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National Emergencies Trust Coronavirus Appeal by Gemma Khairi

National Emergencies Trust Coronavirus Appeal by Gemma Khairi

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Between April 2020 and April 2021, the National Emergencies Trust: https://nationalemergenciestrust.org.uk/ raised £97m to support the local and national response to the pandemic by voluntary and community organisations across the UK.  Most of these funds were allocated to local Community Foundations to support local responses.  In June 2020 the National Emergencies Trust also identified the value in supporting a range of national helpline services.  These were selected based on providing support in relation to specific issues or groups within the community where there was either clear evidence of increased impact/incidence, as a result of the pandemic, or where local distribution of funds had been less successful at reaching certain beneficiary groups/issues.

The issues and groups identified included older people, children and young people, the LBGT community, refugees and asylum seekers and those experiencing domestic violence, mental health issues, homelessness and bereavement.  Targeted funding programmes, working with partners in relation to disability and communities experiencing racial injustice were also set up. Funding of over £10m has been provided to support national helplines.

The thinking behind the support to national helpline services was to provide funding to:

  • Increase the capacity of existing services
  • Support services to adapt to operating during the pandemic and beyond
  • Improve the accessibility of services, including setting up new platforms
  • Improve the co-ordination of related helpline services and signposting/onward referral
  • Establish new services

Each of the National Partners supported were able to use the funding flexibly to support their specific needs, circumstances and respond to the learning they had gained since the pandemic impacted.  There have been a range of creative and pragmatic responses and reports received to date have provided several learning points.

The Evaluation

Nottingham Trent University are working in partnership with the National Emergencies Trust on an evaluation project funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). The overall purpose of this evaluation is to objectively assess the relevance, efficiency, effectiveness, and sustainability of the National Emergencies Trust’s coronavirus appeal relative to its objectives, to ensure accountability. This will be completed in two phases:

Phase 1:  Process Evaluation. This will involve a process evaluation of the appeal, which will feed back to stakeholders and inform the National Emergencies Trust’s policy and procedures.

Phase 2:  Impact Evaluation. This will involve a thorough, holistic exploration of the appeal, which will inform the National Emergencies Trust’s policies and processes in future disasters and will be shared with stakeholders across various sectors to enhance our understanding of how best to support individuals and communities impacted by disasters and emergencies. This part of the evaluation will explore the impact that the appeal had on those that the National Emergencies Trust seeks to support in times of emergency.

Each National Partner will be undertaking their own evaluation of the funded work and this will feed into the overall appeal evaluation work by Nottingham Trent University.

As part of this evaluation, the team at NTU are keen to understand the experiences of voluntary sector organisations in responding to the changing needs of various community groups through the pandemic, the impact of the pandemic on the organisations and the operating model, and the impact that voluntary sector support has had on the most vulnerable in society.

How can you help?

The focus of the overarching evaluation of the funding to support helplines will be:

  • Was there an appropriate balance between funding a local response and a national one?
  • How were issues/groups targeted?
    • How effective was this in targeting those in most need?
    • What changes in the use of technology were deployed?
  • How and why did the helplines adapt the delivery of the support services they provide?
  • What was your experience like during the pandemic – as an individual and an organisation?
  • What lasting changes will the pandemic have on how their services will be delivered in the future?
  • What was the impact of this support on the people using your services?
    • How do you capture this impact within your organisation?

There are a huge number of helplines within the VCS, yet there is very little knowledge about the experiences of helpline organisations or the impact these services have on society within the larger sector and academic knowledge. We are keen to develop this knowledge and understanding, to create a forum to help understand and address the challenges faced by helpline organisations, and to facilitate the sharing of leading practices more widely.

As the helpline services being looked at cover a broad range of issues and groups, we are interested in ensuring that the value of this aspect of the evaluation has as wide an impact as possible.

We have had initial discussions with Helplines Partnership (HLP) and would like to know your thoughts on what aspects of the learning would be of greatest value to you.

If you would be willing to share your experiences on these topics, please email NET-evaluation@ntu.ac.uk. We would expect to share this learning in a session for helplines organisations at the end of the project.

We will also work with Helplines Partnership to explore other opportunities to maximise the impact of the learning for the helplines sector.