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techUK COVID-19: March in review

A review of techUK's work over March as we work with Government, the NHS, local authorities and wider industry to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

techUK is completing its third week of remote-working. Like many of our members, techUK decided to move to home working a week before the government lockdown. So far our cloud based infrastructure has stood up well to the task and staff have adapted quickly to a very different work routine. And like many tech businesses, we have been very busy.  

techUK continues to work on behalf of its members and sector as a whole as we respond, adapt and eventually recover from this crisis. Below is a short summary of what we have done so far but please do visit our COVID-19 Information Hub for all the latest news, advice, guidance and case studies of all the wonderful ways tech is helping our public services, businesses and communities through this difficult time.  

Channels with Government  

This is a time of huge uncertainty and disruption for business. techUK has been designated by Government as the primary point of contact for tech businesses to raise queries, concerns and seek advice. techUK has always had a strong relationship with Government and this has been solidified during the crisis.  

We are in regular contact with Ministers across the relevant departments and senior officials to update them on the impact COVID-19 is having on the sector and jointly develop policy responses that can alleviate the short-term impact and ensure the sector is resilient as the crisis continues to unfold.  

techUK has launched a dedicated mailbox, open to members and non-members alike to hear from you and we would encourage you to email in with questions and queries large and small.

Offering support to the NHS, Government and Local Authorities  

techUK moved quickly to coordinate offers of support from our members into NHSX following an early meeting in no10. We are pleased to see so many of our members contributing to the frontline response to the virus and continue to ensure members offers of support are directed to the relevant authorities.  

Our members have also stepped up to help in the production of ventilators and with work happening in other Government departments to respond to the virus. techUK continues to help coordinate this response and act as a conduit between Government and industry.  

techUK has also created a repository of offers from the industry to local government as they respond to the challenge COVID-19 presents. This will be updated regularly so if you think you can help, please get in touch with my colleague Georgina.  

Policy response  

The situation is evolving quickly with Government making years-worth of policy in a matter of weeks. techUK has been working closely with officials to ensure the sector’s voice is heard and needs met. Here are a few example of the issues we’ve been working on:  

  1. Designation of key-worker status  

Digital maintenance and resilience will be key to keeping the economy moving, our public services up and running and our communities and loved ones connected during this period. We worked tirelessly, going down to the wire, to ensure that data infrastructure workers were included on key workers list published by Cabinet Office.  

techUK continues to work with a dedicated team in DCMS to ensure that key workers in the sector are properly designated as such in the event of further restrictions on movement and to advise employers on steps they should be taking.  

  1. Visa extensions  

techUK worked with other TAs to secure movement from the Home Office on visa-holders with visas due to expire in the coming months. The Home Office has issued new guidance so that if you are in the UK and your leave expires between 24 January 2020 and 31 May 2020, your visa will be extended to 31 May 2020 if you cannot leave the UK because of travel restrictions or self-isolation related to coronavirus (COVID-19).  

The extension to 31st May is something techUK had been pushing for, having anticipated something much shorter from the Home Office. We continue to advocate for automatic extensions; however, if you fall in the category above you will currently need to contact the Coronavirus Immigration Team.

  1. Easing the burden on industry  

As Government reprioritise its work and moves civil servants on to COVID-19 related workstreams, so to does industry. techUK has been vocal about the need for Government to recognise this and act accordingly by pausing non-essential consultations, delaying workstreams where appropriate and seeking extensions to the implementation of new regulatory rules to ensure industry can focus on the most pressing issues raised by the pandemic.  

techUK has seen regulators already take steps to do this, for example Ofcom has suspended all existing consultations, the FCA is extending deadlines and delaying planned work and the ICO has also agreed some extensions. We are confident that the Government too is examining its own inbox and will communicate this to the sector once we have received confirmation of next steps. 

And finally 

There is so much that tech can do and over the last three weeks we have seen the tech sector being quick to come forward with ideas and solutions. The NHS is rightly being prioritised during this crisis but techUK continues to work with members and other partners to understand the needs of business and our communities. We are delighted to support the work of DevicesDotNow and are working closely with DCMS and DfE to ensure schools are supported to build classroom environments in the home.


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