COVID 19 Fourth Blog from Andy Friedman
COVID Blog 4:
bring forth extremes. Along with the dire effects of the COVID 19
crisis on professional body finances and the stress on staff and
volunteers, there has been frustration with government policy,
particularly on criteria for loan support as administered by banks
and on business rates relief. However, on the other hand there have
been heartening accomplishments and grounds for future optimism in
body finances have suffered swift, and for many, catastrophic
effects. While membership has been holding up reasonably well, there
has been a precipitous decline in event activities, leading to
plummeting fee, advertising and sponsorship income. In addition,
lockdown has hampered the flow of new recruits into the professions.
They are in many cases unable to continue with examinations and
training, and are therefore prevented from gaining the necessary
skills to qualify. This is concerning as new professionals are the
lifeblood of professional bodies, and vital to achieving the social
mission of sustaining the profession.
furlough scheme offered by government has been successfully taken up
by many professional bodies, who have found the system to be
reasonably clear and easy to access. However, there have been
frustrations with other aspects of government support. Four
particular issues were raised at the meeting PARN arranged between
CEOs of professional bodies and senior staff at BEIS.
were concerns with the interruption to qualification processes due to
the difficulty of holding exams. Guidance and support on exams and
flexibility from regulators were raised as concerns.
has been the exclusion of business rate relief for professional
bodies, particularly as not only are buildings closed to office work,
but also for many, buildings are used for training and conferences,
which have not been operating.
the CIBLS system of loan support is being administered by banks, who
have very limited understanding of how professional bodies operate.
Using standard criteria such as the level of profit in 2019 is
inappropriate. It ignores the difference between surplus and profit,
and the positive use of reserves to invest in improving services,
which then appears as a deficit. In addition, they require
substantial financial information, beyond what is normally needed to
run a professional body. Sourcing this information is costly and may
seem hardly worth the effort due to the very uncertain prospect of
achieving desired loans.
the uncertainty about the future path of job retention support,
caused by recent confusing government announcements on easing
lockdown, has added to frustration.
the positive side, having opened communication on a collective basis,
the reaction from BEIS was heartening. In addition to considering the
points raised, BEIS senior staff expressed their willingness to
connect the concerns of professional bodies to other government
departments, since several of the issues raised at the meeting are
being administered elsewhere.
there have been positive and innovative initiatives undertaken and
achieved at professional bodies. The transition to virtual working
has proceeded apace, sometimes surprising CEOs at how well staff have
adapted to the new way of working. Good platforms for virtual working
have been satisfactorily taken up. Increased contact with members,
and the dissemination of information about lockdown and its
consequences, has earned frequent plaudits from members. This
increased activity in communication to members has been reflected by
professional bodies, who have seen staff workload rising, negating
the need to furlough many, or even any staff.
addition, certain innovations have been successfully undertaken. For
example, one professional body has overcome the problem of using
scratch paper during a virtual exam invigilation. They are providing
a piece of acetate paper, which is printed in house, and which acts
as a whiteboard to write on. This can be shown by the examinee to
invigilators as wiped clean at the end of the exams.
lockdown has encouraged some professional bodies to develop
streamlined governance procedures, by focusing committees and the
governing body onto very limited, but critical issues, and keeping
normal procedures to a minimum. Many report having refocused CPD with
more flexible requirements, also offering specific content to match
what members need to know as the crisis proceeds through different
phases. Encouragingly, staff good cheer is being promoted by
staff-generated communications, with light-hearted items such as
sharing recipes and other ways of staving off boredom during
we move towards easing of the lockdown, some of the difficulties will
be reduced, though new frustrations may arise, along with the
continued need for innovative practice and good cheer.
18 May 2020
This is Andy’s forth blog on the COVID 19 situation for professional bodies. The previous three can be found here:
1. 14 April 2020
2. 24 April 2020
3. 4 May 2020