The voluntary sector’s contribution during the coronavirus pandemic in Scotland has been extraordinary, as to has the shock, uncertainty and pain felt by so many. Thousands of our colleagues continue to play a vital role in the national response to the virus, and they have all had their lives touched by the crisis in different ways. 

Knowing this, it feels strange to be talking about Scotland’s recovery, let alone what ‘a new normal’ might look like. In part, it is because the shock and uncertainty continue, and it doesn’t feel like there’s the space to have these broader conversations. The sector continues with its emergency response to the outbreak – it deserves all of our attention, as it has since day one.

It also feels strange because can we really make any meaningful assumptions at this stage? Apart from the fact that the impact of coronavirus, both on public health and the economy, will be huge, I’d preferably not make any myself. The Fraser of Allander Institute says the debate ‘over the nature and form of recovery will be once more thrust to the fore for many years.’ That is perhaps the only other assumption I’m willing to make.

Here at SCVO, we set out to support, promote and develop a confident, sustainable voluntary sector in Scotland. So much has changed since the coronavirus hit, and particularly when Scotland went into lockdown. While much of our work continues to support the emergency response, we must be prepared to support the voluntary sector when it comes to making its case for change.

Our first public engagement on recovery came in the form of SCVO’s response to the Scottish Government’s framework for decision making. The response, shared today with the Scottish Government, was informed by a wide range of sub-sectors. It outlines five areas for immediate focus when considering the roles that voluntary organisations can and should play in planning for the reset, restart and recovery phases. It also highlights the support that they will require to do so.

The response leads nicely to the next opportunity SCVO now has to influence broader narratives around that so-called ‘new normal.’ Last Thursday, we were invited to submit evidence to the independent Advisory Group on Economic Recovery set up by the Scottish Government.

The advisory group has developed a set of six structured areas for consideration, ranging from fiscal implications for Scotland and the UK to the labour market and inequalities. It seeks views on Scotland’s transition to a wellbeing-oriented economy and what change is needed to support Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector in the years to come – you can read our background note here.    

Our submission is due on Friday 29th May, less than two weeks away. It is a demanding deadline placed on us. Still, we want to make the most of this opportunity and to help form the basis of broader and more in-depth discussions with the voluntary sector and government in the months ahead. 

Such is the pressure on the voluntary sector right now, we know that different organisations will be able to contribute in different ways. Some will be able to share big ideas and thoughts through our online form (before 5pm this Friday 22nd May). Others will only have the capacity to provide commentary on an initial draft, which we will make available next Tuesday.  

An online drafting session will also take place next Wednesday 27th May from 3 – 4:30pm – just email me to sign-up! This will provide an opportunity to run through the response and discuss the content and further changes as a group.

This is a formal opportunity to outline the voluntary sector’s case for change, but we have limited time! It’s a difficult time for us to be thinking ahead, but the actions taken by others will likely depend on the offer of new ideas. I hope you will support the start of this work as SCVO looks to promote the vital role of the voluntary sector in Scotland’s recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.