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Spring is here, the vaccination programme is going well and, whilst we can start to feel optimistic about the future, we know that we are not out of the woods yet; there is still some time to go before we achieve some sort of normality. Government guidance informs us that we will shortly be able to open up our facilities and go back to our places of work, but what impact has the last 12 months had on ourselves and our organisations and what do we need to consider in terms of moving forward? Whatever your thoughts, organisations need to be versatile and able to adapt to changing circumstances.

Many organisations quickly adapted to using digital to continue to provide services during the pandemic. What has been the impact of this on how you deliver services in future? What services and activities might you be able to resume or deliver in person and when? Are there services that you no longer need to deliver? Are there services that require face to face or can some provision be provided virtually? If you are making changes to services, how are you going to communicate these effectively to your users and beneficiaries? These are just some of the questions to consider as we start to open up.

It is quite likely that some organisations may be considering adopting a hybrid approach, a combination of office and home working.  Another issue to consider will be whether staff and volunteers have the skills to do this effectively and if you’re looking at making changes to service delivery, do you have the capacity to support the changes?

Critically important will be creating a safe working environment for staff and volunteers, adhering to government guidance and supporting the wellbeing of staff and volunteers. How do you support the mental well-being of staff and volunteers during change? How will you continue to support staff, volunteers and beneficiaries that are clinically vulnerable or extremely vulnerable? Are you planning to implement twice weekly rapid tests for coronavirus and how will you carry this out? Staff and volunteers will clearly have some anxieties about returning to the workplace and in some instances you may be considering staff continuing to work from home.  It is important that you address these issues and concerns prior to returning to the workplace.

You will no doubt have remained in contact with your users and beneficiaries as best you can during lockdown, but how are they feeling about moving out of lockdown? I expect there are some who can’t wait to get out and involved with activities and back to the face-to-face support of their community groups and organisations, but what about those who have considerable anxieties about taking that next move? How do we support people who will need a lot of help to re-connect with their communities?

During the pandemic volunteers may have stepped down and new volunteers recruited. It will be important to re-engage with volunteers but also to be aware of their changing needs and to balance this with the organisation’s needs for volunteers to carry out certain roles. Are you able to be more flexible? Could roles be undertaken in different ways or when volunteers have less time to give? Many people volunteered for the first time during the pandemic and some will be wanting to continue to do so in some capacity, whilst others who may have been active volunteers are now stepping back as a consequence of the pandemic. Organisations may therefore see a change in those stepping forward to volunteer and will need to consider different ways of keeping volunteers engaged and active and providing flexibility.

Lots to think about! 

Do let us know how you are adapting to coming out of lockdown by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., and in particular let us know what has worked well so that we can share any good practice. I look forward to hearing from you.

Stay safe and take care.


Ann Atkinson 2

Ann Atkinson

Assembly Development Officer


During the COVID-19 pandemic, technology has played an important role in ensuring that many of us could continue to work and learn, be kept informed and stay connected with our family and friends. However not all of us have been able to do this because of not being able to afford the technology and connectivity and/or not having the skills or confidence to be able to use technology effectively.
The pandemic has really brought home how important it is to ensure that everyone is connected and it is those who are not that are the most vulnerable in our communities who need the support to get online.  This discussion report looks at the challenges, how VCS organisations have adapted and are supporting beneficiaries and how we can work towards digital inclusion.
Download this Northumberland VCS Assembly discussion report on digital inclusion.

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Image by Sasin Tipchai from Pixabay


Read Ann's latest blog, in which she celebrates the wonderful grassroots response of volunteers to the COVID-19 pandemic in their communities, looks at how Assembly network meetings can be held on line, and discusses the recent online meeting of the Assembly Executive committee:


Take part to help make the case for more support for the VCS

"Help VONNE, VCSE Local Infrastructure Organisations (LIOs) and members of the NE Funders Network to understand the ongoing impact of COVID-19 on you and your beneficiaries.  

"Giving us this information helps us understand the impact of COVID-19 so we can effectively represent the sector and influence how funders focus their support now and in the future recovery period. The findings will also be shared with stakeholders including local authorities, LEPs, private sector organisations and the health system, to make the case for additional support and resources for the sector, and with national infrastructure partners including NCVO, ACEVO, NAVCA and the Charity Finance Group, to help us influence Government decisions affecting the sector."  

The survey will be open until 9am on Monday 4th May.
"We realise how busy you are but your input is vital to enable us to work more effectively on your behalf and that of the sector in the North East region. The survey will only take 10-15 minutes of your time, so go and make a brew, then click on the link and help us to help you.  Complete the North East VCSE Sector COVID-19 impact survey"