The voluntary sector’s is Never More Needed to help people manage life in Scotland's second lockdown
Happy new lockdown! Once again, my wee girl and I have evacuated to a small town in central Scotland to be close to family for childcare reasons. We fled the plague infested city only to discover that the small town in question is experiencing a Covid outbreak, rumour has it caused by Christmas Eve revellers.
So far, despite our weekly supermarket trip and occasional solitary venture to the ice rink that will hopefully soon revert to a playpark, we’ve remained infection free, so now we just have to sit tight and await the vaccine like everyone else.
Despite the déjà vu nature of this lockdown, it does feel different. In March last year, I felt overwhelmed by the enormity of packing up our belongings and leaving our home not knowing when we would return and what was to come.
This time around, it feels less apocalyptic and just part of life with Covid, it feels manageable somehow.
I’ve noticed colleagues across the sector also seem to be more relaxed about the new lockdown measures. Social distancing processes that have been developed and honed over the last 10 months can be rolled out easily, and remote support ramped up. Food distribution also seems to be less of an issue this time. One community group I spoke to this week said its kitchen wouldn’t be needed, but additional staff might have to be pulled into the rota for wellbeing calls as people struggle with isolation.
And this is the crux of the issue. As the hope that this lockdown will be over by February melts faster than the Christmas ice and snow, it’s our mental fortitude that is really being tested.
As a parent, I don’t feel any more capable of providing full-time entertainment for my two-year old than I did last year. In reality, I have even less energy to do so, so inevitably she’ll watch more TV.
My heart goes out to people who are struggling with much bigger challenges, such as their own mental or physical health issues, caring responsibilities, unemployment and money worries. Many of them will be very dependent on support from voluntary organisations for connection, respite and care.
I think it feels like the difference between an acute infection or a chronic condition. The first is painful, perhaps immediately life-threatening and obvious to everyone, but once you’re on the road to recovery, you are able to put it behind you. With the second, often the only thing you can do is manage it, knowing its insidious and often invisible persistence has a far bigger impact on your overall wellbeing.
This month, the National Lottery Community Fund released research to show that the general public appreciates that the community and voluntary sector is never more needed. An impressive 37% of people feel more connected to their community than before the pandemic, and nearly a third say they plan to do more to help. Their key ambitions are to help reduce loneliness and isolation, support mental health, help the local economy and help people to live healthily and well.
This is heartening for voluntary organisations facing what feels a bit like an insurmountable fog covered mountain ahead. People want to help and they will do so by giving their time, money and goods to your organisations. These are the people with the power and influence to get us through this.
Sadly, recovery from societal long Covid is going to be a lot harder than we thought it might be last summer when we prematurely celebrated our remission. However, the voluntary sector is doing a great job in managing this condition and helping people to cope as best they can.
I’m grateful to live and work in a society in which so many people are willing to help each other when they need it most. It gives me hope.
I’m also grateful for the days getting slowly longer, the ice beginning to melt, and the Public Health Scotland website which shows me that infections in my neighbourhood are going down again.
Things will be easier in the spring – they always are.
Susan Smith is SCVO's campaigns manager. Visit www.scvo.org.uk/NeverMoreNeeded to find out how you can get involved in the Never More Needed campaign.