Reopening your Community – a guide to safely running your community group

On 15th September 2020 the Irish Government announced the Living with COVID-19 five-level plan for the next six months. These measures aim to protect key priorities – protecting health, strengthening employment and supporting communities. Some good news for your community group is that in some parts of Ireland you are now able to meet up in groups indoors and reopen your community space, whether it’s your local Men’s Shed or your GIY community garden ☺️. However, it’s really important that the necessary guidelines are followed carefully, to ensure your group meet-ups are held in a safe manner, reducing the risk of the spread of COVID-19. 

There are a number of steps you need to take to ensure it’s safe for your community space to reopen, or for your group to start meeting again. We’ve extracted some key points to give you a checklist of what you need to do. 

  1. Write your Covid-19 guide, on how you plan to navigate through phase 3 restrictions with your group, and make sure all group members get a copy. For organisations, this needs to be signed by management and sent to all staff and volunteers. Full details of what this policy should contain can be found here.
  2. Choose one person in the group who will be responsible for ensuring everyone is following guidelines and that your group is safe.
  3. Prepare your space for stopping the spread – so it can facilitate physical distancing, hand washing and respiratory hygiene.
  4. Carry out inductions – be sure to train your group members or volunteers on the new policies. As every space is different, this training will need to be adapted to your group or organisation.
  5. Post your policies – Post signs, giving information on maximum capacities and hand washing requirements. Then keep an eye to make sure people are following them.
  6. Keep a record of which group members meet and when, in case it’s needed for contact tracing.
  7. Support your team returning to the community group – how can you help them to get there safely?
  8. Continue to prioritize remote meetings where possible.

Other tips and tricks

Meet outside whenever possible. In some cases, you will need to be indoors or use a particular space when meeting in your community group but if you’re able to host it outside, then it’s much safer for everyone. 

Guidelines on maximum numbers of people that can meet indoors and outdoors will vary as we move from stage to stage, but in any case, these guidelines only apply as long as you can support social distancing. So, it’s best that you work out a maximum capacity for your group or facility, within these guidelines.

We recommend you wear masks especially when indoors or when you cannot physically distance. Masks have been made compulsory on public transport so if you will be taking the bus to your community meetup, you will need one anyway. It’s also a very simple way to keep your community safer in social situations. There is a complete guide to everything mask related here.

This is not a complete guide to reopening your community group, but hopefully, it will give you an idea of the jobs to be done to help to keep your community group, and others, safe. You can find a full guide on reopening for community organisations on the Pobal website. 

If you’re reading this and wondering how it applies to your local Men’s Shed, you’ll be glad to know that the Irish Men’s Shed Association have created their own specific guide for all their sheds. It may also provide some guidance for other types of community groups.

If you are part of a community group that is reactivating we would love to hear from you. How are you adapting to the revised restrictions? Do you have any concerns or struggles that we haven’t highlighted? Or do you need more information to reopen safely? Let us know at [email protected].

And to connect with other community leaders, join Neighbourhood Network, and get more support, guides, and opportunities to exchange ideas or ask questions in their WhatsApp group or on their regular Community Boost Webinars. 

Stay safe and stay connected!

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