Liz Barter, Ambassador for Isolation and Disadvantage
I have learned not to follow the news too intently over the last year or so, but it does feel like we are steadily moving along the road we’ve had mapped out, and gradually re-connecting with each other and some of what is left of the pre-Covid world. I have been reflecting on some of the paradoxes that the lockdowns created for us, individually and as charitable organisations, and how having to be physically distant created new and closer connections with each other.
On an individual level, thanks to Zoom et al, we now know what even some of our colleague’s bedroom curtains look like. We have caught glimpses of their partners, their cat, their bookshelves. Depending on the relationship, it can be fun, voyeuristically fascinating, oddly intimate, or just awkward. For the same reason, there are some truly immaculate corners of my house, which are also the corners with the best Wifi signal and most flattering lighting…very mysterious.
The pandemic emergency made for some fast and strong connections between charities, that leaders should be keen to keep. In an article about these delivery models, Javed Khan from Barnardo’s describes how collaboration between large and small charities at local level can make the hardest to reach young people more reachable[i]. I would argue that the same holds true across the age ranges, and these connections between support organisations enable us to connect with the most vulnerable/marginalised/disadvantaged/oppressed/socially excluded (just pick one, the experience is pretty much the same).
In Bucks, collaboration between Wycombe Homeless Connection and the Cygnet Primary Care Network is supporting GP access for homeless people and has delivered a really successful vaccine clinic.[ii] The Aylesbury Vale District Rough Sleepers initiative is delivered by partners in the NHS, housing associations, the Oasis partnership, Connections Support and private landlords – and has worked actual miracles in helping truly entrenched rough sleepers stay safe and make real progress.[iii] These are just two examples.
Collaboration and connection in themselves can increase capacity in local service networks, and as the urgency created by the pandemic that galvanised the process of connecting and collaborating starts to wane, we need to continue to make the strongest possible case for investment. This will enable us to keep the momentum of the collaborations going, and keep making a real difference.