3VA has undertaken local research on the impact of Covid-19 and the role of our local voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) sector in responding in each of the 3 districts we cover – Wealden, Lewes and Eastbourne.
We spoke to dozens of grassroots VCSE groups and organisations in each of the 3 districts to capture more local, community feedback to inform our work as a Voluntary Action supporting our local sector and also to provide intelligence for our local VCSE and other key stakeholders.
We found that demand has increased for foodbanks, support for debt, employment, housing, relationship breakdown. The greatest impact has been on those already made vulnerable by circumstances, for example carers, those with existing mental health issues, people with disabilities, members of BAME communities and children and families with extra support needs.
Highlights for the voluntary & community sector
We found that:
- The sector has delivered an amazing response, including a rapid response in the early stages to deliver essentials and provide phone and online support.
- There are challenges around vulnerable service users, governance, funding, reopening, volunteers, training and IT.
- The first six months of the pandemic has taken a huge toll on staff and volunteers.
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Highlights for funders
We found that:
- Funders of many groups have been very understanding about the need to divert activities towards relief and support.
- Those groups unable to open due to the pandemic are facing real difficulties around delivering any kind of service.
- There has been a lot of funding diverted to Covid-19 relief, leaving those groups not delivering Covid-19 services in some difficulty in finding sources of funding.
- Groups are asking for simple funding application processes.
Highlights for statutory partners
We found that:
- VCSE groups made a huge contribution towards the pandemic response using their local knowledge and contacts to rapidly start deliveries of essentials and telephone/online support.
- The first six months of the pandemic has taken a huge toll on staff and volunteers, particularly on small to medium sized organisations.
- Funding and changes needed to adapt to working in a pandemic are huge challenges being faced by organisations already stretched and stressed by the emergency.
- New volunteers need to be recruited and all volunteers need to be trained to work in new circumstances (e.g. safeguarding and supporting people with mental health needs).
- Groups need extensive support around planning for reopening services.
In short, we learnt a lot about the crucial role of the local VCSE and lots that is valuable for the further challenges to come and for the long-term recovery and rebuilding we all wish to see.