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Coping with COVID: Up for the challenge

The work of the third sector during the pandemic has inspired me. No red tape, no long processes, quick, smart decision making: a can do attitude to help those who most need it. I’ve watched charities innovate, respond and flex through the crisis. They have put service users first, shown what can be achieved remotely and been the real backbone of our communities. It will take more than a virus to stop us.

What we have learned at SiT is that adapting our approach to build a coherent strategy has increased our resilience through lockdown. Everything at SiT cascades from our mission: to provide a safe, supportive environment to build self-esteem and independence through a range of effective interventions to ensure every survivor who accesses our service lives happier and healthier lives. 

This safe, supportive environment doesn’t need to be in a building! We can replicate it remotely, bolstering it with our humanity and kindness. We can continue to build self esteem and independence through a (now) wider range of interventions. There is  no need to change our mission - just adapt it.

As COVID-19 continues to challenge our sector, we as a charity have looked at our mission through a new lense and constantly changing context . We have been able to strategise, plan, resource and maximise our efficiency. Don’t get me wrong - it’s been an enormous challenge personally and professionally but we’ve successfully demonstrated how ‘up for a challenge’ we really are.

As lockdown hit, we looked at our mission, vision and values. Did we need to change anything? No, we just had to work to create the same trusted, supportive environment albeit remote. I summarised how we did this in a previous post, but what we learned from adapting will have a lasting impact on our service delivery and how our organisation looks in the future.

As lockdown continues to ease and we face more uncertainty, we have been able to resume some face-to-face contact and on site working. We are dealing with tremendous anxiety - our own and our service users.  We all have so many questions and unsureness over what the future looks like. We’re not using ‘new normal…’ - we’ve never done ‘normal’. Every day is different, every survivor is a unique individual, and every piece of work will be different.

We won’t revert to the same way of doing things; we’re taking what we’ve learnt and using it to improve our service, our communication and our commitment. We’re working on a ‘drop and adopt’ approach to our learning.  The vast majority of the survivors we’ve worked with have preferred having sessions online or over the phone. For some service users, online services are all they can access. As a result, our COVID strategy has increased the accessibility of our charity. We can respond quicker, we’re more agile and geography is no longer a constraint.

While COVID-19 creates many barriers, it also creates opportunities. We have been able to use our specialist knowledge about abuse to establish a web based helpline for vulnerable young people in Suffolk. We’re looking at our sustainability with new vigour, stepping up our relationships across other sectors and actively seeking out enterprise and innovation. Other charities have also created new services and better ways of doing things and these are the things we need to shout about as a sector.

Looking outward allowed us to identify new opportunities, but everything rests on the backbone of our internal resources. As a small charity our people are undeniably our most important asset. We’ve made sure we’ve treated them that way. It’s had to be all hands on deck. We’ve taught each other, learned each other's skills and stepped up (perhaps why smaller charities disproportionately underutilised the government’s furlough scheme, with larger charities furloughing up to 80% of their staff).

All our staff, therapists and volunteers have been amazing, rolled up their sleeves without hesitation, seamlessly moved into bedrooms, dining room tables and garages enabling us to keep nailing our mission. Just so you know - we’re not going anywhere - there will undoubtedly be challenges to come - but we will always do the best we can with what we’ve got.


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