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Agenda item 2 - Covid-19 recovery: communities workstream

 

Chief Executives' Group - North Yorkshire and York

Covid-19 Recovery - Communities Work Stream Update

17 September 2021

 

Purpose of the report

1.      To update the group on current key community impacts and a steering response from the Task Subgroup Chairs whilst also responding to the questions set by the Chief Executives at the last Recovery Co-ordination Group.

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Background

2.      In early summer 2020 the NYLRF Recovery Co-ordination Group established this work stream alongside others to plan and deliver regional recovery actions relating to Debt/Poverty, VCSE sustainability, Volunteering, Community Capacity and Bereavement.  Three task subgroups were established to deliver an agreed set of objectives and the Chairs of the Group meet on a regular basis to review progress, emerging priorities, joint themes, issues and risks. Following the ending of the third lockdown and latter stages of the government’s roadmap the Bereavement Subgroup was subsumed into the VCSE Subgroup given the common impacts (e.g. isolation, access to support and information).

 

3.      As impact assessments and actions were first agreed following the first lockdown in 2020, the Chairs have undertaken a range of impact reviews reflecting that they could be greater and different in another 15-18 months’ time, requiring a difference response.  These inform the answers below:

  • How well is North Yorkshire and York recovering?
    • Work stream chairs agree and this was confirmed by feedback from the Debt/Poverty Group particularly, that many partners are still operating in response mode – dealing with families and individuals struggling with the impacts of the pandemic whether new of deepening debt issues (food and fuel poverty and housing impacts), digital exclusion, mental health, and isolation.
    • The original timescale for work across the work streams was estimated at 2+ years.  This was after the first lockdown, which started late March and was eased in June 2020.  Three lockdowns later we are definitely looking at a medium to longer term recovery process although this will be aided by strong economic recovery.
    • Community First Yorkshire and York CVS have made use of a Yorkshire and Humber wide survey to track the impact and needs of VCSEs as Covid-19 progressed and Government policy on support and lockdown changed.

 

  • The messages from the most recent survey undertaken in May and June 2021, are summarised:
    • Whilst the sector is still reporting challenges the overall picture in North Yorkshire is more positive than the previous two surveys, in April and October 2020. 
    • Most organisations have demonstrated the resilience to survive, maintain services through agility and adaptability, and/or accessing government and other grants.  What the survey does not tell us is what proportion of organisations has ceased to operate.
    • Some organisations have thrived, in so far as Covid-19 has given them time to rethink and refocus their service, better understand their users and community and adapt to new or different demands. For some, this has also meant an increase or change in volunteer profile.
    • Confidence is greater than it was previously, to restart and reopen services, but sustained guidance to help all VCSEs reopen safely, in tune with service users’ anxieties to return, is needed along with continued flexibility, as funders have exhibited throughout. 
    • The proportion of organisations at medium to high risk, of struggling to financially sustain beyond 6 months, is lower than in October 2020 and in May 2020.  Reflecting to some extent the stability which the Government funding local authority grants have provided over the past year.
    • Organisations have introduced additional support arrangements for their staff during the pandemic, and the importance of more engagement with paid and volunteer teams is noted, and is an important part of improving the resilience of the sector.
    • Digital exclusion faced by VCSE service users has not gone away. Around half of the respondents saw this as a remaining challenge, requiring sustained, co-ordinated support to overcome the barriers for accessing IT and their ability to use technology. 
    • Use of support or advice, continues to be important and has grown from about 75% last year to around 85% currently.  This reflects the need for somewhere to turn when organisations need to know how to close and reopen, adapt and change their services.  Local authorities and infrastructure support organisations such as York CVS and Community First Yorkshire, were among the top sources of support.  Sustaining responsive support services and contact between these support providers to provide combined packages of support continues to be important to the sector.

 

  • Collaboration and closer working across VCSEs has been evident, and further collaboration between the VCSE sector and local networks has increased in importance as groups have sought to make sure they are providing the required mix of services or referring people to complementary services to provide what they need.
    • The sector has identified positives reflecting the work for which VCSEs have been increasingly recognised for. 
    • Planners and funders are asked to maintain the flexibilities and outcomes based approach they have taken to funding throughout the pandemic period.
    • Overall, the sector is noted for having retained their locally orientated work, shown responsiveness and has been encouraged to celebrate the all that has been achieved – the spirit of unity and kindness, commitment of staff and volunteers, new ways of working, creativity, adaptability and agility.

 

  • Where and for whom is recovery not happening (with a focus on equality, diversity and inclusion issues)?

Key groups affected are:

    • Those already suffering from exclusion and difficulties prior to covid;
    • Those on the edge of support e.g. those with hidden disabilities and mental health challenges;
    •  refugees;
    • feedback from the Debt/Poverty impact assessment: People with disabilities, people with mortgages, EU nationals, physical impact where not a disability, self-employed staff taking on more debt; 
    • With regard to impact on any other communities with protected characteristics – further work is planned from the Chairs’ Group data review (see below).

 

  • What still needs to be done and how can this be progressed through multi-agency partnership?
     
  • Continued best practice sharing (information and case examples).
  • Mutual support in terms of sharing experiences and networking at challenging times for all partners.
  • Consolidation of data and gap analysis (under way) to inform further work plans.
  • Development of regional outcome measures for key areas of focus for the sub group work.
  • Review of recovery language making the shift to looking at delivery and measurement of outcomes e.g. poverty how has someone moved out of poverty and how have we worked together to help them? 

 

Recommendations:

4.      The Chief Executives’ Group to discuss and agree the following:

•    to note the ongoing impact assessments, initial conclusions and responses to the previous questions set;

•   for the Chairs’ Group to return to the November meeting with the results of the data/gap analysis and conclusions, and any further recommended regional recovery activity within the Communities Work stream;

•    for the Chairs’ Group to bring back the outcome measures that will be reported back to this Group on an agreed basis.

 

Pauline Stuchfield                            City of York Council           

Margaret Wallace                             Ryedale District Council

Jane Colthup/Caroline O'Neill       Community First Yorkshire

Marie-Ann Jackson                          North Yorkshire County Council