Voluntary & Community Sector and COVID-19: we were built for this

Posted 06.07.2020

The voluntary and community sector has been a vital partner in ensuring that the most vulnerable are supported and protected. No one knows what we face in the future, but we are sure that we will continue to need many thousands of volunteers to support the shielded and vulnerable populations.
(Local Government Association LGA 2020)

One of the most striking positive impacts of COVID-19 has been the huge surge in volunteering. From the onset of the pandemic hundreds of thousands of people have come forward to support their communities.

Over the past months, we have witnessed unprecedented change: we have seen all street homeless people in hotels, organisations working alongside the councils in a way that has never been experienced before – a loosing of ‘red-tape,’ a truly collaborative response.  If this kind of thing is possible why did it take a pandemic to make it a reality?  And what next, do we go back to the norm of people sleeping in our streets? Or do we do everything within our power to make this situation never happen again by creating a new and improved “norm”?   To bring about sustained change, however, there is a need for additional funding to support infrastructure and other Voluntary and Community Sector (VCS) groups to deliver desperately needed services. VCS organisations have always had to be innovative in their approach whilst managing on very small budgets. Hopefully the tide is turning and VCS organisations will be able to access the funding they need.

Building Better Opportunities (BBO) programmes working alongside VCS organisations continue to demonstrate an innovative approach to supporting vulnerable people.  Being unable to meet people face to face has meant that services have had to work with people who have not yet been verified on this jointly funded ESF and National Lottery Community Fund programme.

During the pandemic BBO partners have set up regular meetings with those on the programme using phones, tablets or laptops.  However, lack of access to technology is a significant barrier for many vulnerable people.  Stakeholder Managers are working with councillors and employer focussed organisations to call for donations of unwanted IT equipment for distribution though VCS organisations to those in need.

Using techniques similar to BBO, wider Voluntary and Community Sector colleagues have adapted their approaches to support communities and key reports have highlighted the learning from this (follow links below to access the reports):

Locality: we were built for this – the report showcases the inspiring ways community organisations have helped us through the coronavirus crisis and sets out three practical ways the government can create the conditions for community power to flourish at a local level and make this the foundation of a fairer society after the crisis.

Lloyds Bank Foundation: charities responding to COVID-19 – impact of COVID-19 on charities.

Opportunity Nottingham – impact of COVID-19 on people who have experienced multiple disadvantages.

Making Every Adult Matter: flexible responses during the coronavirus crisis – highlighting the adaptations and flexibilities that have been introduced in local areas across England and how local areas might retain some of the positive flexibilities as the government moves to the next stage of the COVID-19 response.


BBO is having a significant impact on individual lives, supporting people to increase their confidence, independence and achieve their employment aspirations.

See what our participants have to say in these case studies …

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