A daunting prospect thrust on us once again, this third national lockdown stricter than the last but perhaps slightly less restrictive than the first with experience on our side, will see the VCSE sector called on once again to support services, communities, and individuals across Suffolk.
As I write, I am reminded of a recent podcast in which one of the speakers described 2020 as a year of charities “surviving not thriving”. The overall tone of the podcast was about looking forward while celebrating the great work of charities during the year, but my immediate first reaction was I must admit, disgruntlement. Before the next hour of the day kicked in, I found myself straight on to the Google oracle for a definition of thriving. Google’s answer: “Thriving: prosperous and growing/ flourishing.”
While I fully appreciate and understand it has been a year of financial uncertainty and difficulty for many and can therefore see the sentiment behind the podcast; I also feel that in a world turned upside overnight, our sector absolutely flourished in their efforts to support others, continue to deliver, and indeed expand services, and to do all this while overcoming a completely new way of working particularly in a digital space.
As such, there is no doubt in my mind that our sector will do so again for this lockdown.
What can we expect?
A week into the lockdown, demand for Volunteers is already soaring. Not only do we need volunteers to support those in our communities who are lonely or self-isolating, but we also have a vaccination programme the like of which most of us have never seen in our lifetimes requiring thousands of volunteers to help vaccination centres across our county. But with this call for volunteers, can we anticipate additional challenges this time round? Perhaps the increased prevalence and transmission of the virus will impact availability of volunteers, and perhaps the impact of the first national call for volunteers will cause fatigue or disillusion for some that offered their services only to not be called on.
What we can be sure of, is that volunteers are desperately needed to play vital roles once again. We are sure that Suffolk communities will rally and support the vaccination programme and those who are isolated in our communities, so let us not make the processed more complicated and confusing than it needs to be. If you are interested in volunteering locally, please do register on https://volunteersuffolk.org.uk/ or follow Volunteer Suffolk on our Facebook and we will keep you up to date with recruitment across the county.
Fundraising/income generation are also key areas affected for VCSE organisations nationally and locally. Our Covid 19 VCSE sector impact surveys have continued since the start of the pandemic and provide us with key information on how the sector in Suffolk has been impacted throughout. This lockdown is of course another blow for the financial sustainability of the sector and our resilience is being tested again. Charity shops across the region have had to close once again, and ‘in person’ fundraising remains unable to resume.
However, throughout the crisis our sector has adapted and innovated in many ways to supplement loss of trading income and traditional fundraising methods, and we must once more look to new ways to sustain/replace income and provide the services for which demand is undoubtedly increasing once more. Business continuity planning remains key, and diversification of income streams has never been more important.
If your organisation would like support with your financial resilience and/or sustainability, please do visit our website Covid 19 pages to find resources, tools, up to date grant information, and information on funding surgeries and training that could help www.communityactionsuffolk.org.uk/covid-19
As cases of the virus continue to rise, we know the demand for our services will mirror this with increasing numbers of our communities self-isolating/managing health, perhaps feeling overwhelmed, supporting others, and requiring the assistance of organisations/community groups able to help with whatever they need. Neighbourliness and the willingness of individuals to do whatever they can, no matter how big or small a task, has had a huge impact on the health and wellbeing of thousands of residents across Suffolk. We have seen hundreds of mutual aid groups pop up to support others and they have played a key role in keeping people safe and well. Established VCSE organisations have also adapted and increased their core services to play their part and work alongside statutory partners ensuring the right help is given to those who so vitally need it. We can expect the need for these types of support to continue on the roller coaster of required provision as we move through this third lockdown. In turn, we at CAS will keep asking you what you need to help your efforts, make your voice heard with local and national partners/stakeholders, and provide support to you through training, 1:1 advice and guidance, and tools/resources designed specifically for you.
We can also expect an abundance of changing guidance and information and will need to keep up to date and informed in the days and weeks ahead. We have experienced and learned from previous restrictions and have put this learning in to practice demonstrating how essential the VCSE sector is to make sure communities are supported through these difficult times. CAS will continue to share key information, good news stories/best practice examples, and guidance with you through our usual communications channels (see below) so please do follow these and share with your own networks wherever you can.
My final thought on what to expect is that while current times are challenging, difficult and negatively impacting so many organisations and the effect of this should not be underestimated – the resilience, flexibility, and can-do attitude that our sector has shown has been and continues to be phenomenal. Ultimately, to coin a phrase, expect the unexpected! Our sector does this incredibly well – so be proud, stay safe and keep going.
If you would like to find out more about any of the work we are doing to support organisations and communities during the pandemic, please do not hesitate to contact me:
Hannah Reid, Director of Innovation & Business Development, CAS