3. What are organisations' concerns and priorities for the future?
Participants were asked for their views about the short, medium and long term priorities for the people and communities they work with in responding to, and recovering from, the coronavirus pandemic, and their views about the most fundamental long term issues. There was consensus about the importance of mental health and financial support as main themes, as well as a range of other views, as noted below.
3.1 - Short, medium and long term priorities
Mental health was a commonly raised issue in relation to the short, medium and long term priorities for participants. Specific examples included: the effect on those with existing mental health problems, especially young people; limited face-to-face support and counselling; reduced employment opportunities impacting confidence; and anxiety as restrictions ease.
"[We have] a plea to supporting the most marginalised groups, they are extremely vulnerable. If we don't address we will require dealing with more complex issues within more acute settings."
Mental health charity
"Our members are very worried in the short to medium term about people's health and wellbeing, particularly the very high levels of anxiety, stress, distress and other mental health issues."
Several participants offered their thoughts regarding the viability of third sector and community organisations. Issues included: nervousness about future cuts; the impact of reduced services on communities; the combination of an increase in demand and decrease in funding; and the need for new ways of thinking and working to respond to changing needs.
"The rapid funding response from the Scottish Government and other funders has been welcome, but sustainability will be an ongoing concern, with organisations struggling to fundraise, carry out key-funded activity and meet increased demand. The impact of this on wider communities is already being felt, with organisations finding it harder to provide core services to those most in need."
A few participants noted issues regarding employment, specifically: limited childcare preventing parents returning to work, the need for fair work, pay and contracts, support for disabled people, and the need for new employment opportunities.
3.2 - Most fundamental priorities for the long term
Comments about the most fundamental elements for the long term recovery of communities related to the economy and making the recovery sustainable. This was referenced in the context of building a wellbeing and low carbon economy, and tackling equalities, targeting investment in already-deprived areas, and the protection of fair wages and employment contracts. This point was also mentioned in terms of neighbourhoods and places, and respondents raised the opportunity for building new and integrated opportunities for social connection, learning and education, and employment within community settings.
Further specific comments relating to inequalities were made by many participants, who noted the importance of avoiding exacerbating existing issues. Specific examples related to gender, mental health, disability, LGBT+, poverty, childcare and education, access to digital technology and disenfranchised communities.
More generally, the following points were also raised as fundamental long term priorities: protecting access to medical support; capitalising on rise in community spirit; developing community-focused initiatives; protecting against domestic abuse; capturing awareness of loneliness and isolation and mitigating going forward; protecting the environment and responding to the climate emergency; ensuring that the Gaelic language is not impacted; and ensuring that community organisations remain viable.
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