BedsRCC Village Hall Advisory Service (VHAS) offers support and advice to the all Village Hall Trustees and Committees throughout Bedfordshire.
In normal times, there are a huge range of activities happening daily in our 120 village halls, from carpet bowls and badminton, to Brownies and bingo. It all happens in these focal points for our communities. Ages vary from pre-school children to our senior residents, who just want a cup of tea and a catch up with old friends.
For the last four months, this has all stopped. These important community buildings have all been closed, with the exception of those who provide essential services or day care for the children of key workers.
Has this led to a decrease in the work of our Village Hall Advisor? Quite the opposite. Routine enquiries have been replaced by the need for guidance and support during a period when halls have zero hire income, but still have running costs.
The Government provided support to halls via the Retail, Hospitality & Leisure Grant, administered by Central Bedfordshire Council (CBC) or by Bedford Borough Council (BBC). Most halls were entitled to a minimum £10,000 grant with very few qualifying criteria.
The VHAS has repeatedly reminded halls of their entitlement, dealt with enquiries and liaised with officers at CBC to ensure that all halls received these vital funds to tide them over during this period.
Take up by our village halls has been almost 100%.
On June 24, all halls were able to reopen. In preparation, VHAS made sure committees and trustees were aware of:
· what procedures to have in place
· which user groups were permitted
· how to carry out a Covid 19 Risk Assessment
· what signage to have in place
· what type social distancing was necessary depending on the scenario
Plus much more, whilst keeping up with ever changing Government Guidance.
Thankfully ACRE were able to provide regular Updates and VHAS has been able to ensure village halls have been adhering to the guidance and keeping users safe.
As a result of this crisis, we’ve been contacted and helped many village hall committees that we hadn’t been in touch with previously, and we’ve been able to provide support to many more halls than usual. This is something we plan to continue to do into the future.