How our sector needs supported in the current crisis

7 Apr 2020 Geoff Nuttall    Last updated: 21 Apr 2020

Our recent Covid-19 survey reveals the support needs of voluntary and community organisations in the current crisis

To help inform NICVA how we can best support voluntary and community organisations in the current crisis, our recent Covid-19 survey has gathered information on the immediate support needs organisations are identfying.  This article gives an overview of the needs being identifed, which we seeking to address both directly through our own support services and in our calls for government and others to act where they can.

Organisations are seeking advice and guidance in the following areas –

  • Advice on funding and financial support/management
  • Advice on using digital technology 
  • Advice on meeting specific support needs (for particular groups)
  • Advice on managing operations

Financial

Survey respondents indicated they were seeking advice and guidance on achieving existing funders’ outcomes and on dealing with cuts.  Organisations are also seeking advice on sources of funding that can be accessed in the current crisis, including on government financial packages for social enterprises.  Other finance-related advice being sought included: information on how the crisis will impact on commissioned contracts; impacts on volunteer insurance; how to pay suppliers and staff when multiple signatories are required; how to deal with landlords with regard to rent payments; and how to access 80% salary costs.  Clarification was also sought on whether Charity Commission deadlines will be extended if accounts cannot be signed off.

Digital

Organisations are seeking a range of advice and guidance on using digital technology including: copyright issues with using digital platforms; digital learning for adults and young people; online training/confidence building on MS Teams; virtual platforms; and provision of software.

Meeting specific support needs (for particular groups)

Advice and guidance was also sought on how best to: engage with vulnerable groups so they do not become socially isolated; secure shopping windows for older (75+) vulnerable people, and providing mental health support in the aftermath of lockdown.

Operational Advice

Advice and guidance was sought on the following operational issues: working from home; access NI checks; GDPR; classification of “essential workers”;  classification of essential workers; public/private transport; and measures to support recovery in aftermath of lockdown e.g. phased working, risk plan to prevent Covid-19 returning in future.

Other Support Needs

In addition to advice and guidance, organisations also identified a range of immediate support needs in the following areas:

  • Funding/Financial Support
  • Volunteers/Equipment
  • Housing/Property
  • Communication/Collaboration

Funding/Financial Support

The need was identified for flexibility from existing funders in meeting outputs and targets and for new funding to address cash flow and prevent the closure of organisations.  Calls were made for clarity on new funding packages, as well as support to deliver work directly related to Covid-19.  A specific call was also made for funding to allow vulnerable people to obtain free internet to help access crisis support.

Volunteers/Equipment

In relation to volunteers, organisations identified the need for: younger volunteers to get groceries for those in isolation; volunteers for pet food deliveries and support for those who are unable to care for their animals; support for long term international volunteers; access to free coaching/support for leaders; and support in relation to Access NI checks.  In relation to equipment, organisations identified the need for: community donation of second-hand smart phones and sims; IT solutions/support and costs; and training on online systems that can help e.g. Zoom, social media

Housing/Property Issues

In relation to housing/property, the need was also identified for support for charitable private landlords who have no recourse to public funds and for rent relief/support

Communication

In relation to communications, organisations identified a need for improved communication from statutory bodies; and updates from NICVA providing guidance, best practice ideas, and providing answers to questions and concerns.  There was a call for joined up/coordination between umbrella agencies and avoiding overlap in the provision of services and advice.

NICVA is seeking to respond to these findings both through our own direct support services to the sector, and by calling on Government and others where appropriate to act where they can to meet these identified needs.

geoff.nuttall@nicva.org's picture
by Geoff Nuttall

Head of Policy and Public Affairs

[email protected]

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