- It’s not been a great year, has it?
But the charity sector has been hit harder than most, with many facing funding gaps as government grants and individual donations dried up in the midst of the pandemic.
But despite this, we continue to hear stories about how charities have gone above and beyond for their service users, adapting their practices so they can continue to be accessible to those most vulnerable.
We wanted to know more, so we got in touch with some of our charity partners to find out more about how they’ve adapted their services in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
These are just some of their stories…
Sandwell Council for Voluntary Organisations
Sandwell Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) is a membership organisation that supports and represents voluntary, community and social enterprise organisations in Sandwell.
Stuart Ashmore, Operations manager and Deputy CEO from SCVO, reflects on how the local voluntary sector responded to the pandemic.
Stuart said: “The creativity and resilience shown here has been first class. There have been so many examples of community organisations thinking on their feet to continue to support their communities and others.
When COVID-19 hit the UK in March, it brought an instant shut down of community organisations and centres that had been delivering much-needed community services and activities here in Sandwell. As doors closed to the physical world though, many organisations took the step of adapting their delivery to move services online. The imagination, resourcefulness and innovation at the height of the lockdown just goes to show the creativity and resilience of organisations, residents and service providers here in Sandwell.
‘Pop-up’ COVID-19 support groups appeared almost overnight at a very local level, and an army of over 700 COVID-volunteers came together to lend a helping hand to support those most at risk.”
These services included, amongst others, new telephone befriending services, ‘Zoom cafés’ and the development of ‘meals on wheels’ for those most in need and vulnerable.
“SCVO, too, has adapted quickly to the changing environment. Working from home, the staff team has learned a whole host of new skills (mostly digital) to take our support services online. We run virtual ‘meet the funder’ events, virtual training workshops and networking sessions (bringing organisations together to share with and learn from each other). All of this is in addition to our regular support services, which we continue to deliver remotely (and face-to-face where restrictions allow), helping people to turn their ideas into reality.
Whilst the road to recovery is still something of an unknown quantity, the message from across Sandwell is loud and clear – groups are wanting to ‘bounce back’ stronger, ensuring the new connections made during lockdown are retained, nurtured and built upon in order to harness the volunteers that came forward and further develop the creativity that was born during the pandemic. SCVO is confident that with collaborative working and organisations all pulling together we can overcome these challenges supporting residents across the borough with much-needed services when it matters the most.”
During the pandemic, Snowdrop Project - a charity that provides long-term support to survivors of human trafficking - has strived to provide practical support to their service users despite the challenges of lockdown. This has included tasks such as doing clients weekly shopping, collecting their medication, and helping with topping up utilities.
Denise Lawrenson from Snowdrop Project said “this support was crucial especially for single mothers with children who struggled to get out and for clients who worked on zero-hour contracts, leaving them with no income.”
But aside from this, Snowdrop Project were also determined to come up with new ways they could support their service users beyond just offering a day to day helping hand.
Denise said, “one of key challenges during this period has been supporting clients with their mental health and wellbeing. COVID-related anxiety, isolation and the fact that all services essentially stopped exacerbated client’s mental health difficulties. Case workers increased support for these clients by offering to go on walks, doing Zoom calls, liaising with GP’s and the enhanced mental health services. We allocated befrienders where appropriate to provide additional emotional support. The team offered support around parenting for single parents, by providing colouring books and tips on what resources to access online. Clients really valued having their tablets which enabled them to remain connected. Over the last few months virtual baking, sewing and English classes have been set up so clients can still access some groups and feel connected with others while learning some new skills.”
Fair Shares Gloucestershire
Despite the early challenges of lockdown, Fair Shares Gloucestershire – a community-based two-way volunteering project - very quickly adapted to the needs of the community during the pandemic by delivering food, home-cooked meals and providing general support to the lonely, isolated and/or vulnerable people of Gloucestershire.
In fact, Fair Shares have helped over 551 people during the pandemic and delivered over 8,300 meals!
Sue Martin, Chief Executive of Fair Shares Gloucestershire, said “we received referrals from local schools, typically for single mothers whose partners could no longer support the family because they had lost their jobs during lockdown. Families were also struggling because of the competing pressures of home schooling, and everyone being confined to the house - often without access to much outdoor space culminating with difficulties around meal time.”
And it’s clear the impact that such services can have on families, with a school family support worker feeding back that “being able to provide the family even one meal a day would ease tensions within the family, relieved the stresses of dealing with all the differing demands which in turn would make a happier home for the children.”
Protecting your charity
No matter what activities your charity is currently running or whether your staff are working from home, it’s still important to make sure you have the right charity insurance in place - both to safeguard your charity’s income and fulfil your legal requirements.
With over thirty years’ experience and over 3,000 not-for-profit customers in the UK, we work with market-leading insurers to provide competitive coverage, expert consultation and specialist advice for charities, community groups and not for profit organisations.
Stay up-to-date with the latest COVID-19 guidance by visiting the government website.