Supporting older people to live active and independent lives
One of the most vulnerable groups during this pandemic has been older people – from both a health and social perspective. The Leeds Neighbourhood Network (LNN) supports older people to remain living independently and to participate in their communities through a range of activities and services that are provided at a neighbourhood level. The Ever more needed? The role of the Leeds Neighbourhood Networks during the COVID-19 pandemic research project by the VARG team, funded by the Centre for Ageing Better explored how these neighbourhood organisations have supported older people during the pandemic.
This ‘real time evaluation’ report evaluated the LNNs, and their response to the pandemic, giving them an opportunity to demonstrate their value by being part of the crisis response at a city and neighbourhood level. The report provides a rapid synthesis of emerging findings to help inform planning and policy making by the LNNs and their key stakeholders.
A transformative role in post-Covid recovery
In Sheffield, VARG researchers worked with Voluntary Action Sheffield and other key partners across the city to understand the contribution the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector made locally during the pandemic.
The research uncovered how the sector responded quickly and effectively through informal neighbourhood activity, formal community level support hubs and city level coordination. The most active areas included food supply, physical and mental health, social isolation and domestic violence.
The research concluded that the small charity, voluntary and community sector could play a transformative role in the post-Covid-19 recovery of the city if challenges including funding, sustainability, working successfully with the public sector could be overcome, particularly once they are able to operate as ‘normal’ again. This research will help to inform policy debates and developments about the role of the sector in Sheffield in the short, medium and longer term.
As well as locally focused research in Leeds and Sheffield, the team is also collaborating on a national project in partnership with Nottingham Trent University and the National Council for Voluntary Organisations. Together they are exploring the dramatic impact Covid-19 is having on the voluntary and social enterprises in a major new study - Respond, recover, reset: the voluntary sector and Covid-19. The ongoing project collates monthly data through The Covid-19 voluntary sector impact barometer which presents how individual organisations have responded, how finances, services, staffing and volunteers have been affected. It explores short-term expectations of how the situation may evolve.
Local councils have played a key role in the response to Covid-19, working closely with communities and partner organisations in the charity and voluntary sector. Our experts have worked with Local Trust to examine the relationships between local authorities and communities across England during the pandemic. The impact of austerity and the power dynamics between communities, local and central government has led to a complex and varied picture.