The coronavirus pandemic has been tough.
It’s fair to say that the impacts of the pandemic have spanned across and can be felt in many aspects of our society. It’s easy to think about and quantify the impacts on business, industry and our economy – not least the travel and hospitality sectors. We can see this. For example, on my last visit to London, it was like a ghost town with many of my favourite independent sandwich shops boarded up or ‘closed until further notice’. News stories tell us about all the people that have been ‘furloughed’ (a word not even in my vocabulary before the pandemic) and all those that have sadly lost their jobs.
However, it’s much harder to think about and quantify just how tough the pandemic has been on individuals, families, households and our communities. The things we can’t see. Lockdown has distanced us from the ones we love, the work that we do and the activities we enjoy. It has put a wedge in connection, especially with those most vulnerable in our society. It has caused exceptionally challenging and worrying times for each and every one of us and resulted in taking a toll on our mental health and wellbeing. There is no doubt that the devastating loss of life, loneliness and inability to escape from sometimes difficult home circumstances will leave a deep and lasting scar on the mental health of millions in this country. It’s distressing for me to hear that Police recorded crime data showed an increase in offences flagged as domestic abuse-related during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Domestic abuse organisations observed increased household tension and domestic violence due to forced coexistence, economic stress, and fears about the virus. Whilst emergency services and the NHS experienced an overstretched workforce concentrating on tackling the pandemic, the COVID-19 outbreak also curtailed access to support services for people.
Therefore when I was recently invited by our Social Impact Team to meet Foundation Scotland to hear about some of the issues that they have seen emerging and about the exemplary work that small voluntary organisations are doing to help and support those who are most vulnerable – I jumped at the chance. Not least because the funding we were providing this year centred around communities close to where I grew up and therefore are close to my heart (Greenock and Inverclyde). My Mum was a Health Visitor in Ferguslie Park for many years, so I grew up hearing many stories from her of the challenges faced, and some of the abject poverty that people lived in back then – which sadly hasn’t changed much today.
Having the opportunity to talk to Foundation Scotland gave me a real sense of the harsh realities that people already living in disadvantage are now having to deal with. The conversation only confirmed that the pandemic has been really tough in our communities and has exacerbated many issues, for example poor mental health, domestic violence and access to basic needs such as food. The voluntary sector was already struggling to cope but now they’re facing into far greater challenges.
I was amazed and warmed to hear about the ways in which small voluntary organisations have risen to the challenge. I heard from Foundation Scotland about how these small, trusted community groups have adapted in the face of such adversity, whilst retaining a resolute commitment to those people they’ve always worked so hard to support. Their compassion really shone through. I was left under no illusion as to the magnitude of the mountains they will have to climb to continue being able to offer help when they’re needed more than ever. I was heartened that PFG have been able to offer at least some financial support.
I was able to find out about each of the organisations that we’re funding and I wanted to share some of that – I could talk a lot more about each of them, so this is just a summary, but hopefully you’ll get a good idea of some of the great work that PFG has been able to support. All of them are helping to tackle barriers to social and financial inclusion.
I Am Me Scotland: Our grant will contribute towards delivering ‘Keep Safe’ awareness training to children and young people across Inverclyde to raise awareness of disability, bullying and the consequences of behaviours and hate crime.
Rise Against Abuse: We’ll be funding essential laptops, software and telephones for this new organisation who help tackle the significant increase in domestic violence that’s resulted from Lockdown. They’re a survivor-led organisation with the lived experience that’ll be invaluable.
Homestart Renfrewshire & Inverclyde: A grant from PFG is going to enable Homestart to provide an extra five hours of support each week for new parents in an area of extreme disadvantage through their Equip For Life programme. This area has been identified as a cold spot for family support at a time where there is evidence of new parents struggling with poor mental health, lack of confidence and low self-esteem.
Greenock Glenpark Harriers: The club’s been encouraging participation in sport for over 125 years and has seen evidence that falling levels of participation in sports are linked to increased levels of deprivation and poor education outcomes. Our grant will enable the club to achieve positive outcomes by reducing barriers to sports participation. They’ll also upskill coaches (often recruited from the local community), helping to increase employability.
Magic Torch Comics: This is such an innovative project. It promotes literacy using comics as a medium to address difficult topics such as mental health, kinship and asylum, translating them into different languages to foster inclusivity. We’re providing the necessary funds for a series of creative workshops which will encourage local children to explore Greenock’s sugar heritage, something that’s very deep-rooted. The project will address diversity and inclusion themes and have a long-term impact on the community.
Man On!: This project was originally set up by someone with lived experience of a family member suffering from extremely poor mental health, and having limited support available after leaving hospital. Our grant will be providing much-needed funding (there’s currently a waiting list) to increase suicide prevention support for young people, working with a local high school and young offenders in HMP Greenock, including the use of football therapy.
I’m proud to work for a company who takes its commitment to social impact seriously and invests money to support communities in a considered and practical way, taking advice from experts like our community foundation partners* to make sure it gets to where it’s needed most. Talking to Foundation Scotland was eye-opening, but in a way that gave me an important insight into what “right now” looks like for those who are facing into deprivation every time they wake up. And of course, I was totally inspired by the work that the voluntary sector is doing, showing up for people day in, day out – I take my hat off to them.
Director of Human Resources, Moneybarn
*We have six PFG Social Impact Funds which are managed for us by our community foundation partners – London Community Foundation, Leeds Community Foundation, Kent Community Foundation, Hampshire & Isle of Wight Community Foundation, Foundation Scotland and Community Foundation Wales. You can find out more about our community foundation funding here and also read about some of the projects that we’ve supported.