Throughout the response to Covid-19, we have been, and continue to, work alongside our members, new and emerging groups, national initiatives and bodies, and our statutory services. This joint working has linked the extraordinary wealth of expertise held within the VCSE across all levels, and across systems.

In so doing, we’ve witnessed first-hand the enormous scale of the response by all sectors. We have been particularly struck by the collective strength and connectedness of the layers of the VCSE, working to and building on each other’s strengths, generously sharing expertise and resources with each other, and the public sector to ensure no one was left behind. The innovation, agility and resilience of our sector has been drawn upon, recognised, and highlighted through the lens of Covid-19.

Above all, this has been possible because of the passion, commitment, dedication and sheer determination of staff and volunteers across our sector doing ‘what we do’, ‘setting aside team identities’ and working tirelessly to deliver what has been needed. Thank you!

How the VCSE sector responded to the Covid-19 pandemic

This report has been informed by the online survey we launched in June 2020 to enable us to learn how the VCSE responded in the initial months of the Covid-19 pandemic and to explore the opportunities and learning that might inform the development of future working. 174 responses form the basis of this report and we were able to undertake a quantitative analysis of closed questions and a thematic analysis of over 600 qualitative comments.

The key message

The key message coming through the sectors response is that the VCSE sector has helped save lives, reduced loneliness and isolation, and complemented the provision of statutory services, thus preventing the ‘system’ from becoming overwhelmed with ever increasing need. The desire for continued closer working and collaborative approaches with local systems as our communities, economy and statutory services recover from the pandemic and to address the wider entrenched inequalities within our society was most strongly felt.

“There has been a flexibility and relaxation of bureaucracy during the initial emergency COVID response which has set up relationships and discussions which were previously inaccessible to VCSE. There is a temptation to return to ‘normal’ and find stability in familiar structures which should be resisted. The new reality is one of increased need, budget gaps and funding issues but that should be resolved by more interaction and more open exploration of what is possible. The positive developments during COVID of new ways of working and flex are the only way to create a better response to the need and challenge which is coming.”

Community Works calls on its partners within the VCSE, our statutory services and the private sector to work with us and each other to develop actions that urgently tackle the priorities identified within this report.