Responding to COVID-19 (Coronavirus)

Posted on 8 Mar 2020

This page was last updated Tuesday, 17 March at 5pm

With the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) in Ireland, we are facing a a challenge that is unprecedented in modern history. It is also fair to say, however, that we as a people are rising admirably to that challenge and working together as we attempt to stem the worst of this crisis.

To help you with some practicalities and to keep you informed of the evolving situation, we have compiled this information page. Geared towards Irish community and voluntary organisations, charities, and social enterprises, this page will be updated daily as developments occur.

Page Contents:

  1. Contingency Planning & Employer Guidance
  2. Advice on Prevention
  3. The Sector 'Big Picture'
  4. Decision to Postpone The Wheel's Events
  5. Key Links & Updates
  6. Share Your Story: #CommunityResponseIRL

Contingency Planning & Employer Guidance

Developing a Contingency Plan

We encourage you to download the Business Continuity Planning spreadsheet below - adapted from this preparatory checklist from the Dept. of Business, Enterprise & Innovation - to help guide you on the most important aspects of planning for your organisation throughout the life cycle of this COVID-19 pandemic. The practical guidance the document below will give you an excellent route for navigating through this unprecedented crisis.

Download Spreadsheet

Practical Guidance for Employers / Employees

The Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) website has the most up-to-date guidance for workers who are dealing with the general public etc. Learn more here.

Adare Human Resources Management have issued additional recommendations to employers for managing the developing COVID-19 situation, including: payment issues; remote working, and more. Full details available here.

The Data Protection Commission has released new guidance on data protection and privacy concerns relating to the Coronavirus outbreak - full details here.


Prevention Advice

The most important action we can all take is to help prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Social distancing and regular/thorough handwashing are perhaps our best defense in that regard.

You can read this step-by-step guide on how to properly wash your hands and avoid infection. 

We also encourage all to visit the HSE's Coronavirus information page, including comprehensive preventative actions we all can take:

You can find the latest travel updates here: https://www.dfa.ie/travel/travel-advice/coronavirus/


Sector 'Big Picture'

The Wheel is doing everything within its power to respond proactively to this fast-moving national emergency. To keep you fully informed about our ongoing efforts to represent the sector’s and our members’ needs, we will be posting our latest press releases on this page. 

Members of the media can contact Gert Ackermann, Communications Manager, on 086 176 9287. You can also visit our For the Media section here.

Charity sector will work with government in coming days to support and clarify details of the plan which was published late yesterday.

The Wheel, Ireland’s national association of community and voluntary organisations, has welcomed the Government’s new National Action Plan in response to COVID-19. The plan, which was published late yesterday (16 March), is aimed at “adopting a nationwide cohesive approach, in close collaboration with voluntary and community organisations, such as charities, local voluntary groups, volunteers” to “contribute to the national effort in supporting those more vulnerable people in their communities”.

Commenting on the publication of the National Action Plan, Deirdre Garvey, CEO of The Wheel said: “In the document the Government very clearly acknowledge community and voluntary organisations will be at the heart of the State’s coordinated response to COVID-19. It is important, therefore that these organisations can contribute their expertise to planning and decisions making, said Ms Garvey.  

The National Action Plan outlines a number of key actions that will require the involvement of Ireland’s 29,000 charities, community and voluntary organisations and social enterprises. Specifically, the plan notes the importance of:

  • promoting empathetic community engagement
  • supporting community solidarity activity
  • maintaining essential health and social services (which many community and voluntary organisations already deliver in partnership with the State)
  • expanding and protecting public and private sector workers involved in essential services (including employees of community and voluntary organisations)
  • clarifying arrangements for public service special leave
  • ensuring business continuity plans are in place for all agencies and bodies under aegis of all government departments
  • continued payment of childcare subsidies to providers for services directed to close, and
  • providing a range of liquidity and loan finance to SMEs.

Ms Garvey added, “We will be working closely with the Government to ensure that community and voluntary organisations have access to the necessary resources to implement these actions, and to enable them to continue operating existing services, retain, recruit and re-allocate key staff in response to emerging needs.

“It is important that headings in the plan such as ‘Business Continuity Planning across the Public Service’ and ‘Economy employment and business supports’ consider the sector’s requirements, as the charity sector absolutely needs to maintain or increase the level of trained and specialised staff to deliver key services.

“In addition, it is essential health and social care charities are involved in issues such as developing protocols for staff dealing with potential high risk cases,” Deirdre Garvey said. 

 #CommunityResponseIRL

Charities need urgent funds to maintain key health services and supports

The Wheel, the national association of charities is calling on members of the public and the corporate sector to donate to charities that are working on the front line to support and protect vulnerable people in our communities during the COVID-19 crisis.

Deirdre Garvey, CEO of The Wheel, which represents over 1,700 charities, community and voluntary organisations, and social enterprises countrywide, said that a combination of surging demand and collapse of normal fundraising income means that charities need public support right now to an unprecedented extent.

For example:

  • The Irish Cancer Society, which provides a wide range of supports to people with cancer and their families, is down a projected €4m having cancelled Daffodil Day.
  • Pieta House, which supports mental health and anti-suicide measures, are down up to €6m due to the postponement of their Darkness to Light fundraiser. 
  • Church gate collections have been suspended indefinitely, leaving many local charities and community groups without funds for services.  
  • Many other charitable organisations, such as St. Vincent DePaul, foodbanks and rural community groups will be providing support to those suffering immediate hardship and poverty from unemployment because of COVID-19.

Deirdre Garvey added, “Tens of thousands of people woke up this morning with their jobs and income at risk. Our charities and community groups will be facing unprecedented demands to support people in these distressing times. The many others who are lucky to have secure employment and income have an important opportunity to support others by donating to organisations providing services in health and disability, meals on wheels, homelessness, carer supports, poverty relief and other crucial services.”

“In the spirit of social solidarity, it is important for all of us to rise to the developing challenges by supporting our charities and community and voluntary organisations in their vital work.”

“Making donations, however big or small, to the many charities that are working to preserve health and social services, and maintain the very fabric of our society at this time, is something that should be expected of those who can afford it.”

“People whose circumstances prevent them making financial donations could contact their charity of choice and offer volunteer services or whatever other support the charity needs to continue to work effectively. It will take all of us working together to come through this.  Ireland’s national online volunteering database can be accessed by downloading the i-Vol app to your smartphone or at www.i-vol.ie.

"We are also calling on the government to put a comprehensive plan in place to support the vital work of charities through this extremely difficult time,” said Deirdre Garvey.

 #CommunityResponseIRL

“Battle may not be won without full mobilisation of civil society”

An unprecedented spirit of social solidarity is required to overcome the threat posed by Covid-19. The risk to lives, health and society by this virus may not be overcome without the contribution of civil society organisations, Deirdre Garvey, CEO of The Wheel, Ireland’s representative body for charities and community based organisations, has stated.

She said that many individual charities are already taking intensive measures to expand their work and services. In this regard, the call this morning from Minister for Rural and Community Affairs, Michael Ring, TD, urging communities to support vulnerable neighbours is very welcome.

“It is important, however, that charity and voluntary effort against this unprecedented crisis receives necessary resourcing and other supports to enable delivery of essential material and emotional supports to families in the best possible way where state services are overwhelmed.

She said that evidence in other countries starkly indicates that, as the pandemic escalates, formal health services are struggling to cope with the immensity of demand for care.

“In Italy, for example, decisions are having to be made on prioritising of intensive care between patients.

“The unique potential in Ireland for charities and community based action, working in consort with government, to help stem the spread of disease and assist in delivering supports to the most vulnerable must, therefore, be activated as an absolute priority,” she said.

“Community and voluntary organisations and charities here already provide a quarter of acute hospital services and two-thirds of services to people with disabilities. They have the capacity, if fully included in emergency health planning and given sufficient parity of resourcing, coupled with maximum flexibility in (re)allocating existing funding where needed, to expand these services very quickly.

“At local level thousands of charity and community organisations are already working to deliver supports that formal state agencies, overstretched by demand, may shortly be wholly unable to provide.

“For example, this activity includes volunteers delivering groceries and medication locally, providing self- isolation units for people who are homeless, dedicated helplines for older people, online family carer support, phone therapy services for people in self -isolation or fearful of going out in public and a range of mental health initiatives to address the huge emotional impact that will result.

“The list of these initiatives is almost endless. And so is the potential of community based action to deliver comprehensively and effectively with sufficient acknowledgement and support.”

Deirdre Garvey said that The Wheel and other groups like Irish Rural Link and Volunteer Ireland are working with government and health authorities at every level to support the national emergency plan. These and other groups are members of the Covid-19 Advisory Group on Community Response, established by Minister Michael Ring and Chaired by the Department of Rural and Community Development

“But acknowledgement of and confirmation of sufficient resources for the sector has been slower than for other key parts of our economy. We are confident that this can be resolved, as the energy and potential in the sector to help defeat Codvid-19 must not be compromised by delay.

“The issue is not a matter of simple increased resourcing. The many limiting contracts and conditions imposed uniquely on charities in recent years must be immediately reviewed, at the highest level of HSE and government if necessary,” she said.

“In this national crisis, charities must be freed up to deploy the resources where they are needed – and not have to worry about being penalised by the various funding bodies afterwards for these reallocations”.

“In addition, just when they need it most in order to provide this back up to the public and the statutory work, many charities have seen their fundraising income fall off a cliff – so we urgently encourage the public to find any means possible to continue to donate NOW to support those causes that they would regularly support throughout the year” she added.

“Similarly, the public can help hugely by contacting their local or health condition charity and volunteer. Ireland’s national online volunteering database can be accessed by downloading the i-Vol app to your smartphone or at www.i-vol.ie.

“Charities provide essential services on behalf of the state and are now responding to entirely new needs and levels of demand that are unprecedented. The bottom line is that vulnerable people and families must not be abandoned or left to struggle alone.

“Working together we can meet this bottom line. We can prevent the devastation that Covid-19 threatens to inflict. We can win the battle to defeat this enormous threat to our families, our society and our jobs” Deirdre Garvey said.

#CommunityResponseIRL


Decision to Postpone The Wheel's Events

We are postponing the events that are in the calendar up to at least 29 March (which is the Government’s review date for current guidelines).

We are actively looking into the possibility of providing access to some of these planned events via online platforms. If you are booked into any such training, you will hear from us. The situation will be reviewed on an ongoing basis and is likely to evolve further.

For updates on specific events visit www.wheel.ie/training, or follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

Please email Sinead Vaughan if you need further information: sinead@wheel.ie.  


Key Links & Updates

It is important that everyone continue to stay informed and up to date on this evolving situation. The following websites should be checked regularly.

Department of Health: www.gov.ie/en/campaigns/c36c85-covid-19-coronavirus/

HSE: www2.hse.ie/conditions/coronavirus/coronavirus.html

Health Protecion Surveillance Centre: www.hpsc.ie 

Government statements and press releases regarding COVID-19: www.merrionstreet.ie/en/News-Room/Releases


The Community Foundation for Ireland has established a new fund to help vulnerable communities impacted by COVID-19: www.communityfoundation.ie/insights/news/new-fund-established-to-help-vulnerable-communities-with-covid-19


#CommunityResponseIRL

We created the hashtag #CommunityResponseIRL to enable us to highlight and share important updates, calls to action and practical information coming communities across the country.

We encourage all of you to start tweeting and sharing your stories of resilience and cooperation using the #CommunityResponseIRL hashtag. We will acknowledge each and every instance we are made aware of, and will help your positive news reach as wide an audience as possible.