WCVA was among third sector stakeholders who have given evidence to the Equality, Local Government and Communities Committee on the impact of Covid-19 on the voluntary sector in Wales.
Chaired by John Griffiths MS, the panel included Ruth Marks, WCVA Chief Executive; Fiona Liddell of Helpforce Cymru and Noreen Blanluet of the Co-production Network for Wales.
Asked about the overall impact of Covid-19 on the sector, Ruth Marks noted the increased hardship of sector organisations, with significant losses financially. This, coupled with added uncertainty and the increased demand for services, has led to a decline in wellbeing of sector staff. Fiona Liddell noted the sector is trying to prepare for further austerity and requested that consideration is given to allowing organisations to carry funding across financial years. Noreen noted the need for a balance between top-down decision-making and community-led recovery from the pandemic. Fiona said that the volunteering infrastructure was being overwhelmed and unable to channel resources as quickly as it would like, while within primary care services, NHS protocols were not designed for quick administration of volunteers.
The panel were asked about the impact of new ways of working. Ruth noted the change in the drive to digital working, but added that one size does not fit all – indeed, digital doesn’t fit some people at all. Noreen said we need to be creative with all communication channels. They were then asked about the impact of the virus on existing services. Ruth commented on the number of UK-wide charities restructuring, often leading a reduction in employment or activities in Wales – lessening the sector’s voice and its ability to work with communities. Delyth Jewell MS agreed this was worrying.
Finally, on co-production, Noreen commented that those doing it pre-pandemic had mostly continued to do it well, while those who weren’t were unlikely to be doing it effectively now. She added that the pandemic seemed to have been used as an excuse in some cases to centralise power.
We also submitted some written evidence to the committee.
Ruth Marks later said: ‘We thank the Committee for inviting us to give evidence about the impact of the pandemic on sector services across Wales. The sector and volunteers are performing exceptionally well given the uncertain circumstances, continuing to deliver vital services to individuals and communities; however, it is vital that they are given the resource and support needed to continue to do so. WCVA will continue to engage with policy-makers and sector partners to ensure the voluntary sector’s voice is heard at all levels of government at this critical time.’