Yesterday marked the one-year anniversary of the first lockdown announcement. It was a day of reflection and remembrance for all of us, and for me a time to think about the exceptional contribution the voluntary and community sector (VCS) had made to people’s lives, for many years now but especially this one. 

(Published 24 March).

Lockdown was announced as I flew back to London from visiting my mum in Scotland. I remember emailing the team to say to come into the office to collect laptops and anything else they needed to work from home. I remember scrambling to work out how on earth to respond, how to support staff, and what the sector would need from us. Looking back, I made a lot of mistakes and hopefully did some things right too!  

Mostly I remember the incredible speed at which the VCS responded. This astonishing sector, across the UK, showed exactly what makes it so special. In Southwark, food parcels were all ready to go out before the announcement was even made, organisations big and small worked out how to re-work their services: creating new ones, stopping some, going online and over the phone. Some had to close their doors but so many found another way, cyclists rushed food all over the place, we got together and planned and collaborated to make sure no one fell through the gaps. We sat down with the Council and local NHS to work as partners on a system that a year on is still up and running. You got creative and had exceptional ideas. Instead of sitting back, you have pushed and piloted ideas that have the power to transform neighbourhoods, you have reduced loneliness and isolation, you have delivered ingredients, food parcels, hot food, clothes, laptops, phones, activity packs and lifelines.  

You have done all of this and more knowing that the emergency funding will end and resources will tighten once again; knowing that the need for your services will only increase; knowing that all these inequalities were here before Covid19 and will be here long after; knowing that your staff and volunteers are exhausted but not knowing when there will be a break. 

And for all of this all we can do is thank you, from the very bottom of our hearts and promise you that for whatever comes next, Community Southwark will be here for you, the VCS. Just as you have been there for the people of Southwark throughout this unprecedented year. 

By: Deborah Hayman, Community Southwark's Director of VCS Support

Our training and support

If you need any further support from us, we are here. We have lots of useful training coming up, take a look at our training section here.

Also, if you would like some 1to1 support for your charity, please contact our VCS Support team on: [email protected]