By Dr Sarah Weakley, Research and Impact Acceleration Officer, Policy Scotland
Over the last three months third sector organisations and community groups have not only adapted to provide critical services in challenging environments, they have also been compiling and disseminating important evidence about their clients and their organisations. As we enter a new phase of this crisis and recovery, evidence from the sector about their priorities and needs is vital as governments and organisations make decisions about areas of focus in the coming months.
An important new resource for links to evidence about or created by the voluntary sector is SCVO’s new Coronavirus Evidence Library. It curates evidence from primary research done by third sector organisations about the people they serve and also includes evidence about how COVID has impacted third sector organisations.
I draw your attention to a few very useful pieces of evidence (catalogued also in the Evidence Library) that provide detailed overviews of the third sector at this time.
SCVO also published an evidence review in early June, Coronavirus and its impact on the Scottish voluntary sector – what do we know so far? (PDF) that brought together evidence from their own survey of members alongside existing work by organisations such as IVAR, ACOSVO, SCDC and many more. Key themes coming out of these surveys indicate that while March and April was about adaptation and crisis response, third sector organisations are now prioritising financial stability, adapting services in the longer term and ‘building back better’.
The evidence brought together in SCVO’s review highlights the increase in demand for services will likely not decrease in the coming months, with a real concern from organisations that they will continue to face a drop in income just as this demand spikes and many are concerned about closure. Importantly, this review highlighted that many organisations are also anticipating a post-lockdown demand for services – particularly those related to healthcare issues related to lockdown (e.g. untreated cancers, mental health), support for children and families in a likely new blended learning context, support for disabled people and youth work.
The Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) has recently published the findings of a survey of 4,800 representatives of charities on the Charity Register, gathering evidence from a large number of organisations that are representative of the sector. They published their headline findings in this summary report and found that half of charities had lost income from fundraising during this period and one in five (20%) reported that they would likely be unable to do the work they set out of do in the next 12 months. The respondents also indicated where they sought support and advice on operational issues and where organisations sought funding support in the period.
Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe) has recently produced a paper that summarises the responses to the Local Government and Communities Committee’s call to Third Sector Interfaces (TSIs) to submit views on the Scottish Government’s Third Sector Resilience Fund (TSRF). 17 TSIs responded to this call and feedback was provided on the application process, administration, level of support received from the TSRF and where TSIs think demand will continue to be high. The summary report is available via SpICe (PDF) where you can also read the TSI submissions in their entirety if you’re interested in a particular geographic area.
SCDC continues to be a valuable source of information about the actions and priorities of community groups during COVID-19. Early in the crisis they surveyed community groups on their priorities, run Communities Channel Scotland that highlights the work of local groups and provides guidance, and recently completed an evaluation of Foundation Scotland’s Response, Recovery and Resilience Fund of £1 million to 300 projects.
Finally, the Third Sector Interface Network in Scotland has published the results of their survey of over 1,000 organisations on the impact of COVID-19 on their work. Key findings detail some major funding concerns ahead: social enterprises in particular are feeling the strain in a reduction from trading, half of all organisations have seen a drop in fundraising, and 40% of voluntary organisations have furloughed staff they will not be able to keep on at the end of the furlough scheme. However, the results also detail how organisations have been adaptive in this period and the majority report that their communities are looking out for one another.
UK-wide reports from the community and third sector
A recent report from Locality provides evidence from over 100 community organisations in England who have mobilised during the crisis. This includes survey evidence and in-depth case studies providing new evidence about the functioning of mutual aid groups and how they have linked with public and private sector partners, how these groups built on existing strong relationships between community organisations, and how they are key sources of information about people in need in communities. As communities move from crisis response to longer-term support with increased demand for services, lessons learned from community organisations can inform recovery and transformation.
Finally, ACEVO recently produced a new report, Home Truths: Undoing racism and delivering real diversity in the charity sector, following their year-long Making Diversity Count project. In making this report ACEVO centred the experiences and expertise of over 500 BAME people who either responded to an online survey or took part in in-depth interviews. Those participating in the research shared their experiences of racism in the sector and also told us what they thought needed to change in order to create true culture change. The report lays out steps both to further open-up the charity sector to BAME people and to re-orientate charity work towards building a racially just society.
Please get in touch if you would like to share any new evidence, briefings and reports in the next evidence round up. While this round up is focused on the state of the sector itself, in the next week I’ll also be writing a round up of new evidence from organisations and academics about the ways that COVID-19 has impacted poverty and inequality and particular demographic groups. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
To cite this article: Weakley, Sarah. Evidence round up: Third sector impacts and looking ahead, Policy Scotland, 24 June 2020 https://policyscotland.gla.ac.uk/evidence-round-up-third-sector-impacts-and-looking-ahead
Written content is published under a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0 licence.