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This story comes from north of the border but has many resonances across the UK. It highlights an important challenge and tells us:
Supermarkets have been urged to prioritise deliveries to rural communities during the coronavirus pandemic due to limited supply of food and essential items.
Kate Forbes, MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch, has written to a number of major chains to ask them to create more home delivery slots for those utilising online shopping.
Her efforts come after many constituents, some of which are elderly or fall into the “vulnerable” category, have been unable to secure a delivery spot for any period over the next three weeks.
Ms Forbes said: “Obviously, lots of vulnerable constituents are now dependent on home delivery for their shopping anywhere, but with the increased number doing so it means that delivery slots are disappearing very quickly.
“People are understandably panicking and contacting me because they don’t know where else to turn to for essential supplies.”
The Cabinet Secretary for Finance praised community initiatives that have been set up to provide support to all in the locality.
“I am immensely thankful for the number of big-hearted volunteer groups who have come to the rescue, by offering practical help by way of delivery the shopping themselves,” she said.
I am describing the impact of the coronavirus on the VCS as the un-virtuous triangle with the interplay of: greater demand for services, reduced opportunities to provide services and a reduction in funding and dedicated long term volunteers all adding up to the sort of pressure which is hitting bodies like Cancer Research. This article tells us:
The UK’s biggest cancer charity is cutting research funding by £44m because of a sharp fall in income and has acknowledged that the move could set back the fight against the disease for many years.
Cancer Research UK (CRUK), which funds nearly half of the cancer research in the country, said it was the most difficult decision it had ever taken but explained that it believed limiting spending now would enable it to continue to support life-saving research in the long-run.
The charity pointed out that a great deal of research into cancer had been halted because of the Covid-19 pandemic, but flagged up that its scientists and laboratories were being repurposed to help tackle the virus.
It said its shops had closed, mass fundraising events had stopped and legacies had reduced, meaning it expected its fundraising income to fall by at least 20–25% in the next financial year as a direct result of the pandemic – a reduction of around £120m.
It does seem that something as crucial as a clear national strategy has had too many twists and concerns to give us confidence that even now we are on the right track. Testing has to have a higher role in the mix of actions but I fear it wont…. This article tells us:
On 11 March, the day before Boris Johnson told the nation that the coronavirus sweeping the UK could no longer be contained and that testing for Covid-19 would stop except for the seriously ill in hospital, the head of No 10’s “nudge unit” gave a brief interview to the BBC.
At the time it was barely noticed – it was budget day, after all. With hindsight, it seems astonishing.
“There’s going to be a point, assuming the epidemic flows and grows as it will do, where you want to cocoon, to protect those at-risk groups so they don’t catch the disease,” said Dr David Halpern. “By the time they come out of their cocooning, herd immunity has been achieved in the rest of the population.”
It was a window into the thinking of the political strategists directing the UK response to Covid-19, who claimed to base what they were doing on scientific evidence. We would let the disease spread among the healthy. So no need to test.
If there was a moment when the UK turned its back on the traditional public health approach to fighting an epidemic, this was it.
Im not surprised by this story at all and Im very pleased people are keeping an eye on it as an issue. What is additionally troubling is the impact of rurality on people’s opportunities to manage their interactions with others. Conversely groups like farm workers are already very used to social isolation as a way of life! This story tells us:
More than 80% of young people with a history of mental ill health have found their conditions have worsened since the coronavirus crisis began in the UK, a survey has found.
Of the 83% who said the pandemic had made their mental health worse, 32% said it had made it “much worse” and 51% said it had made it “a bit worse”.
The survey was carried out during a period of immense change, between 20 March, when UK schools were closed to most students, and 25 March, when further restrictive measures had been put in place.
Among the respondents who were accessing mental health support leading up to the crisis – including from the NHS, school and university counsellors, charities, helplines and private providers – 74% said they were still receiving support and 26% said they were unable to access support.
Among those who could no longer access support, some said they had been affected due to the closure of schools, not being able to attend peer support groups or because face-to-face services could not be done online or over the phone. Others had been offered remote support but were concerned about privacy, access to technology or felt anxious about speaking on the phone or via video calls.
When the charity asked respondents what had impacted their mental health the most, the loss of routine and social isolation were the most commonly cited factors.
This is great news. I just hope that whole process runs smoothly and supports rural and urban places alike, taking account of the additional challenges, driven by remoteness that a number of rural dweller face. The story tells us:
People who volunteered to support the NHS in England during the coronavirus crisis are being given details of what tasks they can do to help.
More than 750,000 people signed up to join the "volunteer army" - three times the government's original target - to help relieve pressure on the NHS.
They will support 2.5 million people who are considered at risk.
The volunteers may have to deliver food and medicines, drive patients to appointments and phone the isolated.
The process is being managed through a mobile app called GoodSam, where health professionals, pharmacists, and local authorities can upload requests for help from Tuesday.
Thousands of approved volunteers can then pick which tasks they want to complete in their local area.
Volunteers switch their app to "on duty" to show when they are available.
Due to the huge response, the group of vulnerable people they will support in England was expanded from 1.5 million to 2.5 million.
The lockdown leaves us with little to report.
Seminar - We are running our first virtual seminar on mental health and well-being on Thursday (9th April) at 11 am. If you read this in time and send me an email I can send you a login. Speakers include the Lincolnshire Agricultural Chaplain, Jim Hume of Support in Mind and the National Centre themselves on their new project linking impact measurement and farm networks.
Parliamentary Inquiry - We have now completed the edits of the last session, which was on system development and health care delivery. Watch out for the minutes of the session which will be on the website in the next few days.
Rural Proofing Toolkit - Thanks to all those who responded to the call for case studies for the toolkit. These are currently being processed and will feature in due course.
Board Meeting - The next meeting of the Board is scheduled for 28 April and if you would like to look in on it we can connect you up as an observer via zoom.
Nuffield Research - Were looking to develop a new stage to our research on rural funding building on the very successful literature review undertaken for us by Nuffield last year. Watch this space for more details.
Hot off the Press - We have just finished working with colleagues in Lincolnshire on a survey about the impact of the coronavirus on the VCS sector. The results are chastening and tell us:
Current Financial Impact - Almost half of respondents have faced a major reduction to their financial capacity (50% or more) – this is likely to get worse over the next quarter.
Future Financial Impact - Over 80% of respondents have been substantively affected in terms of their capacity as a consequence of social distancing.
Impact of Social Distancing - Almost 75% of respondents feel that their clients will be very significantly or significantly affected by their reduced capacity.
Client Support - Two thirds of organizations feel that there is no other organization that will take up their clients.
Impact on Clients - is principally about the fact that services have been withdrawn from specific client groups. Where ongoing support for clients is planned this is almost exclusively through online and telephone support.
Additional Actions - include seeking digital solutions and in some cases having the capacity to deliver previously “hub” based activities through driving and deliveries.
Scope to Work with Others - some organizations identified that they had digital and phone capacity which could be used to help others and to network with others.
Current Needs - over 30 respondents identified a need for financial support. A proportion identified that their most pressing need will be subject to a time lag when the current pre-contracted activity comes to an end.
Increasing Capacity - financial resources were identified as the biggest factor, which could increase the capacity of the organisations concerned. Additional foci included a community of support for sharing ideas and more (PPE).
Wider Support Needs - strategic engagement with the sector was identified as a key factor.
Planning for Recovery - the provision of professional advice services for VCS bodies was identified. There were concerns that vulnerable groups will need focused and ongoing support. Help with restructuring and the development of formal recovery plans were both identified as important activities to prepare for a robust future.
We need more evidence from other settings like this and if you would like to put your area forward please let us know via Ivan.Annibal@roseregeneration.co.uk
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