Coronavirus (COVID-19) and society: what matters to people in Scotland?

Findings from an open free text survey taken to understand in greater detail how the pandemic has changed Scotland.

3. Support Needs

The survey asked respondents what kind of help, if any, would make them feel safer and more supported. People were seeking very different types of help depending on their circumstances and what their hopes and needs were for the future.

Figure 2 categorises some of the respondents main support needs. However, whilst the support needs have been separated into categories some people had a range of needs. For example, people expressed their desire for a return to ‘normal’ but said that risk to their own health/safety or that of their loved ones meant that their top priority had to be protection from the virus.

It is noted that some survey respondents did not think that the Scottish Government could provide them with any help at all. This was because it was either seen as being too late (and no amount of support could help), due to constitutional or financial constraints (belief that issues lie with UK Government), due to perceived political differences, or because they believe the best course of action from government is for no interventions at all.

Figure 2: Support Needs

Return to 'old' normal

  • Namely by removing all remaining restrictions and guidance

Adapt to 'new' normal

  • Accept COVID-19 has changed how we live and make according changes

Protection from COVID-19

  • Controlling the virus with sustainable and effective measures

Financial security

  • Financial issues, such as the cost of living crisis, more urgent than COVID-19

Recover from harm and disruption

  • Greater emotional / community / work-based support for those who have suffered most during the pandemic

Access to health and social care

  • Being able to see clinicians and get treatment and support as needed; Long COVID

Return to ‘old’ normal

Respondents expressed different views as to why they wanted a return to the ‘old’ normal / pre-pandemic life and the help required to achieve it. This included views on wanting to have more personal responsibility and perceptions of feeling safer due to vaccines.[10]

Table 1: Summary views on what support people would like to ‘return to old normal’

Support wanted to return to 'old normal'

  • Remove all remaining restrictions (some want gradually, some want immediately).
  • Revoke all emergency Coronavirus powers.
  • Reassurance that no further restrictions will be introduced, such as lockdowns.
  • Publish a plan, with timelines, for a full return to normal.
  • Help people regain confidence doing things they used to do.

Support wanted to return to ‘old normal’

Remove all remaining restrictions

“Remove restrictions and offer guidance on how people can make their own safer choices. Stop dangling the threat of restrictions over us, which leads to anxiety that we could lose our livelihoods.”

(Male, 25-34)

“A very gradual lifting of protective measures as conditions allow.” (Male, 55-64)

“Support needs to come from the community, families and friends. This isn’t freely available due to fear and restrictions. The best way to provide support is to remove restrictions and allow normal social interaction.” (Female, 55-64)

Revoke all emergency Coronavirus powers

“I'd feel safer if I thought that the Scottish government WANTED to get back to normal rather than trying to establish what looks like a tyranny (making the corona powers permanent for example).” (Female, 45-54)

Reassurance that no further restrictions will be introduced

“I would like some reassurance that the virus is now under control and people can plan holidays and trips without worrying about cancelling their plans.”

(Female, 65-69)

Publish a plan

“Show us a plan of how we are removing all restrictions to go back to normal living.”

(Female, 25-34)

Help people regain confidence doing things and going places

“Thinking about the year, I hope and plan to keep reclaiming life and focus on rebuilding family links, making happy memories and re-establishing friendships disrupted by the pandemic. A key priority is to support my elderly parents who have been so damaged by horrendous medical neglect and loneliness; my teenage son, also damaged by lockdown; and my husband who lost his job as a result of the economic impact of lockdown. I have supported lockdown measures to date but would not going forward.” (Female, 45-54)

“I feel my life has changed forever. Don’t know if I’ll get the confidence back in the future.” (Female, 65-69)

Adapt to ‘new’ normal

While some respondents wanted a return to how they used to live and do things before the pandemic, other respondents were clear that the COVID-19 pandemic has made that impossible. Instead, they proposed that we need to adapt to the new, changing situation and create a ‘new’ normal.

Table 2: Summary views on what support people would like to adapt to ‘new’ normal

Support wanted to adapt to 'new' normal

  • Focus on making environments safer rather than on individual behaviour. For example, install clean air infrastructure, particularly in settings like schools.
  • Allow flexible working and accommodate different work needs. Provide more support to employees to work from home (equipment, wellbeing and personal support).
  • Do not simply default to old ways of doing things without also providing digital and alternative ways to include people who were/remain excluded.

Support wanted to adapt to ‘new’ normal

Making work and publicenvironments safer

“Actually address the source of issues, e.g. ventilation in schools (properly, not opening windows in winter and chopping up doors) and other public buildings rather than unjustly clobbering low-hanging fruit (i.e. punishing hospitality repeatedly). Tackle the hard problems not put sticking plasters on the apparent easy wins.” (Non-binary, 35-44)

Keep positive changes, such as flexible and hybrid working

“The government and universities should trust and allow us to run our classes in a safe and appropriate way, whether that's online or in person. The push to go "back to normal" makes no sense, as we will never be just as we were and we have invested in skill building and tech to support online and blended learning, which has worked really well in my classes. I hate the pretense that everything was better before and we all want to be constantly in public all the time.” (Female, 35-44)

“I welcome a return to "normal" but at the same time I'd be disappointed if, as a society, we didn't learn from the pandemic and implement some much needed changes through lessons learned. For example work-life balance is something the pandemic has improved for many and it would be a real shame if we didn't implement some good, positive changes going forward. If we go back to the way we were then I'm afraid we will have missed a great opportunity to implement some much needed changes to how people live their lives.” (Female, 55-64)

Do not always default to pre-pandemic norms

“The ‘old normal’ didn’t work for everyone”

(Gender not given, 45-54)

“I think there needs to be a level of flexibility and individual choice / control for people to choose how and when they want to re-engage with society on a ‘normal’ and wider scale… I certainly don’t want to be pushed back into a way of life the same as pre-pandemic just because that’s because it’s how it’s always been.” (Female, 25-34)

Protection from COVID-19

One of the most common issues raised in terms of support needs was about safety from COVID-19 itself and control of the virus. This section gives particular attention and voice to those who were/are in higher risk groups / more clinically vulnerable, as well as those supporting them.

Table 3: Summary views on what support people would like for protection from COVID-19

Support wanted for protection from COVID-19

  • Maintain (mandatory) protective measures while high community transmission and infection. Gradual easing of restrictions and measures as situation allows.
  • Keep ‘safe time’ – quieter times in shop and supermarkets - for vulnerable/cautious people to shop safely.
  • Maintain free testing.
  • Provide (adequate) sick pay so people can self-isolate and prevent further infections.
  • Clearer communication about nature of airborne virus spread and effective mitigations.
  • Enforcement of protective measures in certain settings, e.g. mask wearing on public transport.
  • Greater awareness of the experiences of those who are at higher risk to COVID-19.
  • Show by example: politicians and leaders continue wearing masks and practising protective and effective mitigations.

Support wanted to feel protected from COVID-19

Maintain protective measures

“Really just maintaining masks, this really does give a feeling of confidence.”

(Female, 55-64)

“Testing gives you peace of mind when seeing friends and family.”

(Female, 45-54)

Guaranteed sick pay/leave when infected

“When I was positive, I had to take 7 working days off and received no pay. Had I felt less ill, I might have been tempted to return to work. I’m very sure that many people do return or keep working when positive for financial reasons.” (Male, 55-64)

Greater awareness around experiences of shielding

“Public awareness of shielders’ experiences would be helpful. I find the general public have become more selfish and less considerate to the suffering of others. Some people have actually said that they shouldn’t have to curtail their lives in order to protect mine.”

(Female, 45-54, was shielding)

“Understanding from the Government that not all of us can move on, I wish for nothing more than to be able to say "lets live with this virus" but not at the expense of my daughters health or life.

For some of us testing, masks and keeping a distance might be our way of life from here on in.

To allow us to think about a future we will need understanding and support from NHS, councils etc that special requirements will need to continue in order to keep vulnerable people safe. i.e. a single room instead of a large waiting room, vaccinations done at home, flexibility in care packages to support the needs of individuals as they arise, supporting this new way of life, more outside the box thinking is going to be needed if vulnerable people are to have any quality of life...”

(Female, 45-54, household continuing to shield)

Financial security

For many people, concerns about COVID-19 were secondary to being able to afford to live.[11] Respondents frequently raised issues around the increasing cost of living, across energy, food, housing, fuel, taxes, and also around low wages. Many did not think that enough was being done to tackle the cost of living crisis.

Table 4: Summary views on what support people would like for greater financial security

Support wanted for greater financial security

  • Wide-scale financial support to counter cost of living crises (fuel / energy / food / taxes costs increasing), through things like grants, subsidies and rent controls.
  • Greater COVID-related financial support such as help with working from home and compensation schemes for self-employed/small businesses who have suffered direct financial losses to COVID-19.
  • Provide more employment opportunities or job guarantees.
  • Introduce a national basic income.
  • Reassurance about COVID-19-acquired debt - that taxpayers, particularly younger generations, will not be worse off in years ahead.

Support wanted for greater financial security

Wide scale financial support

“Money - HELP US! We have two adults working in education and a daughter 16 who is working and we can’t make ends meet!!!” (Female, 35-44)

“I feel like much of our lives have been on hold for 2 years and I would like to start living more again. We have missed many of the things that make our life richer, arts, culture, company, travel. But many people will now be in a dire cost of living situation rapidly rising bills, stagnant wages etc. So that will create additional pressures.” (Female, 55-64)

“Help needs to be focused on people who are out of work or in poorly paid work with no sick pay.”

(Female, 55-64)

Reassurance that COVID-19 financial aid, such as the Job Retention “furlough” scheme, will not negatively impact future generations

“Knowing that my standard of living isn't going to be severely impacted because of COVID debt because there seems to be lots of money available for various organisation/supports and I fear lower rate taxpayers are going to be asked to shoulder the burden.”

(Female, 45-54)

Recovery from harm and disruption

People wish to recover and heal from the harm the pandemic has caused. However, this is harder for some people.[12] Here is a sample of some of the issues and help (time, resource and wider support) respondents said was needed to help them and society recover from the pandemic.

Table 5: Summary views on what support people would like to recover from the harm and disruption

Support wanted to help recover

  • Support for key workers (especially in health, care and education) for their recovery and for overall staff retention/ recruitment.
  • Prevent widening social inequalities that the pandemic has exacerbated - do not leave people behind.
  • More support for those who have suffered bereavement and trauma due to/during the pandemic.
  • Greater mental health support (from employers and from health professionals).
  • Robust processes for learning and reflection to prevent making same mistakes again.
  • Less social/political division. Take seriously different concerns/opinions. Accept matters of personal choice.

Support wanted for recovery

Key workers feel overworked, understaffed, underpaid, underappreciated and are physically and emotionally burnt out

“As a nurse, I feel undervalued. The wage increase we have had has been instantly lost to inflation. Not to mention the coming increases to national insurance and pension contributions.” (Male, 35-44)

“I work as a teacher in a large secondary school, and I’m very aware that I have never seen the full faces of approximately two-thirds of my pupils, and they are unlikely to have seen mine. Reminding them to wear masks properly lesson after lesson is miserable for both myself and them.” (Male, 25-34)

Recognition of uneven impacts of pandemic and that some people will require additional support

“Please remind people that we will all come out of this at our own speed, and to be patient with everyone. Please do something to help the teenagers - it's a difficult age at the best of times, but this is much worse with potential implications for the rest of their lives. Please look after the older people, or those living alone. Please invest in opportunities for people to come together, talk and heal.” (Female, 45-54)

“For there to be open and transparent conversations about how disabled and immunocompromised members of society will be able to be active members of society - it feels like a lot of people within our communities have been forgotten and this weighs on me heavily” (Female, 25-34)

Greater mental health support

“I feel that I need help with my anxiety and my PTSD in order to try and get my life back again.

I haven't had any support with these issues apart from brief counselling provided through my employer.

I am aware that the NHS is in crisis at the moment but I feel that without the right help, mental health concerns, not just my own, will only get worse without the right support.” (Female, 25-34)

“I do not need anything to make me feel safer. I need more support from the NHS. Ever since the first lockdown, NHS Mental Health services have been greatly reduced.” (Male, 25-34)

Processes for learning and reflection

“I’d like to know that lessons have been learned especially making schools safe or having watertight school plans for future lockdowns” (Male, 45-54)

“Learn lessons from this pandemic to ensure the country is well prepared for the next time.”

(Female, 45-54)

Less division

“The restrictions imposed by the Scottish Administration have caused the loss of many local businesses and reduced access to amenities and the basic social fabric of life. They have terrified people beyond reason to the extent that people think everyone else is a biohazard. They have torn the fabric of Scottish society apart and caused division and discrimination.” (Age/Gender not stated)

“Ensure vaccines are personal choice and not penalised for your opinion.” (Female, 65-69)

Health and social care

This theme captured people’s views on how greater access and funding of services within health and social care would help them feel safer and more supported. This section also focuses on issues around Long COVID.[13]

Table 6: Summary views on what support people need around health and social care

Support wanted in health and social care

  • Provide services with resources (funding, staffing) to ensure that people can access the services they need and to catch up on the backlog.
  • People want to be able to see clinicians when needed (Dentisits, GPs, Consultants), including face-to-face appointments.
  • Continued research into Long COVID and greater public awareness and education. Support for people with long COVID through specialised long COVID clinics.

Support wanted around health and social care

Access to various health and care services

“What is the point of protecting the NHS if you can't access it. It is a total s**t show. There are health conditions other than Covid. And even if you have Covid and suffer long term consequences where is the support?” (Gender not stated, 35-44)

“We are absolutely desperate for some social care support. It's been almost two years and we can't access anything at all. We've had to pay privately for a wheelchair. We've had to pay for private healthcare as the NHS is too busy to care for my daughter. She's been forgotten and left to fester on the sofa at home. Can't access education, can't access social care, can't even access a physio to come to the house. We are considering paying for that too. 70% of her healthcare has been private. We can't afford it. We are stuck. We don't know what to do.” (Female, 35-44)

“Having NHS services resume such as face to face GP appointments, and dentist appointments. My daughter still has never seen a dentist despite me trying to get her seen, my little boy hasn't seen a dentist since he was 9 months and he's now 3 years old.” (Female, 25-34)

Increased knowledge around long COVID and how difficult it can be to live with[14]

“A bigger impact of teaching the public about post covid/long covid issues. Covid isn't just about life and death even survival can have a life changing impact. And more support for looking at long covid symptoms as a whole, seeing individual specialists is not working.” (Female, 35-44)



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