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The impact of Covid-19 on local communities and services

Description

Covid-19 is the greatest public health emergency the UK has faced for a generation. The pandemic has had an enormous impact on Fife’s communities. Services have come together with community groups and volunteers to mitigate these impacts and to help protect the most vulnerable people in our communities. That experience of partnership working established during the early part of the crisis could signal a different approach in the future to how we work together to address poverty and crisis prevention.

Levels of community vulnerability have increased for several reasons during the Covid-19 pandemic, including:

  • Food and financial insecurity;
  • Mental health issues and heightened anxiety due to isolation and lack of wider family/friend support;
  • Relationship difficulties/strains compounded by a lack of respite from partners and children, as well as financial concerns;
  • Concern about how we protect individuals from harm within the home during lockdown (child/adult protection, domestic abuse);
  • Increased carer stress;
  • Increased anti-social behaviour;
  • Digital exclusion (increased isolation, ability to learn and work from home).

Fife Partnership has agreed a number of priorities as we look to build on the lessons from our experience of the pandemic and agree the next 3-year Plan for Fife. One of those priorities is Tackling Poverty and Crisis Prevention and your involvement is being sought in identifying those lessons and shaping changes to our approach going forward.

What measures can we put in place now that will continue this good practice?

The scale and extent of the Council response to Covid-19 has meant that important lessons are now being learned about the way services could and should work in the future. These are early days, but some key early lessons are set out below.

1. Local Place based working

The Covid-19 pandemic has underlined the importance of developing local, collaborative responses to poverty and food insecurity. Area teams, working through community assistance hubs, in close collaboration with local community food providers and other voluntary groups, have provided a clear focus for local community responses. The establishment of multi-disciplinary teams have given local staff the opportunity to work across professional disciplines to better join up support at the local level, reduce duplication and improve commissioning and resource allocation.

This joint work has highlighted several areas of good practice, including:

  • Improved working relationships and honest communication;
  • Increased levels of awareness of other services;
  • Rapid sharing of relevant and useful information within multi-disciplinary teams;
  • Fast response to individual client needs;
  • Opportunities to identify and discuss emerging issues and action to address these;
  • Coordination across Fife Council’s Covid Community Helpline and FVA’s Helping Hands contact number;
  • Better connections and onward referrals across services;
  • Effective food resilience work using a hub and spoke model;
  • Development of local befriending services.

2. Community led approaches

Local communities have played a key role in responding to the Covid emergency. A wide range of local resilience groups and community groups have provided a fast and flexible response to meeting the needs of local communities. Working with local volunteers, these groups have helped with the delivery of emergency food, shopping and medicines. Community food providers have delivered food parcels and provided hot meals. This community effort underlines the importance of putting communities at the heart of future recovery and reform plans. It does though raise questions of how to best support this work going forward and how to build sustainability into what are proving to be essential local projects.

3. New ways of working

The Covid-19 emergency has required services to adopt new ways of working, making the most of new opportunities for remote and virtual working using new technology. This has enabled services both to maintain the delivery of essential services and to respond to the urgent needs of individuals and families. There are now major opportunities for service redesign and improvement, including how we work more flexibly and efficiently across the Council and with partners. Many people have commented that it has been easier to get a hold of the right person and simpler to just get things done. The obvious question is what would it take to make this the norm?

4. Culture

The response to the pandemic has demonstrated the benefits of staff working together with a shared focus and common culture. The collaborative effort across services brought with it a sense of power to effect change along with positive energy. This was often linked to new ways of thinking and working, with fewer boundaries, a sense of pride in our work and strong sense of mutual support. It will be important to build on these behaviours and ways of working as we move forward.

5. Individual and family support

Food has been at the heart of the crisis response and a number of people have said that through this they have got to know individual families in a way which they wouldn’t have previously. A number of food projects had already looked to use the engagement they have with people to identify other support and services which might help. A large proportion of our anti-poverty spend goes toward mitigating the impact of poverty and low income. Supporting individuals and families more directly together with that sense of just being there to help in whatever way is needed coupled with the ability to draw on wider resources seem key to preventing crisis and building resilience.

Next steps

Over the next few months we’ll be having conversations with staff from across the Council and the wider partnership. You can get involved in these conversations by expressing your interest via our get in touch form

To start with you can get involved by sharing your thoughts and ideas in the discussion below.