Charities, community groups, social enterprises and voluntary organisations are the backbone of support for communities in Scotland. They often work in precarious funding environments, and the coronavirus pandemic only exacerbates this. They will take on many roles, as neighbourhood coordinators, a support for health and social care services, and an underpinning structure linking people to essential services.
Such vital infrastructure needs careful nurturing at times when it is most under pressure, and the voluntary sector has never felt pressure like that caused by the pandemic. In the short term, additional funding will relieve pressure and strengthen our ability to support the immediate needs of communities and to help those who will be disproportionately affected.
The reality is that many elements of the ‘new normal’ will continue over the next 18-months. In the medium term – when we start to understand the scale, impact and ways that people are responding to coronavirus – additional funding will allow us to adapt and build resilience. We must also keep an eye on the ‘longer-term’ as we develop our understanding of what will be fundamentally reshaped.
Here, we focus on the short term and what we know. This page will remain under review as the landscape changes to ensure we are continually focussing on need. We outline functional areas where funding is needed to support organisations to help their communities now and in the coming months.
What are the main areas where funding is needed?
1. Enabling organisations to meet the immediate practical needs of isolated people
Local charities, community groups, social enterprises and voluntary organisations are responding to the different challenges faced by isolated people and communities across Scotland. For some, this means being flexible and expanding the support they provide to new vulnerable groups. For others, it requires they broaden their existing offer for those they already support.
The provision of additional funds is urgently needed to support increased capacity, resilience and reach throughout these extraordinary times. Funding might assist food packing and delivering food parcels, coordinating the distribution of essentials such as prescriptions and groceries, or posting mail and walking dogs. It could also include personal protective equipment such as gloves and sanitiser to ensure the safety of volunteers, staff and those receiving support.
2. Enabling organisations to tackle loneliness & promote positive living, wellbeing and resilience
Voluntary organisations will be required to play an even greater role to combat loneliness as a result of isolation and to promote positive mental health, wellbeing and personal resilience. Facilitating social engagement will be vital for people, including children, who are at very high risk of severe illness from coronavirus and are currently shielding. Additional funding is needed to enhance the creative capacity of organisations to deliver vital services in new ways.
This could include providing telephone or online support, group online support or delivering digital inclusion activity. Resources will be required to ensure recipients have access to the technology necessary for remote delivery models. Other examples range from arts and crafts activity boxes and online singing and storytelling sessions, through to a variety of financial advice or wellbeing services. Jobs may start to disappear quickly; people will need to be supported to stay well and develop new skills.
3. Ensuring organisations have working practices to operate remotely and meet the increased need
Remote working is now unavoidable, yet many organisations will not have the right type of equipment or software to enable this to happen successfully. Gaps may also exist in the skills and confidence of staff who organisations now expect to operate remotely. For many, having this access could be the difference between providing support and not.
Funding could be for new equipment such as phones, laptops and video-conferencing platforms. It might secure training for staff and volunteers or be used to convert existing vital resources for use online, particularly in a way that meets accessibility requirements. Not only are additional funds required to maintain operations, but it’s also needed for organisations to deliver essential services in new ways. They must adapt activities to handle far higher demand either online or via the phone.
4. Ensuring organisations keep operating ‘keeping the lights on’
Cashflow is always a challenge for organisations. Many will not have the reserves to pay staff, bills and ‘keep the lights on’ during this challenging period. This will be particularly acute for those charities, community groups, social enterprises and voluntary organisations that rely on trading or public fundraising, due to an immediate sharp drop in income.
Funding may be needed to help organisations to avoid closure when they are part of resilience support and / or part of a recovery process in the crisis aftermath.
5. Easing the burden on statutory health and care services
Where organisations are already operating in the fields of health and social care, or are equipped to deliver an emergency response, additional funding may be required to increase capacity within the sector for activity in this area.
6. Providing support to adapt and evolve for the ‘new normality’
A fundamental rethink of how organisations operate in the future. Key organisations that are fundamental to the core ecosystem will need supported space and time to build new models to be more resilient for the future needs of society.