We are stronger as a collective than we are alone

Written by: Matthew Hilferty, Development Officer, the ALLIANCE

Published: 09/06/2021

Matthew discusses the important role relationship building has played over the last year as Scotland has responded to the COVID-19 pandemic.

A shared commitment to collaboration is an absolutely crucial aspect of health and social care integration in Scotland. The most recent review of integration from Audit Scotland in 2018 (this link will take you away from our website) highlighted six features which were ‘central to the success of integration.’ The first of these was collaborative leadership and building relationships. At this time, Audit Scotland found that both a lack of collaborative leadership and cultural differences across organisations were slowing the pace of integration.

The final review from the Ministerial Strategic Group for Health and Community Care in 2019 (this link will take you away from our website) echoed these concerns, calling for relationships and collaborative working to improve. Notably, it also proposed a strengthening of the links between integration authorities and the third sector, highlighting this an issue to be addressed by 2020.

And, most recently, the Feeley report (this link will take you away from our website), when addressing the commissioning of adult social care in Scotland, argued that ‘we need an approach that builds trusting relationships rather than competition. We need to build partnerships not market-places.’

At the ALLIANCE, our own Community in Action learning report has revealed the importance of collaboration and relationship building. The new report analyses the third sector’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, illustrating how third sector organisations put competition to one side in order to provide crucial support to those in need.

Simon Community Scotland worked alongside a raft of agencies including the NHS to provide healthcare support during the pandemic. PKAVS worked with North Inch and Muirton Community Council to install a box in the centre of Perth which they kept stocked up to allow all who needed period products to collect them. Scotland All Strong partnered with PKAVS, Perth and Kinross Council and Perth Autism Support to deliver fitness classes to unpaid carers and young autistic adults. Mel-Milaap worked with local restaurants and temples in Glasgow to prepare and distribute cooked meals. And the British Liver Trust collaborated with the NHS and healthcare professionals to promote and deliver virtual support groups.

Our People at the Centre report last year found that third sector organisations’ and local communities’ partnership working had mitigated the worst effects of COVID-19, in some cases bridging the gap that had been left by the withdrawal of healthcare services.

The third sector’s achievements over the last year would not have been possible without us coming together. As a membership organisation, the ALLIANCE already recognises that we are stronger as a collective than we are alone. In our role as a national third sector intermediary, we have a growing membership of over 3,000 national and local third sector organisations, associates in the statutory and private sectors, disabled people, people living with long term conditions and unpaid carers.

This year as the country hopefully begins our recovery from COVID-19, we need to make sure that we remember the lessons from the pandemic. And there is a lot to be learned specifically from the manner in which the third sector responded to COVID-19.

Working on the Community in Action project last year, I was able to interview organisations, hearing firsthand accounts of the adaptations they had made as a result of the pandemic. It was amazing to hear about the meaningful relationships that had been developed to fill gaps in services and meet people’s needs during such a difficult time.

It is now vital that we all share what we have learned over the last year so that we are able to continue to build on this momentum. Collaboration was crucial prior to the pandemic, as outlined above by Audit Scotland, the Ministerial Strategic Group and the Independent Review of Adult Social Care in Scotland. As the country faces the unprecedented challenge of recovering from COVID-19, collaboration and relationship building will be more important than ever. The third sector will have a key role to play in this recovery and, with a renewed commitment to working together in partnership, can continue to show the way forward.

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