Coronavirus (COVID-19): supporting people at higher risk - survey of third sector organisations

This report examines findings from a survey of 530 third sector organisations in Scotland who supported people through the COVID-19 pandemic over March to August 2020.

9. Working with the Scottish Government

Just under a quarter of responding organisations (24%) have had direct contact with the Scottish Government during this crisis. The vast majority of those organisations reported the working relationship with Scottish Government as being positive, as shown in Figure 5.

Figure 5: Assessment of working relationship with the Scottish Government (n=123)
Respondents’ assessment of the quality of working relationships with the Scottish Government.

Most of the feedback about working with the Scottish Government was positive and highlighted the following areas:


  • ‘Funding from government allowed us to deliver services and support quickly to those who needed it’;
  • ‘Provided grant assistance very quickly and flexibly to our needs.’

Listening and consulting on guidance etc: 

  • ‘Ministers and officials want to know the experience of people in communities. We know they have taken account of this as it has led to additional guidance etc.’;
  • ‘We feed specific family concerns and responses to the evolving COVID situation and feel that they are taken really seriously and with compassion.’


  • ‘There has seemed to be a genuine willingness to work collaboratively as far as possible and a massive effort was undertaken to try to keep everyone on the same page.’

Communicating, including virtual updates:

  • 'We've been able to have very open and honest conversations with the [ ] team who have supported us and the response from the start.’
  • ‘Clear and concise communication. Expectation levels were known at all times. Advantageous due to tumultuous and confusing nature of crisis.’

Where there was negative feedback, the main issues highlighted were: 


  • ‘Sadly, we received no emergency funding, perhaps due to our reserves which were already heavily committed for the current financial year. This does not seem to have been taken into consideration by decision makers. Opportunities to raise funds are decimated for the rest of this year at least.’
  • ‘The Scottish Government grants were going out the door to organisations who were duplicating existing community efforts.  It was not a good idea for the Government to hand out grants directly; it should have used the local knowledge of the TSIs more’.
  • ‘Our concern is now thinking ahead to the next financial year and how we and others can be funded to continue the good work started’


  • ‘Generally, the C19 pandemic experience indicates that SG depts need to balance their engagement with national vol. sector including SCVO with improved engagement with the 32 TSIs given the latter's key role in supporting the local and community and voluntary sector and volunteering which in turn is the way most vulnerable people have received non-statutory support throughout the C19 pandemic.’
  • ‘We made repeated offers to support the Scottish Government in any way we could but tended to find that we were only engaged when it came to refining guidance and often didn’t get the two way communication and discussion around issues such as the unplanned revocation of social care support that our members and other enquirers would have expected.’

Variable or insufficient access to SG staff during Covid:

  • ‘As the pandemic broke other staff were redeployed into [ ] who of course were working under pressure in new roles.’
  • ‘We had four of the most senior roles in our Scottish Government dept moved to direct Covid response and for most of the pandemic there were only two people in the SG team we usually work with. Only one of these has returned. There were implications as a result of the absence of the more senior roles, and will continue to be due to the diminished capacity from some of them not returning.’
  • ‘I do not feel that there are enough people in the SG departments at times and that sometimes we have been asked things by different parts of the government as there has been such a lot of work to do to help organise and coordinate information and responses.’



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