Local authorities and the third sector responded rapidly to support Wales’ most vulnerable and isolated people during the pandemic, a new report has found.
The Welsh Government report commends the way that local authorities and the third sector worked together to plan and co-ordinate local support for non-shielding vulnerable groups and individuals.
The report also notes increased levels of volunteering at a local level, with the pandemic resulting in more and new forms of volunteering.
Although the survey indicated evidence of higher levels of loneliness and isolation among vulnerable groups during the pandemic, local authorities and CVCs provided numerous examples of positive impacts on community support and strengthened social connections within communities.
Voluntary and community action across Wales has been strongly focused on supporting vulnerable people, and the groups and communities most affected by COVID-19, including Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic and disabled people.
The Deputy Minister and Chief Whip, Jane Hutt, said:
Right across Wales, teams of volunteers have directly supported vulnerable members of their local community by providing support with shopping and medication collection, as well as befriending services to help tackle loneliness and isolation. This work has freed up local authorities, health and social care services to enable them to provide vital services to the most vulnerable amongst us.
Volunteers and third sector organisations have already made a huge difference across Welsh communities. Communities have shown how well volunteers work together, and I wish to applaud and celebrate the efforts made.
Please carry on doing whatever you can to support your local area – it all makes a difference. Just remember to stay safe, and follow Welsh Government’s COVID-19 guidelines.
The online survey from which the report draws was issued on behalf of the Minister for Housing and Local Government, Julie James, who said:
Support workers in local authorities and the third sector have been working tirelessly to support some of our most vulnerable people during this pandemic.
While it’s clear that some challenges remain, it’s encouraging to see that new and existing partnerships have worked so well in mobilising local support.
I want to pay tribute to everyone who has been involved in delivering these vital services. It’s essential that we keep building on these partnerships in the months to come.
While local authorities and County Voluntary Councils have introduced initiatives aimed at reducing digital exclusion, the report also recommends that more support is needed to improve digital skills and access among vulnerable and disadvantaged groups.
Deputy Minister for Economy Lee Waters said:
Our procured programme ‘Digital Communities Wales: Digital Confidence, Health and Well-being’ works with organisations best placed to reach those who need help and support to use digital technologies. Digital inclusion is also a key focus of our new Digital Strategy for Wales.
We must support people to overcome barriers and ensure everyone is supported to gain the motivation, confidence and skills in order to make informed decisions and choose how they participate in, and make the most of, our increasingly digital world.”
Community and third sector activity remains key to Wales’ recovery from the pandemic. The recently announced £4m Community and Volunteering Support for Recovery Grant emphasises partnership between public bodies and third sector organisations. This funding will sustain volunteering and community action, helping grant recipients to introduce new systems and arrangements, and develop long term community support services which will support recovery in Wales.
Ruth Marks, CEO of Wales Council for Voluntary Action, said:
Since the beginning of the pandemic, the voluntary sector has stepped up its services to provide vital support to those most vulnerable. 22,528 people have registered to volunteer this year on Volunteering Wales and WCVA, County Voluntary Councils and Local Authorities have worked in collaboration to ensure these volunteers were able to support people in need.
This work has helped to ensure that individuals and families were able to isolate safely, which in turn has helped to take pressure off the NHS. The response of voluntary organisations and volunteers has been truly remarkable, and we would like to thank everyone involved for their continued efforts.