Covid 19, club meets, club huts, frequently asked questions

Posted by Jane Thompson on 02/07/2020

Those who are running clubs and managing huts are naturally concerned about the impact of coronavirus (COVID-19) on club activities and hut access at present. This page collates answers to questions that you have been asking the BMC. It directs clubs and hut managers to additional supporting information.

Issue 7, last update 2 July, 16:55

 

Questions received from clubs and from huts

What support is available for running our club/hut during lockdown?

 

GOVERNANCE

Our AGM is due to take place soon, what should we do?  What about what our constitution states about when we should hold the AGM?

Clubs should adhere to advice provided by the Government by staying at home, avoiding social gatherings, meeting the recommendations around social distancing and avoiding non-essential travel.  So long as the government does not permit gatherings of more than two people, achieving a quorum physically is going to be a challenge!  This means that club AGMs that are due to take place soon will either need to be postponed or held ‘virtually’ online or by conference call.

The BMC is fully supportive of the requirement for social distancing and the need for exceptional measures in exceptional times, so will certainly not take any action against a club that choses to postpone their AGM or hold it electronically, even if this contravenes their constitution.  If a committee anticipates the need for exceptional AGM arrangements, it is important to communicate in advance with members to get their support for whichever course of action is chosen.  The BMC takes the most sympathetic view on this – after all, we are highly likely to be in a similar position with the BMC AGM.

The Charity Commission is taking a sympathetic line and is currently advising that

Where there is no such clause in your governing document and you decide to hold meetings over the phone or using digital solutions, we will understand but you should record this decision and that you have done this to demonstrate good governance of your charity.

This is good guidance for all clubs to follow should they be considering running a virtual AGM.

 

What should we do about committee meetings?

Most clubs should be able to run committee engagement via electronic communications and virtual meetings, and of course many do this to an extent already.  This will avoid gatherings of people and meet the advice around social distancing, avoiding non-essential travel and staying at home.
The BMC positively encourages this approach, and will certainly not take any action against a club that choses to hold virtual committee meetings, during this challenging time, even if this contravenes their constitution.

 

Is there anything that we should be doing for our members during the coming weeks / months?

Although clubs will have no direct face-to-face contact between members it is still important for clubs to keep engaged with their members.  Email or posts on social media are important for maintaining the sense of community.

Club members could be supported by signposting them to ideas of how to stay active while at home.  Sport England is providing advice, and when other suitable advice is available it will be posted here.
For clubs with members who live local to each other it would be helpful to encourage them to support each other by, for example, shopping for those who are unable to leave their house.

Newsletters and journals are an important part of many clubs, and now more than ever will they be valued.  Members are rarely short of tales of their epic adventures and heroic deeds (many of which are only slightly embellished 😊).  So, with the conventional outlets at pubs, walls and meets currently unavailable, now is a great time to get them in writing and circulated - both for posterity and for the immediate enjoyment of other members.

More ideas are available in this article 

 

Our club has incorporated, what support is available for us?

There is Government support for small businesses, which may be relevant to some clubs and to some club huts.  There appear to be differences between the support available between home nations, and care will be needed if the hut and the club that operates it are based in different home nations:

Information for ENGLAND
Information for WALES
Information for SCOTLAND 

For those clubs or huts set up as a charity there is support on the Charity Commission website and on the NCVO website.

 

 

MEETS

What about our meets programme? [Updated 2nd July]

Throughout the lockdown the BMC has been working closely with key partners including National Trust, Forestry England, Ordnance Survey, Natural England, the Outdoor Industries Association (OIA) and Association of British Climbing Walls (ABC) to promote the benefits of low-risk, low contact outdoor activities to benefit our physical and mental health.  Staying fit and healthy is important during this time but it is essential that everyone adheres to the latest Government advice.  This advice is currently changing fast, and it often different across England, Wales and Scotland.

There is guidance on the BMC website about where, in England and Wales, the countryside is open to climbers and hill walkers, and provides guidance about steps that should be taken if you are going climbing and hill walking.  For guidance about mountaineering activity in Scotland go to the Mountaineering Scotland website.

Within England, up to 6 people can meet in the outdoors as long as those from different households ensure that social distancing takes place.  Or more than 6 can gather if there are no more than two households in the group, but members from different households must maintain social distancing.  This means that clubs may be able to run very small day-meets in England, if they can limit group numbers to less than 6.  Clubs must ensure that any meets they do run are fully adherent to government guidance.  However, clubs may prefer to keep their meet programme suspended and just encourage club members to head out on their own or in small groups until the restrictions are further relaxed.

In Wales it is permissible for two households to meet up, but travel is limited to 5 miles from home.  This significantly limits any possible club meets, and it is advised that clubs continue with their suspended meets programme until restrictions are further relaxed.

Overnight meets - The imminent reopening of campsites in England offers the first potential step to something resembling a weekend club meet.  However, given the difficulties that clubs may find of limiting interaction to sub-groups of just the permitted numbers and as many campsites are likely to refuse group bookings, at present we would recommend similar levels of restraint to those advised for day meets.  Some huts may start to open soon on a very restricted basis, but hut meets present additional challenges – not least until indoor gatherings of any size are permitted. These are considered in detail here.

  • Meets organisers should be mindful of possible changes in localised restrictions, such as the sudden imposition of a local lockdown, and be prepared to cancel at short notice.
  • The planning of meets should be kept to quite limited timescales, for example meets to be considered in a 4 to 6 week time horizons in order to maintain flexibility in light of changing conditions and restrictions.
  • Any activity that clubs engage with, whether it is offering a formal meets programme or purely encouraging their members to stay active, must adhere to the advice from the respective government.

 

We’ve suspended our meets programme, but what if members of our club want to head in to the outdoors will they still receive the same insurance cover?

It is important that we all stay fit and healthy during this time but it is essential that everyone adheres to the latest Government advice, which is often different across England, Wales and Scotland.

The liability cover provided to club members of the BMC remains largely unchanged and will continue to provide the same degree of cover – provided, of course, that the member follows the advice of the BMC and of the Government.  Failure to abide by this advice can allow insurers to avoid a claim as it could therefore be argued that failure to comply with Government and BMC advice is not taking reasonable steps to prevent accidents, in which case insurers could avoid the claim.

Insurers will consider each claim on its merits, but acting contrary to government and BMC advice could invalidate some claims.

Members should currently only be outdoors on their own or with other members of their household or with small premitted groupings as per government guidance, but as always, members are asked to consider others and to act in a reasonable way so as to prevent causing injury to themselves or others at a time when the NHS really don’t need anything more to deal with and when Mountain Rescue Teams are limited in their capacity to respond to call-outs.  All members should adhere to advice provided by the repective governments.

 

We’ve got an Alps meet in August, what should we do? [Updated 2nd July]

You need to abide by Foreign Office advice regarding where and when you can travel, and abide by the rules within the country that you are travelling to.  Also consider that accommodation, including Alpine huts, often has new rules regarding their use to meet the requirements in the country the hut is in.

 

What overnight accommodation is open for us to use? [Updated 2nd July]

At the time of writing [2 July] no overnight accommodation is open.  However, some is expected to reopen later in July.

England – Self-catering facilities, camping, hotels and B&B are expected to start re-opening from 4th July.

Wales – Self-catering facilities with private facilities, including hotels, B&B’s, and caravan parks (but not communal facilities) are expected to start re-opening from 13th July.

Scotland - self-contained holiday accommodation, for example holiday cottages, lodges or caravans with no shared facilities, can start to reopen from 3rd July.

Youth Hostel Association – The YHA will be having a phased reopening of their hostels from 17th July.  Click here for the latest information

Mountain Bothies Association – A statement from the MBA is available here.

 

HUTS

Our club hut is closed; what compensation is there for us?

There is Government support for small businesses which may be relevant to some club huts (although there are some differences across the home countries), and the BMC Huts Group has provided the following information:

While we tend not think of club huts as businesses they are usually treated as such for business tax purposes.  Although mountain huts are not easy to classify (usually treated as hostels for business tax purposes) many huts will be in receipt of small business rate relief.  We don’t yet have any independent verification, but where this is the case, it appears that the Chancellor’s help for small businesses might apply – in which case mountain huts might be entitled to the grants announced.  A £10,000 grant would make a massive difference to our hut operators, and in many cases will be sufficient to cover the residual shortfall between the anticipated reduced income and reduced expenditure for the medium term.  Please keep looking at the latest Government advice – which is regularly updated.

Information for ENGLAND 
Information for WALES 
Information for SCOTLAND 

If you are a charity you may also wish to check out this link for more support - 

The cover provided to club huts using the property insurance cover via Howden does not provide compensation for the closure of huts in these circumstances.

We are working with home country sports councils to ascertain whether there could be options available to club huts by financially supporting them during this time.  Clubs will be contacted directly should this become available.

Sport England has announced emergency grant funding for clubs who are suffering financially during the current crisis.  Information about the grant is available here.  It is expected that all other avenues of Government support will have been exhausted before applying for this support.

Sport Wales has emergency grant funding for clubs who are suffering financially during the current crisis.  Information about the grant is available here.

 

What about the insurance for our club hut?

The property insurance provided via Howden will continue to cover the hut and continue to support the club committee / hut trustees during this time.  As ever, clubs need to act responsibly and follow Government and BMC advice.

For those huts with hut property insurance via Howden (the insurance brokers) there is a requirement that a hut is not left unoccupied for more than 30 days and a requirement that the property is inspected internally and externally every 30-days.
The insurers, Hiscox, extended the period to 90 days early in lockdown and have now extended this period to 180 days (i.e. up to 16/09/2020).  This is for all BMC and Mountaineering Scotland club huts wherever they are located in the UK.

If your hut is not insured via Howden then you will need to check with your own insurance provider.

 

Our hut is due to have the electrical appliances tested soon, will our property insurance be invalidated as we can’t complete it on time?

Howden (insurance brokers) has confirmed that, for those clubs who insure their hut via them that a delay in testing appliances and systems within a hut will not be seen in a detrimental way by the insurers if the test was due to be undertaken during the lockdown period.

Once huts are able to reopen / wardens are able to access them again it is advisable that any tests that are out-of-date are completed as soon as you can.

 

What about when we are allowed to re-open our hut, what will we need to do?

The BMC has worked with the BMC Huts Group and BMC Clubs’ Committee, and with support from other organisations to produce guidance on planning for the reopening of huts.  The guidance is available here 

The actual reopening process will be a phased approach, and will be different across England, Wales and Scotland.

 

If you have any further questions please don’t hesitate to contact Jane Thompson, BMC Clubs, Huts & Volunteers Officer via jane@thebmc.co.uk



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26/03/2020
better we should stay home
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