Susan Smith on why SCVO is launching the #NeverMoreNeeded campaign to remind everyone how vital the voluntary sector really is
An email popped into my inbox the other day suggesting most of us are operating on the bottom rungs of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs pyramid (see below). It really resonated with me and helped me to come to terms a bit more with the ebb and flow of my lockdown fatigue and pervasive Covid-19 anxiety.
I started to think about how Scotland’s voluntary sector provides the foundations people need to move up the pyramid and why in my lifetime that’s been #NeverMoreNeeded.
Over the last few months I’ve still struggled to meet my family's physiological needs for food, clothes and sleep
Nearly two months ago, fearing how I would cope emotionally and practically in lockdown on my own with an 18 month old baby I packed up as much of my belongings as would fit in my car, fostered out the cat to a friend, and moved in with my sister. I have a picture of my wee girl on that first day standing in my sister’s back garden holding her dolly and looking like the little evacuee she had become.
That was the right decision for us, but over the last few months I’ve still struggled to meet our needs. I've found it difficult to get food, clothes and sleep; I've been worried about the physical health and emotional wellbeing of my family and friends; I’m unsure how secure my job really is; and I am scared of what a future of global depression may mean for my ability to provide a secure childhood for my wee girl.
One way I’m managing my stress and anxiety is to turn to the voluntary sector for support. I’m doing Paths For All’s Step Count Challenge to help push me to get out for a morning walk or run. Its 25-minute mindfulness walking track accompanied by the dulcet tones of Edith Bowman has helped me take a more meditative approach, which is a welcome change to listening to the news.
I’m not suggesting Covid-19 has been a leveller. We’ve all had the ground knocked from under us but those with the firm foundations of jobs, good health and a loving family will hopefully get through this unscathed. A growing number, however, are fighting not to be submerged in the quicksand. That’s why Scotland’s voluntary sector has had to step up in a way unseen during most of our life times – remember when we thought the Beast from the East was a big deal? The voluntary sector mobilisation to ensure everyone has had enough food during lockdown was described by one person I interviewed as the single biggest voluntary sector achievement ever – and as I write demand is still going up.
All the hard work that has gone into digitally upskilling voluntary organisations over the last decade has paid off. Digital service delivery that might have taken years to achieve, has been created overnight.
If I am ever to get to the top of the pyramid myself, I need to live in a society with a strong, well-resourced voluntary sector that offers help to us all when we need it most.
New structures and partnerships have leapt up. Staff have adapted to home working, have taken on new often front-line responsibilities, and in some case worked ridiculously long hours to ensure our society survives this crisis.
Meanwhile, individual organisations are facing their own fights for survival. Some are doing more work than ever before while others are finding their core purpose redundant in this strange new world. The sector, like all parts of society, is facing unheard of economic challenges.
Scotland’s voluntary sector has been #NeverMoreNeeded and never more stretched than it is right now. The personal and organisational impact of all of this is completely unknown, but it’s clear it won’t all be good or bad. Scotland’s voluntary sector is changing forever right now.
SCVO’s goal is to help create a voluntary sector that sits right at the top of the pyramid of needs – and just like most of us as individuals, we’ll keep working towards that goal even if we never achieve it in our lifetime. And that’s why we are backing the #NeverMoreNeeded campaign to tell this crucial part of the story of how Scotland dealt with and survived Covid-19.
We’ll be speaking to you about your experiences, the challenges you face and what you want society to look like as we come out the other end of this crisis. We’d also like you to use #NeverMoreNeeded to help tell your story in your own way too.
Like others who consider themselves lucky right now, I have donated more money to charity. I’ve done this partly because I can but also because I’ve realised how important it is to me to know those charities are there to support people that I can’t personally.
If I am ever to get to the top of the pyramid myself, I need to live in a society with a strong, well-resourced voluntary sector that offers help to us all when we need it most. We need it most right now.
Susan Smith is SCVO’s editor of news services.
Find out more about the Never More Needed campaign at www.scvo.org.uk/nevermoreneeded