Greater intelligence sharing among charities is needed post-pandemic, says report

Charities and their community partners need to bolster intelligence-sharing and coordination at both a local and national level to improve responses to emergencies, according to a report into civil society’s support for communities during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The report also calls for collaboration that is built on a diverse range of voices that is reflective of society.

In addition, government needs to work closely with charities to increase their resilience and support wider recovery, according to the Lasting Connections report by the VCS Emergencies Partnership, which was set up in 2017 to coordinate community and charity responses to the Grenfell tragedy and other UK emergencies.

“Organisations should proactively seek greater coordination and intelligence-sharing at a local and national level, and be supported in doing so,” states the report.

“Preserving such structures while making them accessible to all is a collective responsibility.”

It adds: “Government should continue to work with civil society to ensure they are part of emergency response structures, local and national”.

VCS Emergencies Partnership programme director Jehangir Malik said: “Through the pandemic, the voluntary and community sector have united to help those who need it most by harnessing their collective skills, resources and insights in a way that is unprecedented.

“Despite this, sector capacity has been stretched to its absolute limits but public need is continuing to increase and diversify.

“Lessons must be learnt and now is the time to take stock of ways to ensure effective, relevant and focused emergency response for the future by ensuring local and national organisations are fully enabled to work together, and with government, to build more resilient communities.

“People are at the heart of this debate. This pandemic has highlighted the vital importance of listening to those who are most affected by emergencies and what we can learn from them.

“At the Emergencies Partnership, we’ve outlined recommendations for systemic change to ensure our country’s most at risk communities get the right support, at the right time in an emergency.

“We look forward to continuing to work closely with the government and other partners to make an ongoing, lasting and sustainable difference.”

The report details how during the pandemic 250,000 hours of additional emergency support was offered through volunteers and responses to tackling issues such as food poverty, vaccination and mental health. These “would otherwise have gone unmet”, said the Partnership.

Case studies of community support during the pandemic

The report also details examples of the work by volunteering and emergency response partnerships over the last year.

This includes the setting up of a befriending service to tackle loneliness among people on probation. This was carried out by Volunteering Matters, local groups and Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service. This launched in January this year and say the recruitment of 270 volunteers with more than 700 phone calls taking place.

Another befriending scheme was launched in Bradford to support victims of domestic violence. This involved Community Action Bradford and District with the Emergencies Partnership as well as Rotary in Yorkshire. This now has 80 volunteers to tackle isolation among this vulnerable group of people.

During the last year The Emergencies Partnership also worked with sector body the NCVO to advice more than 70 voluntary and community organisations on identifying gaps in Covid-19 vaccination take up. This included working with the homeless and Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities.

Meanwhile, the Lasting Connections report also details work by Leicestershire and Rutland’s Rural Community Council to develop mental health support in the region aimed at isolated rural communities.

Commenting on the report, communities minister Lord Greenhalgh said: “2020 will be remembered as an incredibly difficult year, but also as a year when communities supported each other; when many people took first steps to volunteering; and when the community and voluntary sector rose to the enormous challenges this pandemic has presented us with.”

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