The Help through Crisis (HtC) Learning, Support and Evaluation (LSE) team have produced a series of reports exploring the HtC response to Covid-19. In this blog, the LSE team share key learning from their work.
HtC is a £33 million, five-year programme funded by The National Lottery Community Fund. Across England, 69 local partnerships have been supported by HtC. Each partnership helps people who are experiencing or at risk of crisis to overcome difficulties and plan for the future. While the HtC and Fulfilling Lives programmes each have a distinct focus (HtC partnerships support people facing crisis for different reasons, whereas Fulfilling Lives focuses on those experiencing multiple disadvantage), some HtC beneficiaries do experience multiple disadvantage and supporting people to overcome difficulties is at the core of both programmes. We hope that the learning presented in this blog will be useful for Fulfilling Lives partnerships and other stakeholders working in the support sector.
2020 was a uniquely challenging year for everyone. The pandemic brought huge uncertainty for organisations involved in the HtC programme and those they work with. As a result, HtC partnerships had to respond quickly, adapting their support while looking after staff and volunteers. Crucially, HtC partnerships had to work even closer with other local organisations to deliver effective crisis support. Fulfilling Lives partnerships experienced similar challenges, as demonstrated in Challenges and Opportunities: Evidence from Fulfilling Lives partnerships on the response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
In this blog, we discuss key areas of learning for HtC partnerships from the pandemic response:
Supporting staff wellbeing has always been crucial in the crisis support sector, as staff are at high risk of experiencing burnout or vicarious trauma. The challenges of COVID-19 have highlighted the importance of supporting staff wellbeing. To support HtC partnerships, the LSE team produced a Supporting staff wellbeing factsheet, which gathers together tips and resources to support wellbeing during the pandemic and beyond. Tips include:
- Focusing on personal wellbeing through: establishing a routine (scheduling ‘commuter time’ before work to read or exercise, for example); establishing a dedicated workspace to live and work in different parts of the home; staying connected to others via phone or media; and managing access to social media and news to avoid myths and gossip that fuel anxiety.
- Supporting teams working remotely by: providing clear and supportive communication; providing flexibility; showing empathy; and signposting to advice and support on mental health and wellbeing.
- Applying a trauma informed approach to prevent vicarious trauma, including ensuring a balance between work, rest and socialising and building in time for reflection.
Reaching people digitally. Moving to deliver services remotely has been another key challenge during COVID-19. HtC partnerships found it challenging to provide holistic crisis support: it has been difficult to engage service users online and offer good support to the digitally excluded. Two factsheets on Digital inclusion and How to effectively engage with people online highlight the value of:
- Building people’s motivation to get online and develop their digital skills. This includes finding a relevant ‘hook’ to engage people, focusing on encouragement and avoiding technical jargon.
- Offering alternative ways to deliver support to those unable to engage online. For example, utilising friendship and family networks or offering socially-distanced face-to-face support.
- Delivering online activities that engage service users. This includes setting up activities on an appropriate platform, establishing rapport digitally, and being clear about ground rules.
Planning for uncertainty. The uncertainty brought about by COVID-19 had significant implications for service delivery. Using tools and frameworks to help plan for an uncertain future can support organisations be more resilient to change. The Planning and preparing for future changes in demand learning paper, includes tools and risk management resources to help HtC partnerships think about the future. The learning paper includes:
- A simple template to help think through how three possible future scenarios (recurring lockdowns, permanent change, and slow but steady return) that may impact people facing crisis, project teams and partnerships, as well as what this might require for project delivery.
- Suggestions addressing potential impacts for each scenario to support readers to consider that most relevant for them.
HtC partnerships reported finding this toolkit particularly helpful for planning for contingencies and considering how different lockdown scenarios might influence their work (and, thus, how they could adapt to different scenarios both during and post-pandemic).
The need to work in partnership. The value of strong partnerships and working closely with others has been a theme throughout the HtC programme, becoming particularly important during the pandemic. The learning paper on Working with partners during COVID-19 summarised the key ingredients for effective partnership working and showcased how HtC partnerships worked with others during COVID-19. Through involvement in local networks, some partnerships began working with different organisations to raise awareness of their services and extend their reach. Others formed more informal partnerships in their local area as part of wider community efforts to support people during COVID-19. These, and other, coordinated local responses have reduced duplication, made better use of resources, and enabled local services to become more effective at supporting people.
Additional resources are available on the HtC document library. If you have any questions about the HtC programme or the work of the LSE team, please contact: HelpThroughCrisis@Ipsos-MORI.com