Update on Meetings, 29th June 2020

The LifeRing Ireland Committee has produced this information paper to inform members of current and projected meeting arrangements. Planning is being undertaken in an evolving public health context, and in what is a challenging time for everyone. Members are asked to bear with us and to contribute any workable solutions for the safe and sustainable resumption of meetings as we work through the steps outlined below. For details of how you can help, please read on.

What LifeRing meetings are currently running?

All national face to face LifeRing Ireland meetings have been suspended, in line with Government public health restrictions.
Online Meetings are available, and will remain ongoing as required.
When face to face LifeRing Ireland meetings resume, details will be posted on www.lifering.ie

What are other peer support groups doing?

All mainstream peer support organisations have taken the same measures, and moved meetings to exclusively online formats. Any face to face meetings taking place before 26th June are not affiliated with, nor endorsed by, the established organisations, including LifeRing Ireland.

All organisations are now beginning to consult and plan for the resumption of face to face meetings.

When will Face to Face Meetings resume?

Previously published guidance necessitated the closure of face to face meetings, as undertaken by all mainstream recovery support groups.

The common goal of all in LifeRing is to resume face to face meetings as soon as it is safe and sustainable to do so. This will involve identifying suitable alternative meeting venues, and assessing each one in sufficient detail to demonstrate compliance with public health requirements. Former venues will also need similar assessment. In all cases, Covid-19 training will be needed, and insurance arrangements will require review. We note that venue operators may impose further or different requirements.

LifeRing Ireland intends to develop and implement a consistent approach across all meeting locations, so that no group is disadvantaged and resumption of meetings is managed in a safe and sustainable way for all.

The intention will be to avoid as far as possible stop/start or sporadic meeting schedules, though this possibility cannot be ruled out as public health requirements continue to evolve.

Government guidelines published to date do not include specific guidance for voluntary groups such as LifeRing. Government guidelines for places of employment require that Employers appoint “covid supervisors” and draw up specific management plans. LifeRing will consider whether it is appropriate to adopt similar measures, and how this might be implemented in practice, and will seek further clarification on this issue.

All members are advised to study the latest Government public health guidelines for Phase 3, updated on 26th June (or later revision). These are and available as a Stay Safe Guidelines Booklet here. An extract showing guidelines for indoor gatherings is included at the end of this document for reference. 

Where will future meetings be held?

In most instances, our normal meeting venues remain unavailable for now, as these are located in public buildings or healthcare settings.

We have developed a set of assessment criteria for alternative meeting venues. Similar considerations will apply before meetings resume in former venues. These are shown here in preliminary form, and suggestions are welcomed to refine the criteria further, in conjunction with new Government guidance, as it becomes available.

The following minimum criteria shall be assessed:

  • Consider location in terms of access, security, parking, public transport options. Where possible, all attendees should travel alone, or with a member of the same household.
  • Ascertain requirements/policy of the venue operator, including any sanitisation before and after to the room and access routes. Get a copy of any checklist.
  • Establish whether the operator will staff the venue, lock up etc.
  • Establish if contact tracing is a mandatory requirement of the venue.
  • Assess adequacy of the room size for an appropriate group size, allowing for physical distancing.
  • Assess general room suitability in terms of ventilation, lighting etc. A location with two rooms having independent access may assist with organisation and logistics.
  • Consider accessibility for all – avoid as far as possible any steps, uneven or poorly lit / unsafe access routes.
  • Consider space outside for queueing at 2m intervals, and whether sheltered. Queueing length and time will increase with group size.
  • Check availability of toilets, and any requirement for sanitisation after use.
  • Establish cost, available days and times, minimum rental period, general T&Cs, period of notice on both sides, rental refund arrangements or similar in the event of Government- mandated closure etc.
  • Assess whether the venue has capacity for a larger group, in the event that public health guidance permits meetings of larger size or longer duration.

Other items for consideration when assessing venues:

  • A similar assessment of former venues may be necessary, to establish their compatibility with the stated criteria and evolving public health guidelines.
  • Convenor training and insurance arrangements to be considered.

What will future face to face meetings look like, with public health measures in force?

Government Phase 3 measures come into effect on 29th June, however the LifeRing Ireland Committee has already developed a preliminary scenario for resuming face to face meetings.

Under present conditions and guidelines, the meeting scenario is likely to be broadly as follows:

  • Convenors to fully implement requirements/policies required by the venue operator, including sanitisation as required. Follow any checklist provided.
  • Meetings are likely to last no longer than 50 minutes, starting promptly, with no late admission and no time over-runs.
  • Attendance numbers will be strictly limited, depending on capacity and other characteristics of the venue. Limiting the meeting duration is also a consideration.
  • All attendees and convenors to wear face coverings, unless exempt for medical reasons.
  • Convenors to arrive in good time to prepare, including sanitisation if required. Check that room ventilation is adequate. HSE poster to be displayed at the the entrance.
  • Attendees to arrive early, to allow for queueing and contact tracing registration (if required).
  • Contact tracing: the convenor will take a list of all contact details and phone numbers at the entrance, which must include convenors (GDPR implications tbc).
  • Hand gel to be provided at the entrance. Must be used by all, including anyone in gloves.
  • A second convenor may be required to attend outside the door once capacity is reached.
  • No voluntary collection can be made. Opening and closing statements cannot be passed around. Books and literature will not be available.
  • Convenors to close the meeting, and sanitise the room and any access routes or other areas as agreed with the venue operator.

Other items for consideration:

  • Since two convenors may need to be present, it may make sense to have two meetings back to back, with an interval for sanitisation and then role swap. Venue availability and policy of the venue operator may ultimately determine this.
  • Larger groups will involve longer cleaning and queueing times.
  • Face to face and online meetings may best take place on alternative nights, to increase availability and to ensure that convenors are available for both meeting types.
  • Guidance is needed on the collection, management and retention of contact records.

What can Members do to help with Next Steps?

All members can continue to support each other through the continuing online meetings.

Volunteers are now sought from among convenors and regular LifeRing attendees alike, to contribute to two work streams:

(a) to develop and refine these outline proposals, plus Covid-19 procedures and training needs

(b) identification and assessment of alternative meeting venues

If you are willing to help in working on these next stages of reopening our meetings, please send an email with your contact details and location to info@lifering.ie

Once responses are in, a representative group from across LifeRing locations will work together to coordinate efforts, pooling our resources and knowledge to develop solutions at pace.

In this way LifeRing can collectively develop workable solutions to the significant challenges of complying with public health requirements, to support our common aim of resuming meetings safely and sustainably.

Extract from Government public health guidelines for Phase 3 (available as a Stay Safe Guidelines Booklet here )