Day 3

This is part of a series of posts about what The National Lottery Community Fund is learning about Covid-19 from the communities, grantees and partners that we work with, and how we might respond, in both the immediate, short and longer term.

Read the statement from our CEO here about how we’re working with all our existing grantees to make sure they know we have their backs. And you can read the insights here from Day 1 and Day 2.

It’s a shorter post at the end of day 3 because we needed to spend some of the day consolidating what we’ve already learnt to start thinking about how we operationalise.

What’s happening in England, Wales, NI, Scotland

We spoke to colleagues in all four nations to hear from them about what they’re experiencing and hearing from grantholders. A huge amount of information is being continually gathered by them, but here’s a short summary of common themes across each of the 3 countries.

This week grantees across England, Wales, NI and Scotland are mainly all still in the stage of reacting to the situation as it develops. This has been largely cancelling events and removing staff from face to face contact and finding ways to still support people. For some, the ability to start to think proactively may start next week, but for now we were told that most were in no position to think about the future. As usual forms of contact stop, many are focussing on new ways of communicating with people, with specific attention paid to thinking creatively about how to keep in touch with vulnerable people, either via phoning them, connecting them with new people via phone, reaching out to existing networks (such as carers, pharmacies, local shops), writing letters, posting leaflets, local media and social media. As we’ve heard a lot, shifting to digital ways of working is a priority for people. There is a major need for flexibility and reassurance from funders that it’s ok to focus on immediate needs now and get back to whatever they were previously doing in good time. As one colleague said, “because a) it will take a long time for people to recover in every regard and b) we should probably rethink ‘usual’, given that this crisis has exposed all sorts of weaknesses in our social fabric.” As well as reassurance, some will look to us for positivity and good news of what’s happening and working well elsewhere. Of course there is real concern about what we can do to support jobs that are at risk, as well as providing resources for organisations/groups that are now financially unstable. Many of our grantholders work with the most vulnerable members of our society and we heard repeated concerns for specific areas of work that will be affected by household isolation rules, such as domestic violence and young people. There were also concerns for how this moment might put others at risk, such as rural communities.

Local grassroots community organising

We also continued to speak with external partners who shared useful insights on the groundswell of local grassroots community organising that has emerged and grown in the last week. We heard that much of this is rightly decentralised rather than centrally directed and so doesn’t need funding resources, however what might need funding resources is the need to connect all this action with existing VCS, food bank networks etc. Again, we heard how welcome a flexible funding approach would be, as well as longer-term rebuilding efforts for communities which will be a key part of longer term recovery and our civic / social infrastructure (and therefore where communities will lose out for the long term if these organisations fold). We were reminded of the need to focus on “high risk” people but also to acknowledge that all of us are or could be in need of support, and so we should focus on the universal community rather than taking a too targeted approach. In terms of places, we were left with the question, which kinds of communities and places are most in need of extra support? Response and attitudes to Covid-19 seem to vary significantly by place. What kinds of indicators would help us to understand this and target our response accordingly?

Extreme, complex and urgent needs

Many of our calls today discussed the different complex, extreme and urgent needs. These issues come from Refugee Action, the Refugee Council and Migration Exchange. Issues raised include:

  • The closure of essential services, such as drop-in centres, ESOL classes and outreach services. Organisations are redeploying staff and volunteers to cover key functions, testing and exploring online meeting packages such as Zoom and making sure key sources of information (guidance, contacts etc) are still accessible. Many are attempting to move their services online and working towards a range of remote working methods, many of which they are trialling for the first time. They are also starting to collaborate with local partners to ensure the whole local support system works effectively, sharing ways of working, triaging, signposting and external comms.
  • The are potentially fatal impacts on the elderly and those in poor physical and mental health. This is a particular challenge for those who have no recourse to public funds or in need of asylum support, as well as those at risk of destitution and homelessness. Specific risks include destitution and poverty, social isolation, risks of rises in race hate crime, susceptibility to misinformation, fear and panic.
  • Lack of budget or infrastructure for increased demand and new needs in a remote working context. For example, for interpreting, technology/kit/hardware and mobile phone infrastructure. Other challenges arising through trying to do this work remotely include limitations to effective case management systems, supporting and allocating tasks to staff and volunteers, connecting to networks and shared drives remotely, allocating destitution/hardship payments as well as food to the most vulnerable, providing hot food/food parcels, well-being of staff and volunteers, ensuring healthy working practices, and social isolation of beneficiaries.

Food

Food access is a particular issue that we are hearing mentioned a lot, especially in relation to food banks, food parcels and holiday hunger. Food Banks are struggling, both in terms of supplies and volunteer numbers. We are being asked if and how we might be able to support in this area. There is creative thinking occurring across the sector, for example we heard of a pub in Clydebank in Scotland adapting to the challenging circumstances by offering free breakfasts for schools, whilst Food Citizenship are exploring food resilience for times of crisis by looking across the country to “see how creative responses to Covid-19 are having an impact on food access, either supporting existing food poverty alleviation initiatives or creating new ones to combat empty supermarket shelves and overburdened food banks.”

A reiteration of wider opportunities

  • It was reiterated again from interviews today about the need for networked learning among charities and funders — sorting the information and channelling it appropriately as there is a tsunami of well intentioned, small-scale efforts.
  • Linked to the above is a need for a system-wide narrative response that is embedded and tells stories. In the short-term this should be about amplifying care, kindness, collectivism, compassion and interdependence but there is currently very little infrastructure to do this properly. This could include connecting popular culture institutions with a narrative system promoting care and interdependence e.g. as one person said “when restrictions are lifted that should be a key healing moment. Ultimately the big changes I think will be behavioural (e.g. home working) and telling those stories in a positive way will be critical to embedding them.”

Thank you to the following people and organisations for the conversations today — The Young Foundation, Unbound Philanthropy, Migration Exchange, a call with 90 foundations convened by ACF, And colleagues who are Directors and Heads of Funding in Northern Ireland, Wales, Scotland and England.

Thank you again to Melissa Ray for helping write this.

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