Scotland's voluntary sector has in some ways been thriving during lockdown, says Susan Smith, but what happens as lockdown lifts will shape the future. #NeverMoreNeeded
How are you getting on?” I asked the woman at the supermarket checkout the other day. “Oh, well, this is the new normal now, isn’t it”.
“No,” I replied. “It isn’t. There’s nothing normal about this.”
I could have gone into a diatribe of my issues with the phrase “the new normal” and particularly its misuse to describe life in lockdown, but that seemed a bit much for a Wednesday morning in Asda.
New SCVO research suggests half of charities are worried they will run out of money within six months
And, on reflection, as lockdown starts to lift, in some ways she’s right. Ten weeks on and many of us have got used to the privations of lockdown life – there’s even a sort of Stockholm syndrome fear of leaving the house. “I won’t be going to the hairdresser when it opens,” one friend said the other day.
As human beings we have a need for routine. I’ve seen this very clearly watching my toddler over the last few months. I’ve been really struggling with the mundanity of life, but she seems to quite like the focus of our Groundhog Day existence and is thriving despite not getting to go to the park or swimming or soft play or any of the myriad of fun things I had decided she needed before lockdown.
Watching the progress of the #NeverMoreNeeded campaign this month, I’ve also witnessed Scotland’s voluntary sector thrive on the focus that Covid-19 has given it. After the crazy days of the first few weeks when normal life and ways of working collapsed around us, there has emerged practical long-term solutions to work at home, to feed people in an emergency, to provide them with digital connections in their community and much more.
I’m writing this in the middle of Volunteers’ Week and to me there seems to be a shift in the tone of celebrations. One very moving example of this is a lovely video from Scouts Scotland featuring young people in lockdown thanking their Scout leaders. I sense a confidence within parts of Scotland’s voluntary sector that has come from recognising that it has been #NeverMoreNeeded and pride in its ability to respond to that need when it really mattered.
I’ll be banging down the door of my hairdresser when it reopens in phase 3
But as we start to come out of lockdown, there’s also a fear about what social challenges will emerge as people open their doors, and whether the voluntary sector will be able to provide the help Scots will need over the coming months. Our first #NeverMoreNeeded webinar, a Q&A with Scotland’s Cabinet Secretary for Communities Aileen Campbell MSP and Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations chief executive Anna Fowlie, saw people seeking answers on how to fund their organisations and ensure a role for the voluntary sector in Scotland’s recovery.
Three quarters of attendees who responded to a poll during the event said demand for their organisation had gone up and just over half were worried their organisation won’t survive Covid-19.
New SCVO research also suggests half of charities are worried they will run out of money within six months.
Over the next month #NeverMoreNeeded in Scotland will be exploring the financial impact of Coronavirus on the voluntary sector. We’ll be looking into how the sector is coping and what needs to happen to ensure Scotland’s voluntary sector safety net doesn’t start developing holes just when people need it most.
Like a lot of people, I’ve been thinking about how I can try to create a better balance in my life in the future – to keep some of the slower pace of life I’ve enjoyed during lockdown while taking advantage of the freedom I desperately crave. I sense that will become harder as the tug towards the old normal strengthens as we move out of lockdown – I’ll be banging down the door of my hairdresser when it reopens in phase 3.
But right now, perhaps more than ever before, we have an opportunity to reframe the old routines of our lives and our society and ensure we really do create a new and better normal. As Scotland’s frontline defence against a potential long-term social malaise after effect, Scotland's voluntary sector has been #NeverMoreNeeded. If you haven’t already, please join the campaign this month to tell your stories and discuss the future you’d like to see.
Susan Smith is editor of news services at the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations. Find out more about #NeverMoreNeeded