19th Mar 2020

It’s already becoming a bit of a cliché that we are living in unprecedented times. It is however very true. We all, as members of the public with families and friends, and those of us who are trying to maintain community support services, are having to change and adjust life-long habits and behaviours, sometimes on an hourly basis. Organisations like ours, and community groups which have always worked just the way they work, are having to change the tried and tested ways of getting things done.

Like all organisations which network and work alongside people every day, DCA has been following advice and we are now working remotely. All our staff are working from home until further notice, but that doesn’t mean we are closing down on support for the VCS.

We’ve organised ourselves so that we are picking up on phone calls, emails and enquiries and we can deal with them and answer any questions as best we can. A big push is being made to ensure up to date advice and guidance is available for volunteers, especially people who may be new to volunteering at a time like this. Please do keep an eye on our web site, which we are updating as new information comes through.

Although many communities are coming together in new ways to support each other, existing volunteer led organisations and groups are facing challenging decisions and making big changes to the way they work in order to protect people who may be vulnerable. This will without doubt have a significant impact on the capacity of organisations to continue into the future as certain sources of income dry up.  We are in contact with funders who are looking at various options for making funding available for the voluntary sector and we will keep you briefed about emerging plans and approaches to funding aimed at supporting the medium and longer term needs of the sector.

There’s no doubt we are already learning a lot of lessons about what’s really important, and we are having to adapt and innovate new ways to communicate. We’re trying out various platforms for video conferencing and getting to know the kitchens, and sofas and home work spaces of our colleagues, although the novelty is bound to wear thin.

Looking at our end of the year financial summaries, we discovered that we have made a 20% reduction on work mileage over the past year, which is quite a considerable saving on costs and environmental wear and tear. Savings have been achieved through smarter working practices, using technology for communications and making the best use of networking forums in the County.

Regardless of how much more there will be to learn for all of us over the coming months, we still think that biggest message to emerge is how much we value our sense of community and how important it will be to ensure the organisations which contribute to and support community life will be thriving beyond Coronavirus.  

Stay safe and well.

Jo Laverick

Executive Director, Durham Community Action

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