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.

10. Overall effectiveness in supporting people at risk from Covid-19

Figure 6: Assessment of how effectively people at risk have been supported (n= 513)
Respondents’ assessment of the extent to which people at risk have been effectively supported.

Supported effectively

A large majority of respondents (83%) believe that people at risk were effectively supported in their area. Respondents gave a range of views on why that was. 

Rapid initial response by the third sector within communities:

  • ‘Food provision was near immediate, we supported pharmacies before local authority set its support.’
  • ‘Third sector were responding within a few days of lockdown and continued throughout.’

Collaboration between the third sector and local government, with third sector delivering much of the local support:

  • ‘The council was engaged but let the community drive the activity.’

Adaptation by the third sector and others locally:

  • ‘We were challenged to re-purpose our core activities and move from one to one and group workshops and learning opportunities to delivering remote support to people with little or no digital resources or internet access.’
  • ‘Local community groups and businesses… have adapted as people said what they needed and as overall circumstances are changing.’

Community support and pulling together:

  • ‘It has been a massive call to arms with everyone helping at this key time.’
  • ‘The local community have come out to help their neighbours and community in droves.  The local shops have offered deliveries free of charge as has the pharmacies.’
  • ‘The spirit of the community to identify vulnerable neighbours and pro-actively contact services to flag up possible need was hugely helpful.’

Collaboration locally:

  • ‘Charities etc... that don't usually work together have formed new and lasting relationships.’
  • ‘The spirit of partnership working and collaboration has been at the heart of this and, by working together, we have ensured that the most vulnerable have been supported.’
  • ‘Local authorities and organisations working together.’


  • ‘Communicating weekly to address the gaps as they appear through zoom calls. Again communication is the key, transparency and fluidity in our working practice.’


  • ‘We can see the community groups who have been working to provide support…, these have been possible due to funding being made available at the right time to the right organisations.’

Coordinating activity by agencies and intermediaries:

  • ‘[Local intermediary] have provided an enormous amount of support, coordinating the delivery of food to people in need through a partnership of 20+ community and voluntary organisations was always going to be problematic. However this network has provided really good coverage’.
  • ‘Our Health and Social Care partners have shown great leadership, care and attention and given regular updated guidance’.
  • ‘The statutory agencies have been very good in providing a rapid response in my view.’

Not supported effectively 

Although only 4% of respondents felt that people at risk in their local area had not been supported effectively, there were many comments pointing to factors which respondents felt resulted in ineffective support being delivered. Some of these related to views about local authorities or SG which have been covered earlier in this report. The other reasons expressed were as follows:

The impact on carers and families, particularly where social care became limited:

  • ‘…the burden of care on families was tremendous… Lockdown has revealed the extent to which we rely on unpaid carers. Some carers simply would not survive another lockdown.’
  • ‘Many family carers have been left with no support and in the worst cases threatened with a reduction in their care packages.’
  • ‘Families are being asked to pay for support that has been withdrawn and when they have sought alternatives have been told they still have to pay for both services.’
  • ‘The impact of reduced or suspended social care support’.

Difficulty in accessing essentials:

  • ‘Many people with [medical condition] should have had shielding letters and didn't get them. This left families fighting for slots for their shopping; confused and concerned about the actions they should take, feeling forgotten and insignificant.’
  • ‘I believe that some people may have experienced more hardship than they needed to, just because they didn't know where to go for help.’
  • ‘For those with sight loss the response was very poor in the first few months as it totally closed off their ability to shop and they were not recognised for priority disabled shopping. A big failing.’

Duplication and poor coordination:

  • ‘There has undoubtedly been a lot of duplication in food provision and also in provision of things like electronic devices. But better duplication than people left without support.’
  • ‘It has not been well co-ordinated in the voluntary sector - too many people trying to do similar things instead of sitting down together early on and agreeing a plan which we could all offer something to and then be able to do more for those in need - we found large areas of older people who seem to have been forgotten and others getting from everywhere creating great inequalities.’

Care homes – some respondents felt that more could have been done to protect older people in care homes. Others referred to the impacts of the inability to visit loved ones in care homes.

Digital exclusion:

  • ‘It has been challenging trying to keep contact with members who do not use digital technology.’
  • ‘Some people, particularly those in isolation, are not aware of the help which is mainly promoted on social media’.
  • ‘Older people living alone have felt very isolated - even when on internet, but worse for those not digitally connected’.

Neither effectively nor ineffectively supported

A number of respondents were unsure how effective support had been for people at risk in the area and this was due to:

Variable support provision: ‘There have been some pockets of excellent support and other areas where support has been lacking.’

The impossibility of answering the question accurately: ‘How can we possibly know.’

Uncertainty about the future: ‘Support was great at the start, but no exit strategy has been developed’



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