Written by Lucy Gilbert, our Head of Policy
A preliminary report has been released of research led by Black South West Network (BSWN), with support from VOSCUR and Locality. The findings highlight the Bristol voluntary sector’s response to Covid-19, its current needs and hopes for the future.
This first phase of the eight month research project has shown that the Covid-19 crisis has worsened existing inequalities, with mental health, digital exclusion and financial insecurity among the key issues facing communities today. Respondents from the voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) sector have also shared their concerns around access to secure funding, the increased demand placed on their services, and the need to adapt to rapidly changing safety requirements.
Similar challenges and opportunities across our region
While the BSWN report focuses on organisations in Bristol, the recent State of the 3rd Sector Report from infrastructure organisation 3SG in Bath and North East Somerset paints a similar picture, with the main concerns reported being pressure on services, long-term funding, staff wellbeing and the mental health of our communities.
The findings of BSWN’s report also highlight the opportunities the sector is now seeing for positive change. These include building on and increasing the fantastic partnerships and collaborations we have seen between organisations, and across the public, private and third sectors; and a renewed focus on ensuring that we emerge from the crisis with a society that is much more inclusive, especially for people who have been disadvantaged and for those who have been most affected by the pandemic.
A shared vision for the future
The insights this research has generated are supporting and feeding into the work Quartet Community Foundation initiated earlier in the year, identifying a shared Recovery Proposal for the VCSE sector. This £30m recovery plan suggests four main strands on which to focus support for our community sector to ensure its strong recovery. These are:
1) immediate funding to stabilise the sector and support its critical work, for both Covid-related support and for the vital work groups do that isn’t eligible for Covid-related funding
2) strengthening infrastructure and key community organisations
3) supporting groups facing existing and new discrimination and disadvantage, including black, Asian and minority ethnic communities, women and disabled people, and paying particular attention to where people face multiple, intersecting disadvantages
4) and finally, support for building on the community cohesion and volunteering work that we’ve seen blossom during the pandemic.
We are already working with our fund holders, with community organisations and leaders to consult on, refine and action this plan. This initial research shows that we are moving in the right direction and we look forward to seeing the final results, which will focus on the VCSE sector’s vision for the future.
Jointly funded by Power to Change, Bristol City Council and Quartet Community Foundation, the BSWN research project is overseen by a strategic partnership of organisations chaired by Deputy Mayor Asher Craig.