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COVID-19 crisis breeds innovation in Welsh voluntary sector

Published: 24/04/20 | Categories: Author: Judith Stone

Judith Stone provides some examples of how voluntary organisations in Wales are adapting and rising to the challenges of the pandemic.

In the first days of reacting to the COVID-19 outbreak, I blogged for WCVA about how charities can keep doing good during social distancing.

As further protective measures and limitations have been put in place, households are adjusting to the ‘new norm’, and the immediate threats to financial sustainability for individuals and organisations are sinking in. Amidst this otherwise bleak outlook, volunteers, voluntary organisations and philanthropic endeavours are emerging and shining out! Crisis certainly breeds innovation in our sector.

This blog highlights just a few examples of how voluntary sector organisations in Wales are truly rising to the challenge and adapting how we do business to support the most vulnerable through the COVID-19 outbreak.

Volunteering 

The 19 County Voluntary Councils (CVCs) across Wales are key partners for local authorities and other public bodies at the forefront of organising local voluntary action, keeping people connected within their communities and helping the most vulnerable to access essential services.

Volunteers and organisations seeking volunteers to respond in the COVID-19 emergency can register at the Volunteering Wales national platform.

Mental health 

‘For us at Mind Cymru, and for the other mental health charities in Wales, we can see that this is most certainly a physical health crisis. But it is also a considerable test of our ability to continue to provide information, support and compassionate care for people in psychological distress and ill health. People who experience severe or long-term mental ill health are doubly vulnerable.

‘Firstly, because many are in poor physical health with an average life expectancy that is 20 years less than the general population. Secondly, because of the closure and re-direction of much of the support they rely on in the community. Add to that the unprecedented levels of anxiety and distress that the general population is, understandably, experiencing and it means we have had to react quickly.

‘Many Local Minds have been providing therapeutic and wellbeing support over the phone and Skype. We have increased our information provision with rapid development of content on looking after your mental health at this time – for adults and young people. We are also making sure that more people can use Elefriends, Mind’s on-line peer support platform, and are able to get advice from our Info Line.

‘I have never seen the third sector move so quickly. Colleagues at Samaritans Cymru, Hafal, Platform, the Mental Health Foundation and many more are working together and with Welsh Government to make sure that people with mental health problems are not forgotten and that we are here for the future as well as now.’

Sara Mosely, Director, Mind Cymru 

Homelessness 

‘At The Wallich we don’t have the option to close, nor do we want to. For as long as people need us we’ll be there. We have developed a critical services delivery plan and have classified 24 services as critical. We will continue to provide vital food, information and reassurance to those people still sleeping rough on the streets.

‘Our 400-strong specialist staff team and their dedication and commitment to do “whatever it takes” ensures that these services are still running, still supporting people and will remain operational for as long as it takes. We cannot thank our staff enough for their resilience, bravery and fortitude.

‘We’ve seen an outpouring of support from the community, businesses, local authorities and the Welsh Government. Heroic efforts in unprecedented times.’ 

Lindsay Cordery-Bruce, Chief Executive, The Wallich 

The Pituitary Foundation 

‘As a health charity, The Pituitary Foundation has a big role currently in providing support and reassurance to our beneficiaries (people who have, or are affected by, conditions of their pituitary gland), and so our priority should be first and foremost doing all that we can to provide the best care and support for them, using any method we can.

‘For me it’s a critical time for building stronger relationships with everyone – your staff, volunteers, beneficiaries, supporters and members.

‘You can do this using technology – more regular ebulletins, Twitter chats, online meetings and events etc. It’s a chance to try new things and to use your social media channels to create interesting online content, to engage your audience and build a strong following during a time when people will be digitally tuned-in more than ever. Personally, I think video and telephone calls are key – people need human contact, to hear a voice and see a face.’

Menai Owen-Jones, Chief Executive, The Pituitary Foundation 

Citizen’s Advice 

‘In these really unprecedented times, people are turning to us at Citizens Advice to understand how all the changes will affect them. We are responding by shifting as much of our provision immediately to remote phone-based advice as we possibly can. Things are changing daily, but this is our first big change. We want to work with partners across the sector to make the next series of changes, as we believe this is something we must do together to have the greatest impact.’

Rebecca Woolley, Director Citizens Advice Cymru 

Diverse Cymru

‘For our communications, it’s all about fundamentally understanding the people we are communicating with, anticipating confusion, and providing clear, positive messages to our service users. Social good for charity communications is all about clarity and making public information make sense to our audiences.’

Joe Stockley, Communications Lead, Diverse Cymru 

What are you doing during this crisis? 

WCVA will continue to share stories from the sector to demonstrate to government and funders the vital work that voluntary organisations are undertaking to address the COVID-19 emergency.

These groups continue to support the most vulnerable in our society, and to help reduce the demand on the public sector. A healthy and vibrant voluntary sector is needed not just for today’s crisis, but also for years to come.

Please get in touch with the team if you have something to share – news@wcva.cymru.