Publication - Advice and guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): multi-purpose community facilities - guidance

Published: 21 Dec 2020
Last updated: 30 Apr 2021 - see all updates

Guidance for the safe use of multi-purpose community facilities during the coronavirus pandemic.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): multi-purpose community facilities - guidance
About this guidance

About this guidance


This national guidance applies across Scotland and aims to support community centres to re-open safely during COVID-19 in line with Scotland’s Protection Levels. It balances the important role which community centres can play with the need to avoid further community transmission at all costs. The Strategic Framework sets out five levels of protection which have different restrictions in place to best tackle the virus and protect people.

This guidance is for those managing community centres, village halls, and other community facilities and is primarily about how to reopen buildings as safely as possible.

However, it will also be relevant to those hiring or using a community centre to understand how to deliver services as safely as possible.

Community centres, village halls, and other multi-use community facilities support a wide range of local activity and play a vital role in supporting all citizens including some of our most vulnerable. They can also play a vital role in enabling people to connect with others and to feel engaged in their communities in a meaningful way.  However, their communal nature makes them places that are vulnerable to the spread of coronavirus.

This guidance will be updated as regulations are amended and when other guidance relevant to multi-use facilities is produced. Different activities are subject to specific reviews and guidance on when and how they are permitted to resume/operate.

Purpose of this guidance

This guidance is aimed at ensuring that when a decision is taken to open a community centre that it can do so as safely as possible – it is not an instruction to open. It does not provide guidance for the wide range of activities that take place within a community centre. You should refer to the sector specific guidance for details on particular activities.

When looking for guidance, as a general rule you should work on the basis that your community centre effectively becomes a location for specific activities whilst they are being undertaken and therefore the appropriate sector guidance for these activities must also be followed. For example, if you are providing food you may want to consider the guidance that is appropriate for canteens and follow the guidance for hospitality. 

Permitted activities should only be reinstated following a COVID-19 risk assessment and any subsequent mitigating measures put in place, such as enhanced cleaning, hygiene and physical distancing measures. As explained later in this guidance the 2 metre physical distancing rule should normally be applied at all times which may mean a more restricted occupancy within the centre.

Individuals who are self-isolating due to a possible or confirmed case of coronavirus (COVID-19) in their home or their extended household should stay home and not attend, or if they have been in contact with someone who has coronavirus and have been advised to self-isolate.

Definition of a community centre

For the purposes of this guidance a “community centre” means all indoor and confined or enclosed outdoor spaces (for example, enclosed courtyards); used for the provision of services and activities (including single or multi-use community facilities); that are open to the public, including groups with any specific targeted public membership. Community centres are buildings and facilities which may be owned and managed by public sector, third or voluntary sector and includes but is not limited to:

  • village halls
  • community halls
  • community hubs
  • youth centres
  • any other public space where the primary purpose is provision of community services including those that are delivered by commercial or social enterprise providers

We recognise that community services may also be delivered in other buildings with a different primary purpose which do not fall within the definition above and will be subject to separate guidance specific to that setting – public health and specific activity guidance should be used to ensure safe working practices are in place in other buildings not covered by this guidance.

Person responsible for a community centre

Responsibility for community centres rests with whoever oversees its management. They have discretion over when they consider it safe to open for the permitted purposes, and whether the building should remain closed if it is not yet possible to safely adhere to the guidelines in this document. They are also the person responsible for taking measures to minimise risk of exposure to coronavirus in line with the Health Protection  (Coronavirus) (Restrictions) Scotland Regulations 2020 and subsequent amendments.

Those persons responsible for the centre and its activities are expected to take any other measures, where reasonably practicable, to minimise the risk of and spread of coronavirus. This would include things like:

  • installing barriers or screens
  • providing or requiring use of personal protective equipment and face coverings, controlling the use of shared facilities such as toilets and kitchens
  • changing the layout of premises including the location of furniture and workstations, and providing information to those entering or working at the premises about how to minimise the risk of exposure to coronavirus

Detailed guidance is available on a range of linked issues at Coronavirus in Scotland which includes guidance on the reopening of workplaces. Ultimately community centres are workplaces, either for paid staff employed there or for volunteers. The operators of community centres must take all reasonable measures to ensure the safety of those staff and volunteers working there in line with the general guidance for safer workplaces.

Impact of Protection Levels

Community centres were permitted to re-open from 3 August, in line with the route map and this has not changed under the new level system, unless your area enters Level 4. In the event of Level 4 you will only be expected to open to deliver essential services, but please refer to the protection levels guidance for more information. The current protection levels guidance will help inform the decision to open the community centre and advise what activities can be undertaken. However, the decision on whether to reopen and, to what extent in order to meet compliance requirements, is for those responsible for the management of a centre or facility to make.  This will be guided by local priorities, need, and the safety of workers volunteers and members of the public.

Please consider what local restrictions apply by familiarising yourself with the guidance provided for the protection levels. The local protection level your local authority area is in will determine what you can and cannot do. Where premises deliver a mix of services, only those services that can be carried out in accordance with the protection levels will be permitted. Those responsible for community centres will need to ensure that anyone attending can do so in accordance with the rules on gatherings. It is important to note that the restrictions and requirements under the Regulations are being amended frequently. You should ensure you are up to date with the latest position.

We recognise that some centres may at times only be open to cope with an emergency, for example co-ordinating essential supplies or services. Where that is the case the immediate protection of life must always take precedent and reasonable steps should still be taken to protect individuals and prevent the spread of COVID-19.

We recognise that community learning and development (CLD) activity for youth work and adult learning is an essential part of Scotland’s education system and provides services to some of the most vulnerable people living in our communities. Community facilities are therefore permitted to grant access in line with  the CLD sectoral guidance which outlines specific restrictions and considerations to be followed at each protection level.

Level 0  - permitted to open

Level 1  - permitted to open in line with guiding principles

Level 2  - permitted to open in line with guiding principles. Increased mitigations and enforcement than Level 1

Level 3  -  permitted to open in line with guiding principles. Increased mitigations and enforcement than Level 2

Level 4  -  closed (except for essential services*)

*If in doubt you should seek advice from local health or council officials to confirm a service is essential and cannot be delivered through some other means.

As the level of protection set within local authorities rises from 0 to 4, there is an increased risk of people transmitting the virus. There is an expectation that in protection Level 3 and protection Level 4, a very cautious approach to offering services is taken and mitigations in place are suitable and sufficient for the environment and the protection level.

To check which level your community centre is operating under, please use the postcode checker.

In order to decide which services or activities should operate under each of the protection levels, service providers should:

Guiding principles

In order to open there are general principles that all managers and users of community spaces should follow.

Any plans for reopening should be consistent with:

This guidance should also be read in conjunction with our business and physical distancing guidance which still applies.

HPS: COVID-19 Non Healthcare Settings guidance which provides information on the background to COVID-19, symptoms, general principles of infection prevention and control and health protection measures and what to do if someone becomes unwell on site.

NHS Inform which has a wide range of useful public facing information including information on symptoms and what to do.

Guidance on collection of customer and visitor details to assist contact tracing as part of NHS Scotland's Test and Protect system.  Even where consideration is being given to balancing the impact of the four harms in the strategic framework, the immediate concern should be to avoid transmission and not resume service delivery face to face until systematic assessment of risk is conducted and robust and sustainable protection measures are firmly in place.

First published: 21 Dec 2020 Last updated: 30 Apr 2021 -