Briefing Paper March 18
On March 17, the UK Government, on behalf of all four governments in the UK, published a summary of the emergency legislation which will be published in full on March 19. The summary can be read here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-bill-what-it-will-do/what-the-coronavirus-bill-will-do. Churches and faith groups will be particularly interested in the new arrangements regarding the dead and funerals. Julie James, Housing and Local Government Minister in the Welsh Government, said in the Senedd yesterday that the Legislation will also include some relaxation of Safeguarding measures, e.g. by permitting those who have applied for a DBS check to begin working with vulnerable people while their DBS application is beng processed so long as they are supervised with someone who has DBS verification. We await details, and a full briefing paper will be published by Cytûn either March 19 or March 20. The Wales Council for Voluntary Action (WCVA) is meeting Welsh Government on March 18, and there will be a briefing for members of the Third Sector Partnership Council (including Cytûn on behalf of faith groups) on March 20.
Most churches and faith groups have now announced the cessation of worship and other activities in the light of guidance from the two governments. UK Government guidance can be read here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-guidance-on-social-distancing-and-for-vulnerable-people/guidance-on-social-distancing-for-everyone-in-the-uk-and-protecting-older-people-and-vulnerable-adults and Welsh Government advice here: https://gov.wales/coronavirus-covid-19-advice Although the advice is worded differently, its import is the same. Although neither refers specifically to religious activities, the UK Secretary of State for Health, Matthew Hancock, said this in the House of Commons on Monday evening: We have taken advice on how to respond to the crisis, including from our ethics committee, which includes representatives of the major religious faiths. It is true that we include religious groups in our advice about social contact. We have seen from elsewhere in the world how sometimes it is through religious gatherings that the virus can spread so, with the deepest regret and the heaviest of heart, we include faith groups and gatherings of faith within the advice. https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2020-03-16/debates/235689EC-0A18-4488-BFCF-9F012A1A0C1B/Covid-19?highlight=religious#contribution-CFCDD9D0-E31F-427F-8588-7E5251E27D65
Links to guidance from the principal religious groups in the UK can be seen here: https://www.interfaith.org.uk/news/faith-communities-and-coronavirus
The Church in Wales has legal responsibilities regarding baptisms, weddings and funerals that are not applicable to other denominations and religious groups, and so in case of queries it would be good for ministers and leaders of all denominations and communities to be aware of the Church in Wales guidance, which can be read in full here: https://www.churchinwales.org.uk/en/clergy-and-members/coronavirus-covid-19-guidance/
With regard to other denominations headquartered in Wales, guidance from the Union of Welsh Independents can be read here: http://annibynwyr.cymru/ (click on ‘Latest news’); Presbyterian Church of Wales: https://www.ebcpcw.cymru/en/coronavirus/; and the Baptist Union of Wales here: http://www.buw.org.uk/170320-advice-coronavirus-covid-19/ These links are correct as at 11.00 on March 18; there may be updated guidance in the coming days.
UK Government announced on March 17 an additional package of support for businesses, and Welsh Government has also announced some measures. A handy guide to all these is available on the website of the Office of the Secretary of State for Wales: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-information-for-individuals-and-businesses-in-wales There is no specific reference in these announcements to charities (although it could be worth charitable businesses, such as community cafés run by religious groups, enquiring). Further announcements are expected in coming days.