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November 9, 2021

Who’s listening?

It’s probably too early to tell whether lessons learned from the community response to the pandemic will have shifted the needle in terms of how the community sector will be valued and invested in going forward. It certainly won’t be for a lack of evidence – report after report, commissioned by different parts of the sector, have pointed to their respective contributions. The most recent, and with an appropriately creative flourish, comes from Creative Lives. Ironically perhaps the report which will have the biggest impact comes from beyond the sector. Just so long as it moves the dial, who cares?

Accounts Commission and the Auditor General for Scotland

Lessons need to be learned from the community response to Covid-19, two Scottish bodies have recommended

The community response to Covid-19 must be built on, two public bodies have recommended.

A joint update from the Accounts Commission and the Auditor General for Scotland outlines how Scotland’s public bodies worked with and empowered communities in the response to the pandemic, creating new ways of delivering support. The speed at which some communities were both enabled and empowered to work with councils, partners and charities showed how bureaucratic barriers can be quickly removed.

This momentum needs to be maintained, alongside a determination not to return to pre-pandemic ways of working, they have said. Doing so would help alleviate the unequal impacts of the pandemic on Scotland’s most disadvantaged people, but requires leadership and partnership working at national, local and community levels.

The update also provides several case studies from across Scotland of community responses to the pandemic. The learning from these case studies, and the wider response, are aimed at supporting public bodies, alongside their communities, to develop longer-term approaches to supporting and empowering citizens.

Geraldine Wooley, member of the Accounts Commission, said: “Covid-19 made some public bodies quickly deliver services differently. In many places, voluntary sector organisations were able to work at pace and with a greater freedom to support their communities.

“Community organisations across Scotland have a depth of understanding about local needs that we should continue to tap into. They were able to identify those who were most vulnerable, bringing insight into very local issues. Their ability to quickly maximise local knowledge and connections was crucial in the local response.

“We urge councils to build on this and not return to business as usual. Truly empowered communities are vital in helping reduce the disadvantage and inequalities that have become more severe because of Covid-19.”

Stephen Boyle, Auditor General for Scotland, said: “Empowering communities is a national priority for the Scottish Government. It reaches every corner and aspect of how our public services are delivered. Public bodies need to be able to take risks, however, to be able to be innovative and try different ways of working, within a culture of trust that embraces change.”