“A strong sense of trust and community has been developed over the years and we are in touch with people who would not talk to anyone else or ask for help. For example we have already had to call 111 for a service user who is not well but ‘doesn’t want to bother’ anyone”.
Download the report
Fifty voluntary sector organisations responded to the Hackney CVS survey that we sent out on 18 March 2020. We also reached out to nearly 100 more organisations through our networks and online forums. We are hugely grateful to all those who took the time to give their feedback and insights during what are unprecedented times.
The results have provided us with a vivid picture of the impact on local people and the local voluntary and community sector organisations (VCS) that support them.
The purpose of this document is to respond to some of the issues raised, and to highlight to statutory partners what is happening in the sector and how it can help in the emergency as well as the support the VCS needs from them to facilitate a joined-up response. It will also help shape what Hackney CVS does going forward.
What is very clear is that there is generally a sense that there is limited time to get organised. Because of the onslaught of need and fast changing environment we need to use this time wisely to sort out key issues that have been raised.
What the survey found
Sector wide concerns
Almost all respondents noted a need to have clear guidance and information for residents on where to go for reliable and up-to-date information, and almost all respondents noted loss of funding as one of their top concerns – either through lack of revenue from service delivery e.g. venue hire/income from paid-for services or loss of grant funding. Some respondents stressed they may end up needing to close their services completely.
Loss of connections with other organisations and sources of information factored highly as a key concern, along with losing staff and volunteers. A high proportion had reduced demand on their services (it’s not clear if this a concern now or in the future due to the wording of the survey question). Some were concerned about being able to meet the demand on their services in the future. Working remote due to social distancing measures, not being able to have contact with service users and not having the necessary infrastructure to work remotely was a concern for a number of respondents.
The majority of respondents have needed to suspend their services – however some said they have been able to provide support remotely using online/telephone communications/entertainment parcels but for many others this hasn’t been possible. At the same time, most have reported a reduction in demand for their services, as clients/services users are being asked to self-isolate if they have been identified as ‘vulnerable’, or only leave home for essential activities. A minority report an increase in demand for their services, but being unable to meet this demand.
How organisations are adapting
The majority of organisations have closed their centres and stopped all face to face work. Many are adapting their services using technology, like digital drop-ins, and phone arounds to keep supporting clients. Some are offering support like online shopping. Larger organisations are also creatively adapting, e.g. Mind in the City, Hackney and Waltham Forest are offering broadcasts on mental wellbeing. Some are doing direct work, for example with homeless people, and, like Age UK East London, those recently discharged from hospital. The VCS organisations using these direct and indirect support routes are helping thousands of the most vulnerable people in Hackney.
At the same time, the newly created Mutual Aid groups are expanding in every ward and Hackney CVS and Volunteer Centre Hackney are working with them to link these networks with local VCS organisations. At this point Volunteer Centre Hackney are developing bespoke guidance on volunteering and brokerage for volunteers. Many community based-advice agencies are still offering a phone service and we have compiled a list of what is available in this document.
There is real concern about the ongoing ability to deliver practical support whilst having to socially distance. In addition, concerns about the demand on mental health services to support those needing to socially isolate and a lack of capacity to meet increased demand on services. There was an overriding concern about whether organisations will be able to survive the crisis, especially if social distancing goes on for a long time.