Thanks to those of you who responded yesterday to my question about Covid19 issues you’d like raised with the MHCLG Minister and departmental officers – if opportunity arose. The Zoom went ahead as planned and as usual there wasn’t sufficient time to take up all the issues. However much was dealt with in both general and specific ways; for some matters there were no answer yet, as they were still ‘under consideration’ by ministers and departments. This is especially true of support for Christian churches and other faiths centres in view of the loss of income caused by churches not meeting physically. This is in spite of making every effort to move services and giving online. Notes of the yesterday’s Zoom call will come soon and I will forward it in whole as soon as I get it, for your information and action.
In the meantime I will mention a few points which some of you raised.
- Social Distancing generally: Restrictions remain the same but some variations occur with funerals as crematoria vary on how many are allowed in depending on space, and cemeteries vary (generally between 5-10) on how many ‘close family’ members they allow in. The challenges social distancing posed for ‘Last rites’ in whatever form was highlighted and whether minister/next of kin properly protected might be able to be with dying loved ones in their last moments…the complexities of doing this was explained as well as noting that generally victims of Covid19 were not compos mantis in their last few hours. This is under consideration.
- Volunteering and helping the vulnerable: PPE – Churches needing PPE for volunteers including ministers should contact their Local Resilience Forum, list available online. Work is ongoing to ensure faith sector is recognised by these Forums. There are many organisations working in this area of volunteering worth connecting with such as YourNeighbour.Org; Christians Against Poverty, Trussell Trust, et al
- Financial Issues affecting churches: this was strongly emphasised as an urgent area… Churches as charities can apply to furlough staff and the government is looking at whether to relax the rule that once furloughed you cannot volunteer; no change as yet but some are not adhering to the strict interpretation of the existing rule; beyond existing help for charities, there are as yet no special provision for churches – this is another matter that is under consideration.
- Finally all were encouraged to look out for and review government guidance on caring for the deceased, safe volunteering, a new APP was becoming available, funding from National Lottery coming on stream from DCMS particularly for the needy.
Much more was discussed and the notes from the meeting will follow from the department soon. Apologies for any errors and if unclear about anything please get in touch and I will try to clarify.