Using Parish Online during the Coronavirus Pandemic

Using Parish Online during the Coronavirus Pandemic

Using Parish Online during the Coronavirus Pandemic

The Coronavirus Pandemic is putting unprecedented pressures on all tiers of government, and it is vital that councils act flexibly and with imagination to deal as effectively as possible with the new challenges.

Parish Online usage has soared in recent weeks as councils discover that it can provide valuable support to their work. The purpose of this document is to share ‘best practice’ advice so that all councils can learn from the experience of others.



Parish Online has become a vital tool for many Local Councils who want to save time and be more efficient in their work. Some examples are described below.

However, government advice is changing every day so please make sure that you are following all official government advice and guidelines as listed in:


Working remotely

Parish Online is web-based so you can access your mapping account wherever you are (provided that you have an internet connection).  This means that councillors and clerks can work effectively as team even if you are working from home under lock-down or self-isolation conditions.

If you haven’t done so already, try giving access to Parish Online to your trusted colleagues. You can set access and editing permissions to restrict what each user can do. You can find more information on how to do this here.


Organising support for vulnerable people

A key task for the Council is to coordinate a local response to ensure vulnerable people get the help that they need. Parish Online has proved to be a great tool for organising this. By creating a new Map Layer, councils have been plotting out groups of houses and assigning them to staff or councillors as their ‘patch’. Each team member can then cover the area they’re responsible for without overlapping or duplicating effort. Plotting where vulnerable people live can also focus the support effort.

Creating a new Map Layer (eg Vulnerable People) and marking out areas is easy to do and can save a lot of management time. 

For more information on how to add features, click here.


Plotting infrastructure for civil preparedness

We’ve recently included a new collection of Map Layers in Parish Online that use standardised symbology for civil contingency planning and emergency response. Most of these symbols aren’t relevant for the pandemic, but many of the Infrastructure icons will be useful to show the infrastructure situation in your area. By plotting these assets using your local knowledge, you’ll be better prepared if/when the Local Authority or emergency service contacts you for information.

You’ll find these layers under the “Civil Protection Map” collection. We recommend adding some features to the Infrastructure layer. A list of available ‘types’ are shown in the link below.

Adding features to this layer is just the same as for your own private layers but with two slight differences; you can’t change the styling yourself, and the layer is visible to other local councils (so you can see adjacent assets).



Marking out assets for promoting health and well-being

While we’re all cooped up indoors, it’s important to stay active and healthy. That’s sometimes easier said than done, but as a Local Council you can highlight the available services in your area to promote exercise to the public.

This can be done by adding information to your own map layers or the Asset Register collection of layers to highlight public spaces, playground areas or anything else that’s still open to use. We’re in the process of launching our new Public Map tool which will let you publish information from your Parish Online account into an interactive map on your website. We’ve already got a queue of councils wanting to start using this and welcome more, so please get in touch if this is of interest to you.



Although we are involved in a pandemic, councils must nevertheless take care to consider management issues such as the duty of care, safeguarding and data protection. Here are some things to remember whilst using Parish Online:


Sharing data with volunteers and public

Having volunteers willing to help with your efforts is great and can really make a difference, but just as in normal times, personal data should not be shared. It’s possible to operate these services by providing anonymised property-level data and not including the name or details of those who need help. You are advised to adopt a policy of sharing the minimum amount of data to get the job done.

We recommend not including personal information unless it is essential.

Your efforts may overlap somewhat with the new NHS Volunteer Army initiative, so it would be worth seeing if your tasks could be covered under this scheme.


Keeping control of your Parish Online account

Be wary of sharing Parish Online user details with volunteers as your account may contain other information not relevant to their task. Consider producing PDF printouts instead as they are a controlled way of sharing information to volunteers and the public.

You can create user accounts at any time and take them away at any time, so be proactive with managing who has access. You can also control what data each user has access to, and what data they can edit. This will ensure your data is secure.


Engage with the Local Authority

As the situation unfolds there’ll be guidance from a range of official bodies which will be able to offer advice on coordinated efforts. Look out for this advice and keep engaged with your Principal Authority who may be able to help.

Parish Online can display map information from Local Authorities for a wide variety of themes and datasets, so if there’s something you need in Parish Online let them know and if they’re willing to share the data, we’ll be able to load it in for you.

To find out more information on map data, click here.



Parish Online will remain fully operational during the Covid-19 crisis. Any local councils not currently using the service can sign up to a 30-day free trial with no financial commitment, so there’s no risk in trying it to see if it can help you. If you want to sign up for a 30 day free trial or subscribe, visit our website.

The Parish Online team is remote working now but we are at full capacity so we’re on hand to help with any queries, issues or ideas. Please raise a support ticket if you need anything.

For current subscribers who are trying to arrange their renewals and are having trouble logistically, we have BACS and Card payment options if cheques can’t currently be issued. Please let us know if you are having trouble with payment as we can ensure that your account doesn’t expire.