Information for commissioners

How you can support your local team during the coronavirus pandemic

During Covid-19, you may have found that your role as a commissioner seems to have changed a little

Page last reviewed: 25 March 2021

Here are some key things you should be doing as a commissioner at this time. A lot of this information will be most relevant for county commissioners.

With all the points below, you should remember that any decisions made are done so with the best interest of your area and the wider organisation.

This page will be kept up-to-date as more information becomes available.

What's my role during Covid-19?

  • Regularly communicate with volunteers to:
    • Offer reassurance and support. Encourage volunteers to share their concerns and questions in a positive way.
    • Share updates from Girlguiding.
    • Prepare for return to guiding.
    • Prepare for potential difficult decisions to be made
  • Sign off risk assessments for units meeting face to face. Take a look at detailed guidance below.
  • Continue to manage charity resources responsibly. It can be helpful to know of any potential grants available to support your local guiding. Take a look at our funding opportunities page.
  • Make sure your governing document or constitution is up to date and reflects the current situation, for example, includes virtual trustee meetings.
  • Keep up to date with Girlguiding policies and advice for returning to face-to-face guiding and how this could impact your area.
  • Review the viability and sustainability of units if numbers of girls or volunteers are reduced.
  • Continue with any trustee meetings, looking at:
    • Risk assessing venues to re-open.
    • Safety measures to be put in place for venues to re-open.
    • Viability of re-opening units, dependent on availability of volunteers, numbers of girls, venue suitability.
    • Options for alternative forms of unit meetings now and after Covid-19. Consider how you might use virtual meetings, changes of day or time, more flexible options as the situation changes.

Online training and support sessions

During Covid-19, we’ve increased the number of live online classroom sessions we offer, so you can access to the advice you need at this time.

We're running several sessions specifically for commissioners. You can find information about these by logging into GO and clicking ‘Learning opportunities’.

We have also been running a series of webinars specifically for county commissioners on a range of topics. As new sessions become available, information about these will be distributed in our email newsletters and shared by your chief commissioner.

More information

Here you'll find guidance and useful links on some of the topics you might have questions about.

Last year we launched a tracker on GO, where you can log any units which are meeting in person.

The tracker is part of the risk assessment sign-off process, so make sure you continue to add in the units ready to start meeting again once you’ve reviewed their risk assessments and gone through your checklist.

Following feedback, we’ve made a few improvements to the system which we hope will make things quicker and easier for commissioners. Download our factsheet to find out more about the changes to the tracker.

Managing accounts and reporting on accounts during Covid-19

Registered charities need to prepare an Annual Report, which must be made available to the public on request.

During Covid-19 we recommend you get your annual reports submitted on time, however the legal guidance varies depending on where you are based.

For England and Wales, you should contact the Charity Commission if your charity has an imminent filing date but the coronavirus outbreak has impacted your ability to complete the annual returns and accounts. Find out how on the Government’s charity commission webpages.

For Northern Ireland, Charity Commission NI say you should contact them directly if your annual reports are affected by the pandemic. Information on how to do this, can be found on their website.

For Scotland, OSCR have changed their policy so they’re allowing charities to submit accounts with typed signatures. Their process is automated and so if any charity submits their annual reports late, the Scottish Charity Register will mark a red line against the charity. This is currently being investigated by OSCR, but more information can be found on their website.

Remember, if you believe your county is at risk of insolvency, approach your country or region for support.

What’s my responsibility for governance at this time?

As a county commissioner, you’re a trustee of a charity. This means you’re responsible for making sure that the county is well run, remains solvent, and delivers the charitable outcomes for which the charity was set up.

At the moment, this may be more challenging than usual, but it’s still important that you continue to deliver your main responsibilities, including:

  • Compliance with your charity’s policies and procedures
  • Manage your charity’s resources responsibly
  • Act with reasonable care and skill and in the best interests of the charity

The best way to do this is by following the legal guidance and keeping records of any decisions made about the way your county or its funds are managed.

Should I hold an AGM during this time?

Each county within Girlguiding is run as a separate charity and, by law, should have a governing document which says how the county should be run.

Not all charities need to have an AGM, so you should check with your governing document to see if one is required for your county.

If the governing document doesn’t require an AGM, the charity trustees may wish to call one. Perhaps calling it a users’ meeting would avoid any confusion with a formal AGM.

If you decide to hold a meeting online or by telephone, and there is no clause in your governing document to say meetings can be held this way, you must keep a record of the decision being made.

This information is from our solicitors, Bates Wells, and the UK Government. You can find more information on their websites.

Bates Wells have also developed a handy guide to charity trustee meetings, which you may find useful.

Due to Covid restrictions, face-to-face training sessions have been limited and some volunteers may not be able to access the digital training sessions.
Volunteers who need to do A Safe Space Level 1 or Level 2, but can't complete the e-learning or webinar version, can arrange with a trainer to do it over the phone. These phone calls must be completed by A Safe Space trainers and limited to one trainer and one participant at a time.
If the volunteer has access to the internet but doesn't feel confident about completing the e-learning alone, we recommend they have the e-learning open on their device to read as the trainer talks them through the information. This should only be done in cases where it's not possible for the volunteer to complete the e-learning alone.

If you own a property, you should have a local management committee (LMC) which deals with the day-to-day management and administration of the land, or buildings, for which it has responsibility.

You should still prepare the property accounts as usual, but do check the financial guidance about for advice on communicating with the Charity Commission, if you don’t think this will be possible.

Take a look at our information on reopening property as well.

Property insurance

All buildings need to have buildings and contents insurance. You should check with your insurance provider to make sure your policy is still valid whilst the building is empty for a prolonged period of time.

Some insurance providers have updated their terms and conditions during this time, so it’s important to make sure you’re aware of what’s covered.

When a unit is planning to meet face to face, the leader will contact the commissioner who directly supports their unit, to let them know in advance. 

Commissioners are responsible for approving risk assessments for the units in their area who wish to meet in person.

As a commissioner, you can decide how much time you'll need to sign off a risk assessment - we recommend two weeks. 

When reviewing risk assessments,  check for the following details:

  • Which volunteers will be in attendance so it's clear that there are:
    • Volunteers with current PVG/ DBS/AccessNI
    • Volunteers with current 1st Response training
    • Volunteers with current Level 3 A Safe Space training
  • The date in the “Action by” box is completed
  • The review date is completed
  • The ratios are correct for the section meeting
  • Consideration and management of:
    • Any volunteers and girls moving to and between different Covid-19 levels
    • Tiers changing
    • Volunteers from different tiers meeting at a unit in a higher or lower tier. Guidance for this is on our coronavirus webpages.
  • If a vulnerable member or volunteer has been included in the risk assessment, this should include management actions to mitigate any risks
  • Face covering requirements and who must wear them, for example, volunteers but not Rainbows
  • Planning around cleaning and clarifying responsibilities for cleaning, by who and when

Remember, if a unit is meeting at non-Girlguiding premises, they will need to have reviewed the property guidance.

For units to begin meeting again, they will need to follow the process outlined on our Starting to meet in person again webpage.

As local restrictions and lockdowns are starting to happen and are likely to continue for a while, we’ve produced some template emails that county commissioners can use to notify local volunteers that guiding is restricted, or that an area is no longer restricted and may begin to approve face to face activity again.

To continue to support as areas plan for the return to face-to-face guiding, we've been holding webinars for commissioners. Recordings of these sessions can be requested from [email protected].

Future webinars and resources will be promoted through our newsletters, but you can also check back here for any commissioner-specific sessions.

You may also find these webinar recordings from NCVO helpful as you prepare for your area’s return to face-to-face guiding.

We hope that the points above have answered any specific questions you may have during this time.

Our main coronavirus page is regularly updated to reflect the latest Covid-19 developments and how that affects Girlguiding.

If you have other questions please contact the volunteer support team on [email protected].