Research captures impact of COVID-19 and Voluntary Sector’s supportive response

A new report, funded by Public Health Wales, highlights how vulnerability emerged in Wales during the Coronavirus pandemic, and how the voluntary and community sector (VCS) played a critical role in tackling this challenge. 

VCS representatives across Wales participated in the research, sharing their experiences in identifying and responding to those most in need during the pandemic. The report highlights that vulnerability was quick to emerge, exacerbated when individuals were unable to access support from particular resources, services and local infrastructure. This included worsening mental health due to anxiety and loneliness, economic insecurity due to strained household finances and job loss, digital exclusion, and a loss of many face-to-face services.

The research highlights that the VCS has been pivotal in helping to tackle isolation and loneliness, and the consequences of digital exclusion.  

The report identifies seven core assets held by VCS organisations enabling them to rapidly and effectively respond to emerging vulnerability. These are: 

  • Knowledge and expertise held by staff and volunteers enabling rapid decision-making 
  • An holistic approach to understanding a person’s needs 
  • Being embedded in local communities and connected to local networks 
  • Collaborating and sharing information with other VCS organisations  
  • Volunteers and employees care, commitment and compassion  
  • Learning from accumulated past experience 

Dr Richard Kyle, Deputy Head of Research & Evaluation at Public Health Wales, said: “This report is unique in that it provides qualitative evidence on the links between emerging vulnerability during the pandemic and pre-existing health inequalities from the perspective of the voluntary and community sector.   

“It also highlights the importance of early identification of those who may be more vulnerable to the direct and indirect impacts of adverse events, related to health, environmental or economic crisis, which provides helpful insight around how we face future challenges. The report shows why preventative approaches to address vulnerabilities and longstanding underlying health inequalities remain key priorities for Public Health Wales.” 

Dr Daniel Jones, a public health doctor and researcher at Public Health Wales, who co-authored the report, added: 

“We must do all we can to recognise, value and sustain the unique assets offered by VCS organisations to identify and support vulnerability where it emerges.   

“As we move into recovery we hope that this work will help inform the health and social care bodies to plan and develop a co-ordinated approach that harnesses and values VCS knowledge, insight and practices – particularly flexibility, adaptability and localised responsiveness.” 

Click below for the full report:

Full report  

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