The government introduced the next stage of lockdown easing on 17 May 2021. We consider what impact that might have on the charity sector
17 May 2021 marks the long-awaited day that England, Wales, and most of Scotland enter phase two of gradual reopening after a long series of COVID-19 lockdowns.
Now that the UK vaccine programme is in full swing, things are looking very different compared to the same time last year. While nothing is set in stone, there is real hope that life could be returning to some semblance of normality.
But opening physical services and returning to in-person operations presents myriad challenges to charities, particularly in terms of adapting to so many changes in such a short space of time. We discuss some of the challenges and offer some advice to help smooth out the transition.
First things first, let’s look at today’s changes:
With up to 30 people now allowed to attend in-person support groups and supervised activities to children, this the chance for some charities to start welcoming more service users into their doors.
But along with legal risk assessments around COVID-19 to think about, there’s also the question of whether a return to physical services straight away is right for everyone.
Certain groups of people may struggle to adapt back to in-person services more than others – a recent study found that the older population and people with dementia may struggle with sudden change and find “getting back to normality as big a step as going into lockdown”.
They may not feel as confident participating in everyday life as they did before the pandemic started, and could be anxious about the outdoors.
Similarly, the pandemic has been difficult for young people and children, with studies showing the long-term effect on their social lives and mental health. Openly addressing the situation and listening to the potential worries of young people and their carers returning to in-person services is an important step.
The Mental Health Foundation provides useful resources around the mental health challenges for those working with young people as they return to school and other services. A key will be flexibility and allowing some breathing room for disruption and extra support.
One thing to consider is whether there are opportunities for ’blended’ service delivery. Where staff, volunteers, and the general public have spent the pandemic honing their digital skills and learning the technology, why not continue to make the most of this investment by continuing to offer some services digitally?
We recently looked at the rise of ’hybrid’ digital events that combine the best of both worlds – the social benefits of in-person events with the accessibility and cost-efficiency of the virtual.
We’ve seen how hosting virtual options can help charities increase the reach of what they do, helping more people further afield, as well as those with disabilities, caring responsibilities and busy lives. Why stop now?
The latest lifting of restrictions may also mean the start of the return to the office, with social distancing measures in place and in groups of six or less at a time. How can charities ensure they manage the shift to the physical world of work safely, within guidelines? And should they?
Charity Digital trustee Zoe Amar and charity software specialists Blackbaud recently talked about how people are adapting to remote working, and the need for charities to adapt with them, in their webinar The future of work is flexible.
The last year has been a massive learning curve for many charities as they’ve discovered that, if pushed, they can work remotely, and do it effectively. One thing is certain – the digital cat is now out of the bag.
For many employees, remote work has made a radical difference to their wellbeing, positive or negative. Expectations have evolved in a short space of time and the pandemic has thrown stark light on the issue of health in the workplace both physical and mental.
Charities will need to think carefully about the balance between in-person and remote working that works for them, considering employee’s individual needs as well as those of the organisation.