Changing goalposts 

Responding to the coronavirus pandemic has  left voluntary sector organisations to interpret operating guidance and how it applies to them and their services. It can feel like none of us have definitive answers, and the rate of change is fast and confusing.  

We are now about to move into the Scottish Government’s five tier strategic framework. This aims to deliver a “rapid but proportionate” response to the changing infection rates in different parts of the country.  

This is the third significant change in approach since March and ,at the same time, we are having to decipher the new Jobs Support Scheme and cope with the winter setting in. It’s no wonder many of us are feeling weary.  

But our sector really has never been more needed. We all need to draw on our empathy, grit and determination. It doesn’t bear thinking what Scottish society would be like without the critical activities, services and support that our sector provides. 

Trusted information and support 

At the start of the crisis, SCVO established the Coronavirus Information Hub as a central point for up-to-date information. We update the content often, responding to the queries and concerns our members raise. 

If you haven’t already had a look you can find all the resources at www.scvo.org.uk/coronavirus 

The 5 tier strategic framework 

It is likely that the tiered approach to restrictions will be with us well into 2021. If you are struggling with interpreting the guidelines for your organisation, here are our top tips for approaching the task: 

  1. Deliver your activity remotely if you can, this carries the lowest risk of virus spread. SCVO’s digital team can support you to deliver servrices and support users online.  
  1. If you are delivering activity face to face, you need to take time to carefully assess risks of virus transmission. Risk assessments need to cover people and premises. They should highlight all physical areas where the virus could be transmitted, and particular risks for individual people, or groups of people.  
  1. Mitigating risks 

This is where the external guidelines need to be understood and applied.  It might help to work through the detail step by step.  

  • Identify which of the five tiers is in place in your locality
  • Identify which ‘topic areas’ you need to consider (for example, a befriending service for older adults might look at rules for support services, travel and shielding)
  • If the activity is not permitted in your current tier stop delivery. You might be eligible for financial support.
  • If the activity is permitted, work through relevant guidelines and note down all areas you need to comply with:
  • Develop appropriate mitigations for the risks you identified above in line with the guidelines 
  • Communicate clearly with everyone involved in the activity and monitor adherence 
  • Review regularly, and be prepared to make changes quickly 

It’s worth saying that in many cases the reality will be more complicated than these bullets suggest.  Most organisations will need to interpret as best they can within the ‘spirit’ of the restrictions to reduce infection rates. 

What’s next 

We are all learning together as we enter this next phase.  

SCVO are keen to do all we can to help clarify information and get organisations the support they are entitled to. We’ll be working to update the information hub and run informative events over the coming months.  

If you think there’s a big gap, or an area that needs further clarification I’d love to chat to you and learn more about what you need from us – find me on Twitter @Betty_Murphy or drop me an email