The General Service Office has been receiving enquiries from members regarding the effect of COVID-19 (coronavirus) virus and how it might impact meetings.
11 September 2020
Following the UK Government's announcement of new restrictions on social gatherings to suppress the coronavirus, effective from Monday September 14th, GSO has been advised by Public Health England, that in England, AA groups of up to 30 people are permitted to meet in person provided they meet in Covid-19 Secure Venues, strictly adhere to Social Distancing protocols and where local lockdowns are in place, to pay particular heed to local ordinances.
Scotland guidelines are unchanged with Groups able to meet in
Covid-19 Secure Venues subject to existing restrictions and guidance. And in
Wales, Groups of no more than 6 people may meet in Covid-19 Secure Venues.
Groups in Continental Europe should follow their country's regulations regarding meetings in person and social distancing.
6 August 2020
General Service Conference 2020
Please see below the explanation letter send to all Conference delegates from the Conference Steering Committee (CSC), regarding the postponement of Conference 2020:
Thanks to all who voted your conscience regarding the options on how to run the 55th Alcoholics Anonymous General Service Conference, originally scheduled for April of this year.
As the Steering Committee for Conference we're committed to maintaining the Service, Unity and Recovery of the Fellowship.
The pandemic caused by COVID-19 has had an unprecedented impact across the country and we're grateful for your continued support as we plan how best to fulfil Conference requirements, whilst protecting everyone's safety.
We're writing to you today
- to confirm the outcome of the vote,
- to update you on our plans for running the 2020 Conference, and
- to advise you of our contingency plan, should the pandemic continue to require social distancing into 2021.
The General Service Office (GSO) contacted the 91 Conference delegates and asked them to choose between a) rolling the 2020 Conference over into April 2021 or b) holding a virtual Conference in October. The result of the vote was
- 53 - in favour of rolling Conference over to April 2021
- 26 - in favour of a virtual Conference
- 12 - abstentions.
Thanks again. This gives us a clear mandate for planning Conference 2020.
We're now planning on the basis that we'll run the 2020 Conference during the dates set aside for the 2021 Conference. We're also looking at whether we can fulfil Conference requirements - Conference questions; Board Updates to the Fellowship; literature & video approval - for both 2020 and 2021 Conferences at the same time. As we do this we're receiving guidance from the GSO to make sure that we continue to operate within our authority. We'll seek approval from you on any further decisions which require delegate approval.
One of the key activities for the General Service Conference is to answer Conference questions. We're currently looking at whether Conference can address questions for both 2020 and 2021 at the same time. With this in mind, we'd ask for your support, and for you to work with your regions, to keep questions submitted for 2021 Conference to a minimum. This will give us a better chance of being able to fulfil Conference requirements without having to organise two separate Conferences in 2021.
While we hope that we're all able to come together in York in April next year we must consider the possibility that the impact of COVID-19 will prevent this. We'll continue to monitor the situation and follow government guidance. If it becomes clear that it won't be possible to hold Conference in York in April 2021 then we'll revisit the feasibility of a virtual Conference. There are examples of this having been run by AA in other countries and we're confident that this is something we can organise successfully. If restrictions continue we'd expect to make a decision on this at some point in January.
We'll continue to keep you informed as we make progress with our planning.
Yours in service.
General Service Conference Steering Committee
22 July 2020
In these rapidly changing times, AA members doing service from their homes are currently providing details of AA meetings to over 1,500 newcomers each month
Members of the Online Response Team (replying to help emails) or Chat Now Responders (replying via instant chat on the main AA website) are totally reliant on the AA Meeting Finder for this purpose.
If your group is not listed in the AA Meeting Finder, the details cannot be provided to the newcomer.
Many more newcomers will use the meeting finder directly without asking for help first. The meeting finder is being used over 10,000 times per month and Telephone responders may also rely on it, especially when taking calls from newcomers from outside their local area.
This is therefore a reminder to all AA groups to please provide (up to date) meeting details to the General Service Office who will update the meeting finder
Either use the online form here: https://www.alcoholics-anonymous.org.uk/AA-Meetings/Submit-Your-Meeting-Information-(Pink-Form)
Or, if your meeting has moved online or is open again having been closed during lockdown, and to make any other changes to your listing, don't complete a Pink Form, just email email@example.com
Please also let us know if a meeting is no longer available, even if it was an online only meeting. Newcomers particularly can be frustrated if, after overcoming any initial hesitation to attend an AA meeting, they find it is closed when they get there.
Information and suggestions for groups considering starting up again is available below.
29 June 2020
We at the General Service Board and the General Service Office know that many members will be excited by the prospect of meeting in-person again.
Specific guidelines have been and will continue to be set by government agencies of various nations that are covered by our service structure. Please check what is applicable where you live and where your meeting takes place. Be particularly careful where members homes and meeting venues might come under different jurisdictions.
The facilities in which we meet may also have their guidelines which should be taken into consideration.
We urge groups to consult and follow these suggestions to protect our members, our fellowship, and others with whom we come in contact
Other Important Considerations
Each group is autonomous," we often note when making group decisions. The second part of the 4th Tradition is just as important: "except in matters affecting other groups or A.A. as a whole." Tradition 1 tells us "Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends upon A.A. unity." These traditions remind us that we must ensure that our group decisions do not negatively impact our fellow members or A.A. as a whole and that we as individuals act in ways that ensure our common welfare. Traditions 1 and 4 are important now more than ever. We should always consider the health and well-being of both A.A. members and non-members, as well as protect the positive reputation and goodwill of A.A. in the community.
Questions to Consider
1. Does your group have a complete contact list to communicate with group members? Do you need one?
2. How will your group confirm the maximum number of people permitted in your meeting space?
3. How will your group ensure that this maximum is not exceeded?
4. How will your group ensure the appropriate social distance is maintained?
5. How will your group ensure face masks are worn where appropriate?
6. Will your group require members to have temperature checks, for instance, at home before the meeting, or even at the meeting?
7. How will your group sanitize contact surfaces before and after each meeting?
8. Will your group provide sanitizing gel or wipes for those arriving?
9. What if someone in your group needs to be tested for COVID 19? Will you keep a record of each attendee at each meeting so they may be informed while results are awaited? Who will hold this list? At what point may this list be destroyed?
10. What if contact tracing is necessary? How will your group help local health officials do contact tracing? Note: It is not necessary to break another member's anonymity for contract tracing. Members may simply say they met as friends or as part of a spiritual gathering.
11. If passing a physical basket is impossible, how will your group collect Seventh-Tradition contributions? Has an electronic account been set up? Some groups are using contactless card readers. Another suggestion was to restrict donations to coins dropped into a small sack that can all be disinfected before being handled? Click here to go to GSO banking page
12. How will physical materials (Steps, Traditions and Concepts banners, literature, meeting and phone lists, etc.) be handled? What about the set-up and breakdown of a meeting? Can physical meeting materials be replaced with virtual ones?
13. Will your group eliminate the distribution of coffee and food?
14. What will be your group's policy if an attendee is openly sick (e.g., coughing or feverish)?
15. Does your group have insurance cover? If not, should your group get a policy?
Please note the above list of questions is not intended to be exhaustive.
Practicing Step 12
Please be sure to consider older A.A. members or those with compromised immune systems who may not be able or comfortable returning to your physical meeting until there is an effective COVID 19 vaccine.
Hybrid or Concurrent Meetings
If your group decides to make a physical meeting accessible via Zoom or other electronic platform, we suggest procedures be put in place to alert attendees that the meeting is being broadcast via a virtual platform, and how anonymity will be protected when doing so. Meetings should not be recorded.
An alternative is to have both physical and virtual meetings of your group to ensure the hand of A.A. is always available to those who need it.
Please be sure to keep the General Service Office updated on both your physical meetings and virtual ones, the General Service Office's meeting list is the only one referred to by members doing service as first point of contact to the still suffering alcoholic, if they don't have up to date information, they cannot pass it on.
Download a copy of this article here
27th May 2020
Group Generic Email Addresses
AA Service News has been distributed electronically to groups with a generic email address, to get a copy sent please update your group's information to include a generic email address via the 'pink form'
17th April 2020
Safety in Zoom Meetings
A guide has been put together by members of the Fellowship to help people make the most of Zoom, protect individual anonymity and to prevent the meeting from being hijacked. Download it here (updated 17th April)10th April 2020
In order to help members at this time, the teams working on Share and Roundabout magazines have asked that all the earlier issues from 2020 should be shared with the whole of the Fellowship.
If you would like to contribute something to them, please consider taking out a subscription, or simply make a donation (members of the Fellowship only) to help maintain services from GSO. Details can be found at here
Share Magazine download links
Roundabout Magazine download links
4th April 2020
A note from a Member: Informal, daily get-together Online
My local homegroup have an informal drop in meeting that is open every evening for those of us who just want to keep in touch, have a chat with friends, and join in some friendly companionship. It starts at the same time each evening, stays open for as long as there is someone there and follows no strict format. People can pop in and out whenever they chose, talk about whatever they want and for those of us who live alone in particular, it is good to just have that human contact. Somebody will normally say or share something that makes us all laugh and it certainly helps me stay positive and cheerful. Our little drop-in group is a very welcome addition to the AA online meetings.
1st April 2020
The coronavirus pandemic is affecting everyone, including those of us in Alcoholics Anonymous. How has your group or intergroup or region met the challenge to continue carrying the message to the alcoholic who still suffers in this difficult time?
AA Service News welcomes reports and articles on this topic from members, groups, intergroups and regions for publication in the Summer 2020 edition.
Please send to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Deadline: All articles and reports MUST be received no later than April 24th.
30th March 2020
The Government continues to re-iterate the clear message that we must stay at home to protect ourselves, our loved ones, the NHS and those around us.
They have suggested to us through Public Health England (PHE) that :
Only in exceptional circumstances should an individual sponsor visit a sponsee to provide 1:1 support at home. They should both then follow the same precautions as are required of essential services i.e. stay at least 2m apart in an adequately ventilated area, both wash hands, don't go if either party is showing any symptoms of the virus, don't visit people who are self-isolating because they have COVID 19 symptoms, do not visit those who are being shielded because they are highly vulnerable or if the sponsor themselves is from a vulnerable group.
Roundabout and Share magazines
We are aware that many members will be unable to collect their copies of their magazines as they are ordered through their groups and this might currently cause problems. For this reason we are publishing full versions of the magazine (minus the Meetings Changes pages) here on the website. If anyone who is not a subscriber wishes to download a copy they may feel free to do so. The normal subscription price is One Pound - perhaps you might consider either paying your One Pound direct to GSO via bank transfer here, or simply adding a One Pound when you are next able to put money in the pot. Download your pdf version of the magazines here:
26th March 2020
New to AA
YOU CAN STILL CONTACT US
If you are new to AA and thinking of contacting us for the first time, please do not hesitate to make contact as all of our services are still available. Our free national helpline, our email@example.com and our ChatNow service are all manned by AA members working from home and they will be more than happy to hear from you
Whilst most of our meetings have had to close following Government guidance during this unprecedented time most of our groups have been able to establish on-line meetings. Following your initial contact with AA you may like to attend one of these and our contacts should be able to help you to do this.
There is a wide range of literature that is recommended for new members available on our Newcomers section on this site, please make use of this.
Meeting Finder / Meeting Changes
Given that in accordance with Government instructions all meetings will now be closed, GSO will stop adding that information to Groups' entries in Meeting lists. However over the past 10 days or more, GSO staff have been on request flagging meetings as Closed, and again where requested creating new online meetings. Most online meetings have no location so will not appear in a geographical search, by town or Near me. Searching Online will of course list all online meetings but sorted by creation date so recent entries are likely to be at the bottom of the list.
From now on, where it is clear that a meeting has moved online from a physical location, the existing meeting title will have Online added and joining instructions for the online meeting will be entered in the Details section. This means that searching for a meeting in a given town will now show all existing meeting information with an indication of online activity where it exists.
It will take some time to get all entries updated so please bear with us.
If your meeting has moved online but is not yet showing as described above, or to make any other changes to your listing, don't complete a Pink Form, just email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Share and Roundabout April issues have been printed and posted to personal subscribers. Because of meeting closures some Groups may be unable to collect, so a downloadable file of each will be added to the relevant website page for viewing or printing off. Watch this space: https://www.alcoholics-anonymous.org.uk/Members/Fellowship-Magazines
Some concern has been expressed about helping newcomers at their first, or early online meetings when everything is strange. It has been pointed out that Zoom allows the creation of breakout rooms separate from the main meeting room, suitable for small group chats. Click the link below for information and note particularly the para re recording. We pointed out on March 20, in MEETING CHANGES below that certain features in Zoom need to be disabled in order to help protect anonymity. This is an important one. Click here for guidance
24th March 2020
Meeting closures and Online Anonymity
Due to the large number of group closures we are working under the assumption that groups are closed unless GSO is informed otherwise in which case a note will placed on the Meeting Finder showing under the group details
As detailed below and in emails to all Members in Service, we are updating the Meeting Finder with specifics of online meetings and this in some cases includes links to online providers offering Video and Audio meeting services. All Members should be particularly mindful of using their names and email addresses when starting and joining such meetings as often personally identifiable information is clearly visible when you log in or join.
Click here for some guidance on registering Online Meetings with us.
While anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our traditions, personal anonymity is a personal responsibility.
Online meeting software
WhatsApp, Group text messaging
Audio and Video
Skype, Zoom, Webex, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Facetime, Google Hangouts
To preserve Anonymity you should check carefully the settings on the below mentioned suggested solutions. Some examples of this may be:
Require Encryption for Third Party Endpoints
Disable Auto saving chats
Disable File transfer
Disable Screen sharing
Disable desktop/screen share for users
Disable Remote control
Disable Local recording
Disable Cloud recording
Disable Automatic recording
Disable Local and Cloud recording features
Take care when using your name or email address to log in as these may be displayed at the start of the video call
Free and standard now on many PCs and laptops. Capable of handling meetings with up to 100 participants (just increased from 50).
How-to guide here
Free for meetings of up to 40 minutes duration. For longer meetings, one member (the host) must upgrade to the Pro version.
How-to guide here
Free for up to 100 participants. A WebEx meeting can be started by anyone with an account who then just shares the single meeting link and people can join by simply clicking the link - whether they have an account or not.
How-to guide here