female carer cares for older woman in house

Post-COVID-19: health, social care and the voluntary sector

Published: 23/06/20 | Categories: Author: Jennifer Preston

WCVA recently co-hosted a forum with NHS Charity Awyr Las for organisations working in the health and social care sector to work out how funders could most effectively support the sector. Jennifer Preston summarises what was discussed.

Last week, we hosted a discussion forum with Awyr Las and Richard Newton Consulting for charities, local authorities, healthcare representatives and other not-for-profit stakeholders working in the health and social care environment.

The discussion aimed to identify learnings from the COVID-19 pandemic, to explore priorities for partnership working and investment priorities for NHS Charities Together COVID-19 Appeal (second grant round) funds in Wales.

NHS Charities Together

All the NHS Charities in Wales have received grants from NHS Charities Together to help fund immediate wellbeing for patients and NHS staff affected by COVID-19.

The next round of grants from NHS Charities Together will support strategic partnerships between NHS Charities and voluntary sector organisations to help medium- and long-term recovery and resilience.

The event aimed to gather information from the health and social care voluntary sector in Wales, specifically on how NHS Charities Together and other potential funders could most effectively support partnerships between voluntary, statutory and other agencies in Wales.

The discussion was chaired by Kate Young, Director of the All Wales Forum of Parents and Carers and WCVA trustee. The forum focused on these key questions:

  • Changing our approach through COVID-19: what worked and what was challenging?
  • The Covid legacy – what learning or different ways of working do we want to retain?
  • Priorities for development moving forward – quick wins through to policy changes

Changing our approach

The restrictions imposed because of national lockdown have presented opportunities for the health and social care sector to find new ways of working.

Some organisations have been able to keep connected to hospital partners by remotely joining discharge meetings to maintain discussions about supporting families and carers as well as patients.

Many health care workers have found that not travelling into hospitals for meetings has not only prevented the spread of infection, but also removed barriers caused by going to rural locations and allowed for more effective uses of their time.

A key aspect of work across voluntary sector health organisations has been supporting people in the shielded groups and maintaining their access to support groups.

There is a call for caution from health charities who work with disabled people, as the restrictions imposed for shielded groups has seen a return to a medical model for disabled people opposed to a person-centered social model.

There needs to be a focus on collaboration and inclusion to prevent this approach increasing further, which means including the perspective of disabled people at all stages and ensuring they are equal partners in their own care

And what about the shielded groups who are not being discussed? There has been a media focus on older people who are shielding, but there is a large cohort of people under 55 whose pre-existing health conditions have also required them to shield. There is a need to include this group within discussions to ensure they maintain access to healthcare and wellbeing support.

Equally there needs to be support available for BAME communities who experience access barriers to healthcare in ‘normal’ circumstances and have been disproportionally affected by COVID-19. Existing barriers such as transport and language support have been exacerbated because of the pandemic.

Voluntary organisations usually provide community transport to enable access to healthcare. However, there is a reliance on volunteer drivers who are over 70 which has resulted in a loss of workforce, along with social distancing rules significantly reducing the capacity of minibuses. When combined there is a question of how these services will be able to meet the increased need and keep people safe.

The NHS Charities Together COVID-19 Appeal demonstrated the public commitment to support healthcare and our healthcare workers. During the discussion, a concern was raised that the high-profile NHS fundraising campaign drew donations from smaller third sector healthcare organisations, who are now feeling the financial strain. This includes the individual health board charities who have also seen high percentage losses to their fundraising income.

To combat this and enable voluntary sector healthcare organisations to continue delivering vital services in the community, is there space to broker conversations between health and social care charities and the NHS, creating opportunities for co-funding and sustainable services?  Around one third of the money raised by NHS Charities Together COVID-19 Appeal will support collaborative projects (including with voluntary sector agencies).

The COVID-19 Legacy

Due to lockdown restrictions there has been a shift to delivering services online.

Some charities have reported an increased uptake and wider reach due to the removal of transportation barriers or impact of geographical distance.  While it is easy to focus on the success of many charities adapting to online service delivery there remains a wider problem of digital inclusion and access. There are still groups of people who do not have online access due to location, lack of income, lack of knowledge, by choice or other access barriers.

As services move towards online delivery, charities are faced with the challenge of ensuring all groups are included and able to access the services they need.

Some charities have chosen to deliver hard copy newsletters alongside online editions to combat this but highlight the extra financial burden for charities when resources are already stretched.

Volunteers

Volunteers have been instrumental in the national response to COVID-19 with an unprecedented number of people giving up their time to help their community.

At a local level, communities and Community Councils have taken the lead providing elements of social care including prescription deliveries and befriending schemes.

As lockdown eases it is important that those new volunteer groups who want to remain are integrated into the sector in a productive way which ensures there is not a duplication of services, and where groups wish to disband there is not a gap.

As a sector we need to consider: how do we maintain this level of engagement from volunteers and support action at a community level?

The Future

As we being to look to a world post-lockdown there is a call from the health sector for a greater focus on social prescribing to ease pressure from the NHS and support people within their communities.

For social prescribing to be successful there needs to be sustainable funding which ensures long term security for voluntary sector and community activity. Without this security it is difficult for the NHS to rely on the voluntary sector to support and alleviate the pressures in health settings.

There is a need to build on existing work around social prescribing and collect evidence from across Wales which demonstrates the impact of social prescribing across the healthcare sector.

The success of volunteer led activity has been largely due to co-production and co-delivery. There is call for coproduction to be supported at a strategic level to replicate this success; creating a stronger, more holistic healthcare service across Wales.

The need to respond urgently to the pandemic has resulted in a removal of red tape which would have previously delayed project development. The pandemic has shown that when needed bureaucracy can be removed, so how can we keep the red tape down and continue delivering new innovate services which are needed in our communities?

Next Steps

Richard Newton Consulting are creating a report, summarising the discussion and points raised during the event. All strategic healthcare and social care policy makers in the public and voluntary sector in Wales may use this report to inform decisions on planning and funding aimed at ensuring the medium- and long-term recovery and resilience of both the NHS and the voluntary sector in Wales. WCVA commits to sharing the report with relevant networks and contacts across the voluntary and statutory sectors.

WCVA and NHS Charity representatives in Wales will work together to keep charities in Wales informed about NHS Charities Together funding in Wales. Thank you once again to everyone who participated in the discussion.