by Author Phoebe Cross

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Guidance on national restrictions and being COVID-secure (first published 29 July 2020, updated 25 March 2021)

A government posting listing the 5 tips for being covid-secure

This page summarises the latest Government guidance on COVID-19 restrictions in England. It also contains information to support organisations to deliver ‘COVID-secure’ face-to-face activity, when this is permitted.

This page is broken down into the following sections:

1. Latest COVID-19 summary information (infection rates and other data)
2. Latest Government guidance
3. Risk assessment
     a. Infection control
4. Managing people
     a. Access and equality
     b. Use of face masks
     c. Non-compliance
5. Managing the delivery setting
6. Cleaning instruments and equipment
7. Specific guidance for music activities
8. Supporting NHS Test and Trace
9. Planning for an infection
10. Future-proofing – blending online and offline
11. Your Youth Music grant
12. Further information

1. Latest COVID-19 summary information (infection rates and other data)

The Coronavirus (COVID-19) Infection Survey Pilot tracks the number of coronavirus infections within the community population (i.e. private households and excluding hospitals and care homes) and has regular statistical releases which allow you to track the incidence of new infections. 

The Coronavirus (COVID-19) Roundup has the latest data and analysis related to the pandemic and its impact on the economy and society. 

2. Latest Government guidance

The changes to national restrictions from 1st April 2021 some of the lockdown rules on what you can and cannot do will change. The COVID-19 Response - Spring 2021 document has more information on the 'roadmap out of lockdown in England. 

There are a variety of different guidance documents that could apply to Youth Music projects detailing what is and isn't allowed under the restrictions. The general advice is to use the guidance that is most appropriate to your setting and the groups you work with.

The following guidance is available:

Specific guidance endorsed by the Cabinet Office for the youth sector, published by the National Youth Agency (NYA). This is the go-to for youth work provision and shows a ‘readiness level’, with guidance on what activity is and is not permitted. This is set as amber (Step 1B), from 29th March 2021 meaning that the following activities are permitted for under 18s (subject to a COVID-19 action plan and risk assessment):

  • Online and virtual youth sector delivery. 
  • Detached outdoor local youth activities (see additional guidance here).
  • 1-2-1 sessions for high-need young people (indoors). 
  • Open youth groups for all young people outdoors (no limits on numbers). 
  • Support groups for all young people indoors - 1) Vulnerable children and young people. 2) Other children or young people where the provision is: a) Reasonably necessary to enable their parents and carers to work, search for work, undertake education or training or attend a medical appointment, or attend a support group. b) A targeted 1-2-1 session or group to provide support and assistance for a specific issues. c) Being used by electively home educating parents as part of their arrangements for their child to receive a suitable full-time education. d) For the purposes of obtaining a regulated qualification, meeting entry requirements for an edication institution, or to undertake exams and assessments. 

The NYA hosted a webinar on 23 March 2021 about the latest guidance and Road Map/Step 1B. 

Guidance for the safe use of multi-purpose facilities. Where a premises delivers a mix of services, only those services that are permitted to be open should be available. These includes support groups that provide mutual aid, therapy or any other form of support where provided by charities, businesses and public bodies. Guidance updated 5 January 2021.

Working safely through coronavirus: performing arts. The only performing arts activities allowed under this guidance are those whereby professionals are rehearsing or performing for broadcast or recording purposes. Amateur choirs and orchestras and outdoor performances to audiences cannot take place. Guidance updated 15 March 2021. 

Action for schools during the coronavirus outbreak. Guidance updated 16 March 2021 with a new document about restricting attendance during the national lockdown. There is a section on music which states that "Schools have the flexibility to decide how music, dance and drama will be provided to pupils attending school while following the measures in their system of controls". There is also guidance for schools on getting help with technology during coronavirus (last updated 4 March 2021) and how schools can increase data allowances on mobile devices to support disadvantaged children to combat digital exclusion.

Safe working in education, childcare and children’s social care settings. Guidance providing advice on 'safe working' applies to schools, special schools, alternative provision, children's homes and Early Years settings. Guidance updated 1 March 2021. 

Protective measures for holiday / afterschool clubs and other out-of-school settings. Updated guidance pending for those who run community activities, holiday clubs, breakfast or after-school clubs, tuition and other out-of-school provision.Guidance updated 11 March 2021. 

As you undertake face-to-face delivery, the Government’s five steps to safer working outlines the key concepts to help all organisations become ‘COVID-secure’. It outlines five practical actions:

2a. Advice on group sizes

The NYA and Cabinet Office approved guidance suggests no more than 15 workers and leaders in any one group (a bubble), regardless of whether a session is taking place outdoors or indoors. Where possible, groups should be smaller. 

3. Risk assessment

Risk assessments are an essential aspect of restarting delivery and need to be undertaken by all organisations. The risk assessment:

  • Is a systematic process of identifying hazards in your setting and space.
  • Will identify how to mitigate (avoid) the hazard occurring and reduce overall risk.
  • Outlines how you would respond if the hazard occurs.
  • Identifies hazards which are so significant they would prevent activity from taking place.

Advice for undertaking risk assessments:

  • Be clear who needs to approve this risk assessment in your organisation. If you’re a charity, make sure your trustees are kept informed.
  • Your insurance may be invalidated if you don’t show you’ve met your duties or followed the relevant Government guidance.
  • Make sure you speak to everyone involved in your organisation in some way in order to get a range of opinions.

The Health and Safety Executive has guidance pages on working safely during COVID-19.

3a. Infection control

A significant part of your risk mitigation processes will aim to decrease the risk of infection. Social distancing, bubbles, regular cleaning and good hygiene practices will all help to reduce the risk of transmission occurring as a result of:

  • Direct transmission (person to person spread) via droplets from coughs, sneezes, breathing over, personal contact such as hand shaking or other human contact.
  • Cross contamination transmission from a contact surface such as a desk, phone, keyboard, door handles, taps, toilet lids, bin lids, mics, mixing desks, headphones, instruments, AV equipment etc.

4. Managing people

As part of your risk assessment you should map which of your team and/or participants are at increased risk or who live with higher risk groups. Mitigation should be addressed on a case-by-case basis based on the level of risk and with reasonable adjustments put in place.

Being COVID secure will require changes to the way you interact with young people. In particular, introducing fixed teams or bubbles who work together throughout (including break times), shortening activity times, staggering arrivals and minimising the frequency of activity. Encouraging regular handwashing and other hygiene standards (there are a variety of downloadable posters available online). At all times, planning and communicating your approach with staff and young people.

If you work with freelancers or peripatetic workers then try and maintain social distancing and avoid them working in situations where social distancing can’t take place; reduce the number of contacts in their timetable (fewer groups or locations) and consider taking out a regular private testing programme with an accredited provider.

Good communication is vital throughout the process. Ensure staff and participants know of any new requirements and gain their informed consent.

4a. Access and equality

Access and equality should be woven into your risk assessment and risk mitigation practices. Be mindful of people with different needs and those who are at higher risk. Adapt your communication to ensure it is:

  • Perceivable (i.e. people are able to read/listen to/interpret the information in the format you communicate it).
  • Operable (i.e. people are able to carry out the instructions you ask of them). 
  • Understandable (i.e. people can understand the information or instruction that you are giving).

Consider whether you need to put in place any particular measures or adjustments to take account of your duties under equalities legislation.

4b. Use of face masks

At the time of writing, masks use is optional indoors for youth worth and decisions can be taken at individual discretion. Mask wearing can be a contentious issue so think about how to create a culture of acceptance of mask wearing.

Also think about those for whom mask wearing might create a barrier and who are exempt from wearing one (last updated 24 July 2020). Consider what alternatives might be more appropriate (for example a see-through visor).  People who are exempt from wearing a face mask include those with hidden conditions such as anxiety or panic disorders, autism, breathing difficulties, dementia, reduced vision or people who rely on lip reading to communicate.

4c. Non-compliance

If people are not complying with the procedures you have outlined, focus on understanding their needs, and aim for informed consent. Ultimately, you must meet your health and safety duties. Alternative provisions may need to be made to support individuals where the risks associated with their needs or behaviours cannot be controlled effectively.

5. Managing the delivery setting

Regardless of whether you have your own space or are hiring it from another organisation, you need to consider the minimum standards that you require to best protect the young people, staff and volunteers that you work with. You may need to negotiate with the venue to meet this standard or with groups using your own venue. Some important things to factor into your planning:

Consider how your normal health and safety processes can be performed in light of COVID-19, especially for evacuation and emergency plans. 

Use screens and barriers, work back-to-back or side-to-side if you can (rather than facing people), avoid hot-desking and create zones in spaces for different bubbles.

Implement one-way and queuing systems to ease free-flowing movement around the building, mark all rooms with their maximum capacity and open windows and doors to ensure ventilation.

Have a designated storage area for large instrument cases; smaller instruments cases can be kept  under seats.

Avoid people passing things directly to each other: use drop-off points and transfer zones and clean items between use.

Introduce a regimented cleaning regime that includes a daily deep clean, periodic cleaning and cleaning ‘as you go’.  All hand contact points should be cleaned on a regular basis throughout the day. Provide clean wipes next to equipment such as door handles, light switches, IT & AV equipment, desks, taps and dispensers etc. Use a pedal bin rather than one with a lid.

6. Cleaning instruments and equipment

The Music Industries Association has collated some guidance and links on cleaning different types of musical instruments.

It’s likely that you will need to follow specialist advice depending on the type of instrument and be aware how different substances (e.g. bleach, 100% alcohol) can be damaging.

Don’t share instruments unless they have been cleaned between uses and as a general rule, use microfiber cloth or anti-bacterial wipes, do not spray directly onto equipment and be careful of ports.

7. Specific guidance for music activities

Some musical activities have specific guidance attached. The guidance will depend on the setting and activities you are working in (i.e. youth work spaces, multi-purpose community groups or in schools) as outlined in Section 2. At the time of writing key issues to consider for your space include:

  • Community facilities should not permit indoor performances, including drama, comedy and music, to take place in front of a live audience.
  • Non-professionals should not currently engage in singing or playing wind and brass instruments.
  • All venues should ensure that steps are taken to avoid people needing to unduly raise their voices to each other.
  • Refrain from playing music or broadcasts that may encourage shouting, including if played at a volume that makes normal conversation difficult.
  • Limit or restrict use of high-touch items: use disposable gloves, styluses or other ways to avoid touch.

8. Supporting NHS Test and Trace

You should assist the NHS Test and Trace service by keeping a temporary record of people you attend your services. When collecting data, only ask for what is needed (name, phone number, date of attendance, who they interacted with). Be transparent about purpose (i.e. preventing COVID transmission). Carefully and securely store the date and erase it after 21 days. Data collected specifically for COVID Test and Trace shouldn’t be used for any other purpose.

9. Planning for an infection

Anyone with suspected symptoms should go home immediately. Support people to engage in NHS Test and Trace and to self-isolate following NHS guidance.

Note that the NHS Test and Trace service will follow up with people who need to self-isolate because they have had close recent contact with someone who has tested positive. Ensure you undertake a thorough deep clean of your premises if you do have a suspected case of COVID-19.

10. Future-proofing – blending online and offline

Whilst digital delivery is not a substitute for face-to-face interactions, it’s likely that we’ll be living with coronavirus for some time. It is therefore important that you take the necessary steps now to try and future-proof activities to take account of further lockdowns.  

If you normally work through referral partners, consider ways that you can build more of a direct relationship with young people (through their parents and/or carers as necessary) so they know about your activities in the event that your referral partnerships cannot happen as usual.

If you cannot hold young people’s personal data then consider how to use your social media and other communication channels to advertise your activity to families. Given the likelihood of further lockdowns it may be pragmatic to continue a blended approach to delivery which includes both face-to-face and online.

11. Your Youth Music grant

If you have a Youth Music grant and want to know how the impact of coronavirus affects your funding agreement, please refer to our FAQs page or get in touch with your G&L Officer. 

12. Further information

A previous Youth Music session about engaging young people considered ways of re-engage young people after COVID-19 considering their needs and wellbeing. You may also like to explore our Safeguarding Resource Hub. The NYA also have a useful collection of resources for helping young people through the impact of lockdown restrictions. 


Our thanks to Tom Burke from Amplify Consulting who we commissioned to lead the session.