Coronavirus Guidance for Property

Update 12 November 2020

Minor updates have been made in italics due to the government guidance being published. 

The  National Restrictions are now in effect from 5 November 2020  in England.*  
As part of these new restrictions, places of worship and their ancillary accommodation will have to close or remain closed for congregational worship and all other user groups, except for the following:

  • Individual Prayer
  • To broadcast acts of worship
  • Funerals (a maximum of 30 close family & friends can attend)
  • Formal childcare or where part of a school (including OFSTED registered early years settings)
  • Essential voluntary and public services, such as blood donation or food banks
  • Support Groups  
  • Place of work where the work cannot be carried out at home 
  • Repairs or construction work that is being undertaken
  • Community cafés providing a take-away service only

Unfortunately wedding ceremonies will not be permitted to take place.

Useful government websites include:  National Restrictions (including the poster), Safe Use of Places of Worship and the relevant legislation

We have received some clarification on frequently asked questions from the MHCLG regarding places of worship.  

Who can be involved in the broadcast from a place of worship?

  • Attending a place of worship for broadcasting or filming an act of worship is permitted but should only involve those people working or volunteering who are essential for the content of the service, and for technical support to enable people to watch and worship online or via a television or radio. 
  • If musicians or singers usually form part of the act of worship that is being broadcast, they may participate but only if they are essential to the delivery of that act of worship. The numbers or people involved should be kept as small as possible to minimise risks and participants should follow social distancing guidance. 

What about Out of School Setting activities for children?  

  • The guidance from DfE covering off the impact of the new national restrictions on the education sector has just been published.  Click here to read.  
  • As such, out-of-school activities may continue to operate if their primary purpose is either/and/or: 
    • providing registered childcare 
    • offering other childcare activities, where this is reasonably necessary to enable parents to work or search for work or undertake training or education 
    • for respite care, including for vulnerable children. 
    • to be primarily used by home educating parents as part of their arrangements for their child to receive a suitable full-time education (which could include, for example, tuition centres, supplementary schools, or private tutors). 
    • Youth support services, including 1-1 youth work and support groups, may also continue to operate. 
    • All other out of school activities, not being primarily used by parents for these purposes, should close for face-to-face provision for the duration of the national restrictions. 

What constitutes a support group such as continue to take place in a Place of Worship?

  • To ensure support for the most vulnerable during this period, support groups that provide mutual aid, therapy or any other form of support can take place with up to 15 people attending, if the support group is organised by a business, a charitable, benevolent or philanthropic institution or a public body.  
  • Examples include support to:
    • victims of crime (including domestic abuse);
    • those with, or recovering from, addictions (including alcohol, narcotics or other substance addictions) or addictive patterns of behaviour;
    • new parents;
    • those with, or caring for persons with, any long-term illness or terminal condition or who are vulnerable;
    • those facing issues related to their sexuality or identity including those living as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender;
    • those who have suffered bereavement; and
    • vulnerable young people, including to enable them to meet youth workers
    •  Parent and child groups can continue where they provide support to parent and/or child, and children under 5 will not be counted within the 15 person limit - meaning parents and carers can attend such groups in larger numbers.
  • Anyone working is not included as part of the 15 person limit. 

*Please note this is for England only and please check local restrictions for

Interview with Director of Property Support 

 You can listen to this interview with the Director of Property Support, Stephen Hetherington in which he explains more about his team’s work. 

0.00
0.00

 Further information can be found on: 

If you have a specific question, please contact your District Property Secretary or Property Support.  

Click on each tab to find a range of documents - including risk assessments & cleaning guides.

Guide Managing Your Church Building (20 Oct*)

The Guide to Managing Your Church Building will assist managing trustees to think through and prepare for conducting a Covid-19 Risk Assessment (Word) or (pdf version).  For specific guidance on activities or different user groups, including worship, please click on the tabs below.  

First Steps 

  1. If a church building has been closed, please work through the Re-Opening a Building Checklist (Word) or (pdf version)

  2. A Covid-19 Risk Assessment  (Word) or (pdf version) with an Action PlanThe government now states that a risk assessment on Covid-19 is mandatory to comply with H&S regulations.  Please note that churches can choose to use other risk assessment forms if that is their preference and HSE has produced a sample risk assessment.  

In the Cleaning Churches during Covid-19, there is guidance provided on adapting cleaning regimes for church buildings.

The government has introduced a new system of local Covid-19 Alert Levels in England.  Check the alert level for your area on the List of Areas with Local Restrictions.  Then read through for the guidelines for the relevant alert level:

The government have also produced printable A4 Local Alert Level posters for each level.  

Click here for information about local lockdown in Wales.  

Click here for information about local lockdown in Scotland.  

*20 Oct 2020 - updated the Guide for Managing Your Church Building  

Guide to Using Your Worship Space (20 Oct*)

The Guide to Managing Your Church Building will assist managing trustees to think through and prepare for conducting a risk assessment.  For specific guidance on activities or different user groups, click on the links below.  

This guidance must be read in the context of where you live as devolved administrations in Scotland and Wales may have different guidelines.  

To view a summary of restrictions for churches within each tier level, please refer to the Safe Use of Places of Worship

The government has introduced a new system of local Covid-19 Alert Levels in England.  Check the alert level for your area on the List of Areas with Local Restrictions.  Then read through for the guidelines for the relevant alert level:

The government have also produced printable A4 Local Alert Level posters for each level.  

Click here for information about local lockdown in Wales.  

Click here for information about local lockdown in Scotland.  

*Updated 20 Oct 2020 to reflect the Covid-19 Alert level tier system

Guide for Other Property Users (20 Oct*)

The Guide to Managing Your Church Building will assist managing trustees to think through and prepare for conducting a risk assessment.  For specific guidance on activities or different user groups, click on the links below.

This guidance must be read in the context of where you live as devolved administrations in Scotland and Wales may have different guidelines.  

To view a summary of restrictions for churches within each tier level, please refer to the Safe Use of Places of Worship

The government has introduced a new system of local Covid-19 Alert Levels in England.  Check the alert level for your area on the List of Areas with Local Restrictions.  Then read through for the guidelines for the relevant alert level:

The government have also produced printable A4 Local Alert Level posters for each level.  

Click here for information about local lockdown in Wales.  

Click here for information about local lockdown in Scotland.  

Leases and Licences

If you have questions about leases or a license, please refer to TMCP's FAQ's Regarding Leases during Covid-19.  If you have a specific query, then you may need to contact TMCP

*20 Oct 2020 - Updated to reflect new tier system

Guide for Construction, Repairs and Inspections (20 Oct*)

Please refer to the Guide for Construction, Repairs and Inspections for Churches & Manses as it covers a different of areas of construction, together with other factors that trustees need to consider in discussion with their professional advisors and contractors.

This guidance must be read in the context of where you live as devolved administrations in Scotland and Wales may have different guidelines.  

The government has introduced a new system of local Covid-19 Alert Levels in England.  Check the alert level for your area on the List of Areas with Local Restrictions.  Then read through for the guidelines for the relevant alert level:

The government have also produced printable A4 Local Alert Level posters for each level.  

Click here for information about local lockdown in Wales.  

Click here for information about local lockdown in Scotland.  

Buying and Selling

Please refer to TMCP's guidance on Covid 19 and Residential Conveyancing Transactions

If your query is not covered in the guidance, please contact with TMCP regarding specifics.  

Quinquennial Inspections and Gas Safety Checks

Please refer to the new Connexional guidance for Quinquennial Inspections for further information.

Gas Safe has published specific guidance during the outbreak, which you can find here

If churches or Circuits wish to understand more about what professional firms are undertaking during this time they should contact one of the Surveyors’ Panel or alternatively their local contacts.

Vandalism

The following actions are suggested:

  • Notify the local police to report the crime 

  • Notify your property insurer of a potential claim, for example Methodist Insurance and Ecclesiastical

*Updated on 20 Oct 2020 to reflect new tier system

Covid-19 Funding (10 August*)

Funding and fundraising advice from the VCSE sector during COVID-19:

UK Community Foundations - Postcode search to find local Community Foundation, to view funding opportunities during COVID-19.

The National Lottery Community Fund - List of National Lottery funding opportunities and the changes to their programmes due to COVID-19.

Charity Finance Group Guidance - CFG provides financial management advice & support to the VCSE sector. This page sets out its COVID-19 guidance to charities.

Covid-19 Funders - Page produced by London Funders, the membership body for funders and investors in London’s civil society. Page brings together advice for funders during Covid-19.

Fundraising Regulator Events Guidance - this page sets out the Fundraising Regulator’s advice on fundraising during COVID-19.

Charities Aid Foundation - Hub for the latest funding and resources to help charities and other social sector organisations throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Government Intiatives 
The Chancellor announced a temporary VAT relief to supplies of food and non-alcoholic drinks from restaurants, cafés and similar premises across the UK, as well as for accommodation and attractions.  From 15 July 2020 to 12 January 2021, the reduced (5%) rate of VAT will apply to these supplies subject to meeting the criteria set out in the guidance.  Charities that provide holiday accommodation or hospitality and manage cafés and restaurants should ensure that they are aware of the planned changes.

There is also the Eat Out to Help Out Scheme, which a church café may consider.  
 

Grants Online is the UK's most comprehensive and up to date UK grant funding information service. Updated on a daily basis, Grants Online informs you of grant funding opportunities from the European Union, UK Government Agencies, the Lottery as well as Grant Making Trusts & Foundations.  A number of organisations have launched funding schemes to mitigate the effects and impact of the Coronavirus locally.  We expect that the number of such grant schemes will increase over the next few weeks. Information on these schemes can be found here

Fundraising Support during Covid-19 & Beyond
During this uncertain time, Ecclesiastical want to provide you with the help and advice that you need to continue to protect your church and its community. These resources are designed to be helpful both now and into the future as our communities come back together.  Topics include:

Civil Society

The Civil Society has collated a list of grant funding for charities during the outbreak.  Click here to view the details.  

Heritage Alliance (of which the Methodist Church is a member) has produced COVID-19 Guidance for the Heritage Sector. This includes a Covid 19 Guidance Hub and Covid-19 Funding Hub which outlines the advice and sources of national and regional funding to help mitigate the effects of the pandemic.

The Arts Council has announced the availability of grants up to the value of £35k to help with urgent operational costs following loss of income, including:

  • rent or other building costs
  • staff costs
  • overheads such as utilities, insurance etc.
  • costs associated with keeping your organisation operational over the next six months

You must have experience of delivering work that was funded (directly or indirectly) by bodies such as Arts Council England, National Lottery Heritage Fund, National Lottery Community Fund, local authorities, universities, public sector bodies, trusts and foundations, libraries, etc. Your organisation needs to have been part of the delivery of publicly funded work, even if they didn’t directly apply for the funding themselves. Application can be made via online application forms. Further guidance can be found here.

The NLCF has been chosen to administer a large part of the money the government has made available to frontline charities. This is not likely to be relevant to most churches. However, churches are eligible for the Community Fund’s general funds. Although there is no dedicated emergency fund, all the funding decisions made for the next six months will be devoted to addressing the current crisis.

To reach those groups best placed to support their communities at this vital time they will prioritise faster payments for existing grant holders and applicants using the following criteria: 

  • activities specifically geared to supporting communities through this crisis
  • helping organisations overcome any liquidity issues caused by COVID19.

Projects must address one or more of the three strategic priorities:

  1. bringing people together and build strong relationships in and across communities
  2. improving the places and spaces that matter to communities
  3. helping more people to reach their potential, by supporting them at the earliest possible stage.

To find out about the open programmes click here

*Updated 10 Aug 2020 to add new links from the government

Looking After Empty Church Buildings

If a building continues to remain empty, then there are a few simple steps to take to ensure ongoing security, safety and condition of the property.  These include:

  1. Weekly Inspection - An individual from  property team (or individuals on a rota basis) to visit once a week to make an internal and external inspection.  
  2. Communication - Ensure that communication is maintained between parties and that local Circuit and District policies are adhered to during this time.  As well, be aware of lone working practices and government guidance on social distancing. 

  3. Security - Ensure that all perimeter fences/railings/gates, security lighting and other deterrents to thieves (particularly lead theft) are maintained or repaired.   Ensure that all CCTV is working and notices are in place.  Smaller rural churches might check if local neighbours, neighbourhood watch or wider CCTV coverage can be asked to also monitor the property (where practical).

  4. Outside the building - Check the gutters, flashings, downpipes and gullies are not blocked/damaged from ground level and where practical.  Check for any break-ins or vandalism.  
  5. Church grounds - If the grass is mowed using the church's equipment, it should be sanitised after use.   

    Caring for God's Acre has some advice on allowing natural wild flowers and how to minimising the amount of mowing that is needed.

  6. Inside the building - check for any leaks to the mains water supply, other pipes running through out the building and the heating radiators/pipes.  As well, it is advisable to run the hot and cold taps for 5 minutes in order to prevent legionella.  If a manse is empty, it is recommended to remove shower heads as well. 

  7. Heating - As summer draws to a close, it might be beneficial to ensure that some heating is retained in the building to avoid any issues with pipes bursting if there is a cold snap.
  8. Weekly Checks - If the fire alarm or fire detection system is normally checked weekly, then test it.  If there is a mechanical organ, it would beneficial to play for 15 minutes to keep the moving parts clean and from sticking (see below for detailed steps).  
  9. Post - Collect the post if not redirection or suspended. 
  10. Leaving - When leaving the church, ensure that all doors, windows and other points of access are secured.

If you have any concerns, please liaise with your District Property Secretary or Circuit Property Steward.   

Organs

For a church with a larger or mechanically complex organ, prolonged lack of use will result in long-term problems with its performance.  If an organist is available in the neighbourhood, then they can practise to keep all the action parts moving.  If an organist is not available, then the person performing the weekly inspection could carrying out the following steps:

  1. Switch the organ on (consult with your regular organist, as every instrument is different)
  2. Pull out all the stops (or press them down, if the instrument has stop tabs)
  3. One at a time, press every key (black and white) on each keyboard of the instrument, and all of the pedals. Note that the organ operates differently from a piano; keys should be pressed rather than struck.
  4. If any faults occur, such as notes not sounding, or continuing to sound after the key has been released, make a note and consult with your organist or organ tuner.
  5. Cancel all stops by pushing them in (or up for stop tabs).
  6. Switch off the organ.

The purpose of this is to run through all the stops on all keyboards, and the pedalboard to keep leatherwork from sticking and keep electrical contacts clean. 

Vandalism

The following actions are suggested:

  • Notify the local police to report the crime 

  • Notify your property insurer of a potential claim, for example Methodist Insurance and Ecclesiastical

Bats

If your church is known to have bats, then hopefully surfaces will have been covered.  Ideally a church building with bats that affect worship areas will not be open to anyone until it has had a thorough clean, which will have to wait until multiple people are able to safely enter, and appropriate PPE has been sourced.

Any works carried out will be subject to the usual legislation relating to bat conservation and if the trustees are concerned about its bat population then do call the National Bat Helpline on 0345 1300 228

*Updated 26 June 2020

 

Back to Property

Share this