By John Rose
COVID-19 has undoubtedly been a challenging time for all sectors in Wales. The voluntary and third sector is a dynamic and diverse movement, but it has been forced to adapt and respond to the societal changes which the pandemic has brought. The National Lottery Community Fund has been at the forefront of supporting communities in Wales to respond to the pandemic. John Rose, Director Wales recently presented evidence to the Senedd’s Equality, Local Government and Communities Committee’ s on the impact of COVID-19 upon the voluntary sector in Wales.
Our contribution to helping communities in Wales meet the challenge of COVID-19 has been significant, with over 660 awards being made through either grant variations or new applications, amounting to nearly £19million since April 2020. These awards have helped to tackle both the emergency and provide longer term funding beyond the immediate crisis.
It has been inspiring to witness and support community organisations rise to the challenge of supporting individuals and families across Wales. Though we are looking forward to the days when face to face activities can resume, we have learnt many things throughout COVID-19 and adopted some practices which we can take forward into the future. We have contributed to and convened events engaging hundreds of participants and published around 100 reports, blogs and stories sharing real life experience from community groups. You can dig into many of the materials generated from the insights gained and keep up to date with the events that are coming up.
Looking back, we were quick in our response to help our projects and grant holders support their communities in the chaos which Covid-19 brought. With lockdown rules enforced, increased isolation and all but essential face to face activities brought to a halt; we knew that our grant holders were in the best position to know how to help the most vulnerable in their communities through these immensely challenging times.
It was with this in mind that we mobilised our funding to directly support a collective COVID-19 response; we prioritised funding applications from organisations who were supporting people at high risk from Covid-19 or facing an increased demand and pressures because of Covid-19 – such as community foodbanks. We also prioritised applications from projects who were looking to work collaboratively with other communities to tackle issues brought about by the pandemic An example of our funding is to Red Kite Health Solutions in Brecon, the grant of £56,800 will provide a COVID-19 support service directly assisting people adversely affected by the pandemic.
Another is to Age Cymru West Glamorgan which will enable them to provide support for older people, and individuals with mental health problems and disabilities who are experiencing financial hardship, loneliness and isolation, and difficulty caring for themselves due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Their grant of £66,880 will provide meals on wheels service to improve nutrition and reduce food insecurity, and a telephone advice and information service that will signpost other services in the community. In Cardiff, SEF Cymru will use £10,000 to set up a mentoring programme for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, by using local, relatable role models from marginalised communities to help increase their confidence, self-esteem, and wellbeing.
In addition to making awards to new groups we allowed existing grant holders to use their funding flexibly to best support their communities. The team at The Fund approached existing grant holders and offered them support and advice – ensuring that our grant holders knew that we were there to support and help them rise to the challenges that they were facing – be that financial pressure, increased demand or forming an emergency response.
As well as empowering groups and organisations to lead COVID-19 responses in their own communities, another key strategy for The National Lottery Community Fund has been to come together with other funders across Wales through the Wales Funders Forum. Ultimately, this has allowed us to share best practice and key insights, but it has also allowed us to avoid duplication and ensure that we are all working as efficiently and effectively as possible to support Welsh communities throughout these difficult times. Though this collaboration was born out a collective emergency response, this way of co-working has been hugely valuable and one which we intend to maintain going forward.
A positive has been an increased uptake in volunteering. There are stories from all corners of Wales of people and communities collectively coming together to help each other out in hours of need. It is likely that voluntary organisations will need to adapt to harness and build on this momentum. To coincide with this, we’ve teamed up with Camelot and ITV to deliver our Miss Out To Help Out campaign that encourages people to miss out on their favourite television programme to help out in their communities. Read about some of the people across the UK that have made a difference in their communities this year thanks to National Lottery money, and find out how people right across the UK can volunteer with more than 25 organisations that have a range of local and online opportunities.
We know that the voluntary and community sectors have a vitally important role to play in the long-term Covid recovery in Wales, and we wish to see them continue doing great work across the country. The groups we fund are able to support individuals and families in a range of ways, be that in terms of unemployment, isolation, housing or mental health, all of which will be vital as we continue to move forward through the pandemic. We aim to support these groups and organisations to help their own communities and, in turn, support the construction of a healthy and prosperous Wales.
This month, we set our revised funding priorities, which sets out our next stage in supporting communities in their recovery from COVID-19 and whilst encouraging groups to adapt for the longer-terms. Our new three funding priorities are:
- Support organisations to adapt or diversify to respond to new and future challenges
- Support communities adversely affected by COVID-19
- Support communities and organisations to become more resilient to enable them to respond better to future crises.
These will apply to our two main grant programme People and Places and National Lottery Awards for All. Earlier this month we re-opened our Helping End Homelessness programme and we are working with young people across Wales to shape our new Young People’s Programme which will be open to applications in the new year.
We are also beginning to think about what our future funding offer may look like, so next year we will be embarking on a review of our funding to identify the future priorities that matter most to communities. We will be engaging with organisations and communities across Wales, so please keep an eye out for an opportunity to contribute to the debate that will help shape our programmes over the next few years.
If you have an idea for a community project talk to us about our funding call 029 2168 0214 or go to our www.tnlcommunityfund.org.uk/wales