Research findings published today by Scotland’s charity regulator have been welcomed by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) for highlighting the difficulties voluntary sector organisations across the country are facing due to the impact of coronavirus.

According to findings from survey conducted in November 2020 by the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) which attracted 2,500 respondents, 70% of Scottish charities have seen a negative impact on those they support as a result of coronavirus and almost 80% of charities that receive income from donations and fundraising reported a decrease, with a third of respondents reporting that services to beneficiaries are currently disrupted due to the impact of the pandemic.

Anna Fowlie, Chief Executive of SCVO, said: “This research highlights the very real strain that Scottish charities and community organisations are under due to the impact of coronavirus. More than ever before people and families across Scotland are depending on the services and support the voluntary sector provides, and organisations are clearly struggling – the findings show that 37% of Scottish charities are using emergency savings and reserves to support those in need. We’re asking people to help support voluntary organisations in any way they can – through awareness-raising, donations, volunteering – to help ensure vital, never more needed community services can continue.”

Nicola Killean is CEO of Sistema Scotland which runs Big Noise programmes that use music and nurturing relationships to tackle inequality and support young people and communities across Scotland:

“In mid-March 2020, just before the schools closed, we made the difficult decision to pause our face-to-face Big Noise teaching and activities. We undertook a huge and rapid digital shift, firstly to enable the majority of our staff to work remotely and then to be able to continue Big Noise in an online form. We set up the Big Noise Virtual After-School Club – a digital version of the after-school programme that our Big Noise centres deliver to children from Primary 3 to S6 – and the response was overwhelmingly positive. We were also able to provide IT equipment and support directly to a small number of families, who would otherwise have been unable to participate in online lessons. Since April we have delivered over 6,000 online lessons and created over 600 pre-recorded teaching videos. 

“Covid-19 has created a number of new issues in what was already an extremely challenging landscape. Adapting the Big Noise programme to a digital form of delivery wasn’t straightforward and this process highlighted the challenges faced by so many families in our communities: long-term social, economic and health inequalities which pre-date Covid-19 and have been exacerbated by it. We’ve had a huge amount of positive feedback from families and many parents say it is a vital source of normality and consistency for their children, as well as being a way for them to see their friends through the paired and group lessons.”

L-R Patrick, Symone, Maggie and Scott (image courtesy of Sistema Scotland)

Maggie is a parent at Big Noise Raploch and says the service has been life-changing for her children, particularly during lockdown:

“I’ve lived all my life in Raploch. It wasn’t an easy place to grow up in – there was a lot of crime, problems with drink and drugs. People used to look down on you if you said you were from the Raploch; they assumed you’d never amount to anything. Big Noise has done a lot to change people’s attitudes. I’ve had three children go through Big Noise and it’s been life-changing for all of them. Symone’s the first person in our family to go to university; she’s at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. Patrick’s applying for college and Scott’s still at school. It’s helped all of them develop a real belief in themselves and what they can go on to achieve. “The lockdown was tough, especially for Scott. It would have been so easy for him to end up stuck in his room, not seeing anyone. Having the Big Noise lessons and all the other online activities helped to keep him busy and lifted his mood a lot. We were all at home together during the lockdown and Symone, Patrick and Scott were all playing their instruments together and practicing every day. It was a tough time, but Big Noise made it so much better for all of us.”