Norfolk VCSE and the Future

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This document is part of a series of papers looking at the role of the voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) sector in Norfolk over the Covid-19 period, the impact of the pandemic on the VCSE sector and our beneficiaries and initial thinking about future direction and strategy.

You may also like to read the Norfolk VCSE Covid-19 Intelligence - Snapshot Report to understand some of the key issues effecting the VCSE sector.

This paper is focused predominantly on the health and social care arena. It is structured around the headings of “adopt”, “adapt” and “abandon” as we seek to take learning from our Covid-19 experiences and embed this into future planning. It is important also to note that we are in a transition period and it is likely our thinking and learning will develop as we engage with partners to co-design our shared future.

Download the Report

Key Points

  • Collaboration and change at pace

Covid-19 saw some great examples of a more rapid development and adoption of new initiatives and a step change in the level of operational collaboration. Being agile and collaborative is something we want to hold onto.

  • Digital

Digital adoption and home working were rapidly accelerated. This has created some really positive opportunities. It has however left a percentage of people significantly excluded. Grasping the digital opportunity whilst addressing digital exclusions are important areas of priority.

  • Changes in funding

Many funders were highly flexible throughout Covid-19 pandemic. This approach of ‘do what you need to do’ and ‘we trust you to respond to the needs of your community’ enabled the sector to be more responsive and efficient. The sector has some significant challenges in the way that it is resourced. The Covid-19 pandemic has only intensified these. A sustainable model for the system is only possible if these challenges are addressed.

  • Pro-active model of support

During Covid-19 pandemic a number of initiatives focused on pro-actively contacting people who are likely to be vulnerable, asking them what they needed and working to meet those needs. This is the essence of a person-centred preventative approach and this is something we need to see evolve to work systemwide.

  • Role of volunteers and the community

The Covid-19 crisis saw the largest upswell of volunteering activity in a lifetime. This created a huge opportunity as well as a series of challenges. The community response was essential during the Covid-19 crisis. Without it many services would not have been able to cope with demand. In addition, by and large the more top-down the approach the less effective it was in mobilise volunteers. Bottom-up solutions thrived during the Covid-19 crisis. This is a significant lesson for anyone seeking to harness the power of the community going forward. 

  • Full system working is as important as ever

The Covid-19 crisis impacted every aspect of people’s lives. The response was not just a medical one, it was a food, housing, income, community etc. Each area of response was equally important and each area of response impacted on others.  In some areas this was better understood and responded to than in others. Improving the overall quality and consistency of this is critical to the success of our system going forward.

Overall, the Covid-19 crisis enhanced both some of the positive and negative aspects of our system.

In providing feedback partners have been quick to point out that much of the learning and issues described in the paper are not new. Issues around the relationship between the sectors and how public resources are managed are particularly well worn.

Perhaps most of all we hope to use the experiences of the Covid-19 pandemic as an opportunity to move forward with lasting solutions to some of the deep-rooted issues affecting our communities.