The coronavirus crisis has shone a light on the crucial role of Bristol’s voluntary sector as existing needs and inequalities have been exacerbated.
With issues such as mental health, digital poverty and financial insecurity more pressing than ever for many communities and individuals, a new report examines where investment should be prioritised to help shape an equitable recovery.
Research carried out by Black South West Network (BSWN) and partners reveals access to funding streams is a key concern for the city’s voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) sector following a dramatic spike in demand for services, with 81 per cent of respondents reporting increased need.
The interim report highlights the impact of economic insecurity and the inaccessibility of the job market on people’s mental health and the ability of organisations to plan for recovery.
It makes a string of recommendations that include building inclusive structures and policies to improve access to the jobs market for systemically disadvantaged groups; prioritising investment in mental health; tackling digital exclusion; providing fair, flexible funding streams and increased collaboration.
Commenting on the findings, Asher Craig, Bristol’s deputy mayor and cabinet member for communities, equalities and public health, said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has hit every section of society, putting an unprecedented strain on all sectors, particularly those supporting the most vulnerable in our city. Recovering from the dramatic change society has had to undergo will not happen overnight but it is an opportunity to build back better than before.
“Whilst our experiences of the pandemic are individual, we are seeing that this virus is not the great leveller as some would have us believe. Some communities are experiencing disproportionate health and economic impacts – black, Asian and minority ethnic communities, older people, disabled people, and those living in areas of socio-economic disadvantage.
“We’re determined to travel this recovery journey together as one city. This important research will provide a basis from which we can plan that journey and guide us in a direction towards an inclusive city with stronger, more resilient communities.”
The initial report published by BSWN, with key partners VOSCUR and Locality, captures the voluntary sector’s crucial role in responding to the pandemic. Researchers are inviting people to share their own experiences as part of the ongoing work that will help shape recovery and strengthen the sector.
Danielle Cohen, development manager at Power to Change Trust, added: “Communities in Bristol have a vital role to play in the city’s social and economic recovery from Covid-19.
“As the initial findings show, community businesses deliver vital services and are important contributors to Bristol’s economy. I hope that many organisations will take this opportunity to share their views and contribute to a new vision for the VCSE sector’s role in the city.”
Take part in the survey via www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/P3NQ3XC.
Main photo of volunteers delivering supply packages curing lockdown – courtesy of Samina Iqbal