Coronavirus (Covid-19) - updates and FAQ

The latest guidance from Girlguiding about coronavirus (Covid-19)

All UK Girlguiding face to face activity, including unit meetings, is suspended due to the Covid-19 outbreak

Page last updated: 25/06/2020

Planning to return to face to face guiding

We know that this has been a tough time for all of us and we want to make sure that when we do meet again, we do it safely and in the best interest of our volunteers and girls.

We’ll do our best to give you plenty of notice when Girlguiding’s meetings, camps, trips and events can start again across the UK. We have a group of volunteers and staff working together looking at what’s needed for:

  • Outdoor and indoor face to face guiding to restart
  • Guidance for owned properties and activity centres
  • How we can still all continue with online guiding too.

We continue to stay up to date with UK government and Public Health England and are following their advice as the situation evolves. We're also working closely with the National Youth Agency and the wider youth sector. We know that the situation might be different in Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales and the Crown dependancies and are monitoring it closely. And we’re working on supporting guidance and risk assessments for leaders to use when starting up in-person meetings. 

Staying connected through virtual meetings 

Although we are not meeting face to face, we will remain connected with our amazing community of volunteers and girls across the UK. Check out advice and guidance for meeting virtually. We are also sharing ways for girls to continue to enjoy our brilliant programme of activities and badges from home and ways stay in touch with their unit - check out our Adventures at home section.

We'll be updating this page to answer your questions and as we receive new and relevant information, keeping our community safe is our top priority. 

This information is for members who do their guiding in the UK and the Crown dependancies (Channel Islands and the Isle of Man). If you're a Girlguiding member overseas, check the local government advice for the country you operate in, and contact the chief commissioner for BGO, [email protected], with any questions or concerns. You should not restart face-to-face guiding before you have spoken to the chief commissioner or your county commissioner. 

Staying healthy

Check the government advice for your area for the most up-to-date information. 

It may seem obvious, but a few precautions can go a long way to stop germs from spreading. Here are some tips from the NHS:

  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze.
  • Put used tissues in the bin straight away.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water often – use hand sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available.
  • Try to avoid close contact with people who are unwell.

Try this activity

Check your hand washing skills with this activity from our First Aid skills builder.

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Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

I have a question about...

How should I talk to my girls about Covid-19?

We know that girls may have questions or be concerned because they've heard different things about the virus. Help the girls by giving them support to talk about their worries and feelings. You may like to read our blog post or look at this helpful advice from Unicef.

How long are unit meetings going to be suspended?

We are following the government's advice around non-essential contact and travel, and will review this on an ongoing basis.

How can we still stay connected with our units while we are not meeting face to face?

We're releasing free activities every week as part of our Adventures at home initiative. You can find out about this and advice for guiding safely online by visiting our Adventures at home hub

What do I need to do to welcome a new girl to my unit?

If you’re running online guiding, solo or group, all new joiners need to complete a virtual guiding new starter form. This can be completed remotely and only asked for the information needed for virutal guiding. When a girl registers her interest to join, tal with her parent or carer to decide how they can join your virtual guiding offer.

If you are running unit meetings online, ask the parent or carer to complete the virtual meeting consent form. You can send this at the same time as the virtual new starter form. Wait to get both signed forms back before you share any specific log-in details for online meetings.

You and another adult member should also chat with the new starter and their parent/carer to explain how your unit is running and what they should expect. This can be done in the lead-up to their first visit or just before it. You can also use this as a chance to test how they can access the online unit meeting and think about how you can adapt your meetings to suit their needs.

All the things you do in your unit to keep girls safe still apply when we go online. So make sure you:

  • Check our Safeguarding policy and Digital safeguarding policy before trying any online activity with girls or other volunteers.
  • Read through the code of conduct, as it also applies to online behaviour.
  • Don’t forget that you need at least two adults joining any call – and we recommend that one should have at least Level 3 of A Safe Space training, and at least one volunteer needs to have a current DBS/AccessNI/PVG check.

See our guidance for staying safe in virtual meetings for more information.

If we cancel one element of the Queen's Guide award (eg residential), are we able to offer an extension for the award's completion?

Any Queen's Guide award activities that can't go ahead due to the Covid-19 oubreak can be granted an extension by their county coordinator.

Some sections of the award may still be able to be completed (like personal skill development or community action) so extensions will only need to be given for postponed elements (service in guiding, outdoor challenge or residential).

Extensions should be given to all Queen's Guide award participants, even if they are nearing their 26th birthday, and shouldn't be counted as the participants' 12-month break.

My girls were working on the youth programme transition route to the Gold award; will the timeframe for this be extended beyond summer due to isolation-related delays?

The Gold transition route deadline for all sections has been extended to the end of the Autumn term – 18 December 2020. This extension will help provide flexibility for any girls who are currently working on their section Gold transition award. You can find the details of the Gold transition routes here. We will continue to keep a close eye on timescales and possible further delays.

What should I do if girls are due to transition to the next section?

If you have a girl in your unit who is due to transition to the next section and she feels confident to do so, has met her leader and the girls from the next section, then it might be possible to transition her by arranging a digital welcome/meeting with her new unit. However, in situations where girls need more support around transition between sections, do not know the leader of the new section, or in general have raised concerns about transitioning during virus related social isolation, then leaders can postpone the official move date for the time being until there is more clarity around timescales of the social isolation period.

Will there be temporary guidelines for girls working towards their Gold awards, who will be affected while their unit isn't running?

We are closely monitoring the situation, and working towards a temporary solution to unit meeting activities and skills builders being activities for the unit meeting space. As the situation evolves, we will look at different solutions for the section Gold award completion.

Will programme materials be published online or how can I do guiding virtually?

We've now launched Adventures at home. Every week we'll be releasing programme activities that can be done at home, so check out Adventures at home for the latest activities and support with doing guiding virtually online.

Across our guiding network, thousands of girls have their badge books and are working on badges over lockdown. The badge books for Rainbows, Brownies and Guides were designed as paper resources due to the needs of the age groups, so we’ve made sure we have books for every girl at our trading site. Understandably, our trading function has had to close due to lockdown measures, so right now we can’t send books to girls that don’t have them yet. We can’t put these resources online becuase of a few reasons. One because we currently don’t have a facility for online paid-for downloads. And becuase releasing the content for free would both impact the sales of stock in our trading site (once reopened) and it would be unfair to girls who already have their own paid-for hard copy. The money generated from badge book sales goes back into the organisation, funding future work for the benefit of members.

If I cancel meetings, do I have to reimburse parents' subscriptions?

Every year, Girlguiding UK collects an annual subscription to run our charity at a national level. It pays for our insurance, Safeguarding team and other central functions that remain necessary even if units are not meeting. It also includes levies to support other levels of Girlguiding, such as region and county, and their annual running costs. This subscription will not be refunded to units and, if you have collected it directly from parents, you do not need to refund it because their daughters are still members of Girlguiding. See our page on subs during coronavirus - which includes some template letters for parents - for more information.

Whether to refund unit subscriptions to parents is a local decision. It is likely that coronavirus will put strain on family budgets, so if it is possible to give refunds based on your unit’s financial position then please do consider it.

If you are still required to pay rent for your meeting space or other expenses and your unit does not have reserves to cover refunds, parents will appreciate a clear explanation of why you’re not refunding their subscriptions. 

It remains your unit's responsibility to cover any ongoing unit expenses such as hall hire.

If I cancel a trip, we don't receive a refund – do I have to pay parents back?

If you’re able to claim any money back, or can claim on your own events insurance then do pass the refund onto parents. If there are non-recoverable costs that parents have already paid for then communicate as clearly as you can why you’re not able to make refunds.

It is likely that insurance companies will change their stance based on changing government advice – we’ll do our best to keep you updated, and you should contact your provider in the first instance.

I have a trip planned and I’m worried about insurance. What do I do if a final payment is needed, but the trip might be cancelled?

We know that this can be worrying, but we’re in unprecedented times and as long as you’ve looked at your options thoroughly to make the decision best for you and the group – that’s the best you can do. To work out whether to pay a final instalment for a trip or not, or postpone, you need to think about the following things:

  • What’s your insurer’s position on the situation? Check if it’s changed during the coronavirus pandemic and what they’re saying about any exclusions. Will they consider it as disinclination to travel if you choose not to go or will they continue to pay out?
  • When is your trip? If it’s between now and July, then it’s likely to be cancelled and you could start an insurance claim without paying anything further. If it’s after this, then speak to your insurer about the options - whether that’s postponing, rescheduling or cancelling
  • What’s in your terms and conditions? Some travel providers will cancel the trip if the final balance isn’t paid and you’ll lose the money already paid in. This might impact your rights to claim on insurance too – always read the small print
  • How much money have you already paid in and might lose? If it’s a small deposit that won’t be a big loss, it might make more financial sense to cancel without paying further
  • What impact will this decision have on the trip attendees and how you will you manage changes in numbers if people aren’t able to come anymore – will you replace them? Can you offer refunds?
  • Have you updated parents? It may seem obvious but it’s good to be upfront with parents about the situation, as they might be worried too.

Will there be financial help available to cover lost funds, for example if fundraising events we rely on are cancelled?

Across Girlguiding, there will be areas that suffer financial hardship due to coronavirus, and we will pull together to help everyone. We are aware that some areas are lucky enough to have reserves and we would encourage you to use these where possible. 

If you are concerned that your unit is in immediate financial trouble please contact your county commissioner to find out what local hardship arrangements may be available. You may be eligible to apply for a UK Units In Need grant.

If you receive any grants locally, please do contact your funder to find out if they are making any emergency funding available.

I've been fundraising for a trip that can't go ahead – do I have to return the donations?

It depends on how you raised the money for the trip, and what you said to the donor at the time. Here are some examples:

  1. If you have been sponsored to do something to raise money for your trip and your trip is now cancelled, you need to contact each of your sponsors and let them know about the cancellation. You must ask them if they are happy for funds to still go towards the Girlguiding group who were going on the trip you were fundraising for, or if they want a refund. 
  2. If you held a bake sale/raffle/quiz night to raise money for your trip and your trip is now cancelled, refunds will not need to be made even though the trip is cancelled. The money must still be given to the charity you were raising money for, eg your unit.
  3. If you received a grant from a trust, foundation or local guiding and your trip has been postponed or cancelled, you need to get in touch with the organisation or group that gave you the grant and let them know what has happened. Include details of any non-refundable expenses that you’ve spent the grant on and ask what they’d like you to do with the grant. They may ask for the grant, or what remains of it, to be returned or they may be happy to allow you to keep hold of it to be used when the trip is rescheduled or put towards another project.

If you’re not sure, please look at our Donation acceptance policy or contact our friendly national Fundraising team by emailing [email protected] or calling 020 7834 6242.

Can my fundraising event go ahead?

You should follow UK Government advice on social distancing and reducing social interactions. We recommend you do a risk assessment of your event, and if then you decide it shouldn’t go ahead you should contact everyone involved and either cancel, postpone or look for an alternative event to hold instead.

I've cancelled my upcoming fundraising event because of coronavirus. What can I do?

Firstly, make sure all your attendees know the event is cancelled, and update any marketing materials like posters and social media to show the event is cancelled. Make sure everyone you were working with, like your venue, any caterers or entertainment know the event is cancelled check your insurance policy and contracts, so you know if you have incurred any costs. Secondly, plan an alternative! There’s lots of events using digital tools to bring people together online. Sites like Zoom or Google hangouts all enable people to get together remotely and some are even free to use. With people being asked to avoid direct contact, this could be a great way to keep in touch and give people something to do. Strava and Fitbit offer ways to share exercise-based achievements - why not change your fun run to a virtual fun run?

Do Girlguiding still need me to raise money for them even though units are not meeting?

Yes! We know that many units will be in a difficult financial position because of coronavirus. We’re working out how we can support them and we’re looking at ways of bringing our Girlguiding family together online during the next few weeks. All of this will require money to cover the costs - so please do continue to fundraise if you can.

Can I still sign up for a Charity Challenge event?

Check with the group who are running the challenge event to see if it's still going ahead, but yes – many charity challenges scheduled for later in the year and beyond are still accepting sign ups. Even if the event is postponed, Girlguiding nationally, regionally and locally needs your support now more than ever.

My unit still needs to raise money – how can I fundraise while following government advice?

There's lots of ways to take your fundraising online. You can sign your unit up to easyfundraising, a clever website that turns everyday online shopping from 4,000 retailers into free donations - and you don't need to have a charity number to use it. You could also host a virtual event on sites like Zoom or Google hangouts. With people being asked to avoid direct contact, these could be a great way to keep in touch and give people something to do - like a quiz with donations to take part. Strava and Fitbit offer ways to share exercise-based achievements such as run times, why not change your fun run to a virtual fun run and charge a small entry fee?

My unit, district or county owns a building. Can I still rent this out to non-Girlguiding bookings while guiding is suspended?

We’re committed to doing everything we can to stop the spread of the virus so you must always keep this in mind. But if you are owners of the property, this is your decision. Any bookings that are accepted during this time must be thoroughly risk assessed to ensure that they do not breach current Government guidance to reduce the spread of the virus.

Due to the Covid-19 situation, we can’t pay our subscriptions. Can we pay electronically or have an extension?

Firstly, thank you to everyone who has already paid their subscriptions, and we are sorry that our current process for collecting subscriptions doesn’t offer flexibility in terms of extensions or electronic payment.

Please do everything you can to send your cheque in. We know that this is a difficult time and we are really grateful for your support.

If you are unable to pay before the deadline, we will follow our standard procedures and unpaid unit subscriptions will be deducted via the transfer we make to counties. Your county can explain the process for you to make a late payment directly to them.

A process for electronic payments is part of our future planning for finance systems and we hope to be able to provide information on this at the end of the year.

Are the national activity centres – Foxlease, Blackland Farm, Waddow Hall and ICANDO – still open?

Our national Girlguiding activity centres – Foxlease, Blackland Farm, Waddow Hall and ICANDO are closed until 31 July. Our team will be in touch with those who have bookings to make alternative future arrangements.

Are events still happening at Foxlease, Blackland Farm, Waddow Hall and ICANDO?

We have taken the decision to cancel Twisted Tech, Magic and Mayhem, and Wellies and Wristbands, but we hope to be back with events later in the year.

Are events still happening that are organised by Girlguiding UK, like Big Gig?

We are following the Government advice around non-essential contact and travel, and will review this on an ongoing basis. We have events spanning the calendar year and will continually assess whether to continue or postpone them as the situation evolves. Check all up-to-date information about our events.

Should I cancel events we've planned for later in the year?

We're continuing to follow UK government advice about how long Girlguiding activities will be suspended for. Cancelling events in the future is a local judgement call, and you need to consider what the cancellation terms are if you cancel or postpone events sooner rather than later. Our national activity centres - Waddow Hall, Blacklands Farm, ICANDO and Foxlease - are making decisions on a monthly rolling basis and have decided to cancel events until 31 July.

My unit have a trip booked with PGL that we can't get refunded – what can I do?

We’ve been working closely with PGL since the start of the lockdown. As of 23 March their centres were closed until further notice.

PGL are currently handling all enquiries and prioritising these by planned trip date. While their centres are closed, you'll be given the opportunity to move your booking to later in 2020 or any time in 2021, in line with their terms and conditions.

PGL are getting in touch with those who have bookings no less than 4 weeks before they are due to travel and are not currently enforcing their standard demands for pre-trip payment to support decision making. We are continuing to monitor the UK Government guidance website and the Association of British Insurer’s website for further guidance and updates and will update this area of the FAQs, once any updates are published. 

Are The Duke of Edinburgh award expeditions cancelled?

At the moment, Girlguidng have asked that all expeditions are postponed until a time when they can be conducted safely. We will update our DofE networks when it's safe to proceed with them.

Is European Jamboree cancelled?

European Jamboree has officially been postponed. It will now take place 2-13 August 2021, still in the host city of Gdansk, Poland.

Are residentials happening?

Girlguiding has suspended all face to face meetings, trips and residentials. We will keep a close eye on the evolving situation, and let all members know when face to face meetings, trips and residentials can resume.

Why are the activity centres closed?

Following UK government advice as well as Girlguiding's own advice on halting units meeting for the time being, we decided it was in the best interest of our staff and customers to close the activity centre sites too.

Why have you extended the closure of activity centres until 31 July?

This is a changing situation. We initially decided to close until 30 April to act as a holding position while we await further information. Then following further advice from the Government we felt it was the right time to extend this closure to 31 May. After continuing to review this situation, we feel it's in the best interest of our customers and our staff to further extend the closure to the end of July. We will continue to review this date as more guidance is issued from the Government.

Will Wellies and Wristbands go ahead?

Unfortunately we have decided to cancel Wellies and Wristbands. It will be back 27-30 August 2021.

What have you communicated about activity centres closing to members?

An email was sent to members to let them know that activity centres are closed. We have communicated with those booked on or before 31 May and have offered them the option to postpone their event or have a full refund. We have since updated our website and social media to say we have extended this closure to 31 July and are contacting all those booked during that time.

Should I let HQ know if a member has a confirmed diagnosis of Covid-19?

No. At this stage you do not need to let Girguiding HQ know.

If there is a confirmed case, follow Government and health advice for where you live:

I understand that Girlguiding HQ is closed. Are the Safeguarding team still working?

Yes. Girlguiding HQ staff are working from home. We are doing our best to provide the same service as normal, but please bear with us through inevitable teething problems.

While the Safeguarding team are already set up to work from home and working as normal, the emergency out of hours service will continue to operate. Please see our Safeguarding policy for more details.

Do I still need to do my A Safe Space training?

Yes. Level 1 and 2 can be completed online as e-learnings.

We’re working hard to convert Level 3 and 4 so they can also be delivered via an online platform. We expect all volunteers to complete the appropriate training levels needed for your role as soon as this becomes possible.

Will there be a virtual Level 3 and 4 of the A Safe Space training available?

Level 4 is available now and your country or region will let you know how to book a place. We're currently working on Level 3 and this is due to be available in your country or region in August.

Will there be an extension on the 31 December deadline for completing A Safe Space training?

We are working hard to create a virtual option so volunteers are able to complete their A Safe Space levels as keeping girls safe is our priority. We are continually reviewing whether an extension to the compliance date will be neccessary and as the situation develops we will update all volunteers when a decision is made.

What information can we share with people who may have come into contact with someone who's now self-isolating/experiencing symptoms?

From a data protection point of view, volunteers and parents in the volunteer’s regular unit can be informed, and any other volunteers present on the day can let their volunteers and parents know that a volunteer has possibly contracted the virus and that we advise that they look out for symptoms and follow Public Health England's advice.

I've received a reminder that I need to start a disclosure check. I'm not volunteering and I can't get this completed whilst following guidance on social distancing. What do I do?

Volunteers in roles which involve regulated activity must have an up to date disclosure check. At Girlguiding we are committed to the safety and wellbeing of our girls and volunteers. For this reason, we ask volunteers in relevant roles to complete a new disclosure check every five years. As we know this isn't possible right now, we're extending the recheck deadline.

I have outstanding actions from a complaints, compliance or safeguarding enquiry, do I have to continue with those requests?

As much as is possible yes. The complaints, compliance and safeguarding teams will continue to offer support to investigate and provide outcomes for concerns raised. In many cases this information can be gathered via email, skype and phone calls. If that's not possible and you're unable to progress an investigation, please let the relevant team know. They will work with you to mitigate any risks and plan next steps.

I'm concerned about a young member who may have lost their school and Girlguiding support network, what can I do?

If you have concerns about a young member who may be more vulnerable without their school or guiding networks - please get in touch with Safeguarding to share your concerns on [email protected]

I'm concerned about an adult volunteer who has no Girlguiding support network, what can I do?

If you have concerns about a volunteer who may be more vulnerable without their social or guiding networks - please get in touch with Safeguarding to share your concerns on [email protected]

Do I need Level 3 A Safe Space training in order to run online meetings?

We always need to make sure that unit meetings are safe, whether they’re in person or online. We’d recommend that at least one volunteer has Level 3 when running a meeting online if possible. Make sure you check out our guidance for safe guiding online too.

What happens if my first response training expires while there is no training being delivered?

Following Health and Safety Executive (HSE) guidance, if your first response qualification was due to expire between 17 March to 16 June, your expiry date will now be extended until 30 September. This date will be reviewed as we get more information on how long trainings are cancelled for and when guiding activities will resume. Your GO record will be updated, please allow a few days for this to happen.

Am I able to apply for a new disclosure check and provide all relevant ID through a digtal chat?

While we're all staying home in this lockdown period to control the spread of coronavirus, you should not start any new disclosure checks. Although DBS and Access NI have shared temporary changes to their disclosure guidance, after careful consideration we have decided that Girlguiding is unable to carry out these changes. This applies to new volunteers and current volunteers whose existing disclosure needs to be renewed. Refer to the recruitment and vetting procedures for more information.

I'm concerned that my Girlguiding training or disclosure check will expire while I am unable to renew it.  Will GO be amended to reflect this?

We're working through the different scenarios people will face during this time, and will update this page as quickly as we can with answers to specific questions. For the lastest update on disclosure checks please take a look at our recruitment and vetting procedure page.

Are membership cards still going to be sent out?

Yes, we are still on track to send out membership cards.

Can I still work on my Leadership qualification during this time?

 Although face-to-face meetings and trainings are currently suspended, you can use this time to complete any necessary e-learnings for your Leadership qualification. We recognise that online unit meetings are very different to face-to-face ones, and for this reason we don’t recommend completing module 1 during this time. If you and your mentor are able to meet online, you might like to hold your mentoring meetings virtually and then arrange for the signatures to be added to your LQ book at a later date. Take a look at our guidance on online guiding for some recommended platforms for video calls.

I’m a mentor – how can I support my mentee during this time?

If you and your mentee are able to meet online, you might like to hold your mentoring meetings virtually. For Leadership qualification mentors, you could arrange for the signatures to be added to their LQ book at a later date. Take a look at our guidance on online guiding for some recommended platforms for video calls.

Is the London Girlguiding shop open?

The Girlguiding shop on Buckingham Palace Road is now closed.

Is the online shop open? 

Our online shop is open. Our warehouse closed on 23 March but re-opened with limited staff and extra safety measures on Friday 15 May.

Our priority will be processing the backlog of orders and getting your guiding products out to you as soon and as safely as we can.

If you have any questions that aren't answered in the FAQs above, please contact [email protected]