round of funding close on 26 January 2021. The next round of funding will take place in the summer. 

Further details including how to apply for funding can be found on the National Lottery’s website.

Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act 2020 - temporary relief
Our briefing of 9 July 2020 explained how the Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act 2020 and associated regulations gave temporary relief for companies, co-ops, community benefit societies and similar organisations from some obligations. They included:

  • a moratorium to give a breathing space from creditors during a corporate rescue;
  • banning clauses that end a contract or seek extra payment due to such a rescue;
  • a process to bind creditors to a restructuring, without their agreement;
  • removing directors’ liability for wrongful trading in some cases during the pandemic;
  • stopping creditors from trying to wind up a business for Covid-19 related debts;
  • giving companies, co-ops and bencoms flexibility to hold general meetings safely; and
  • extending filing deadlines at Companies House or the FCA for co-ops and community benefit societies.

All these relaxations of the usual rules applied only during the “relevant period” which originally ended on various dates in 2020. A series of further regulations have extended these temporary measures into 2021.

Broadly, the new end dates are:

  • 31 March 2021 for the moratorium provisions and provisions about general meetings for credit unions, friendly societies, building societies and CIOs (SI’s 2020/1031 and 2020/1349);
  • 31 March 2021 for issuing winding up petitions (SI’s 2020/1031 and 2020/1483); and
  • 30 April 2021 for personal liability for wrongful trading for directors of non-financial services companies, co-ops and community benefit societies (SI 2020/1349).
For more information

If you would like more details about anything in this newsletter please speak to your usual ACS contact or contact Phil Watts.