Response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Scotland:
We have different models of support – most of the sports groups are wholly independent and autonomous but the level of support they get from us can still be pretty variable. Some are very arms length and some are pretty regular support. We also have some groups that are still in the ‘incubator’ where they are very close to us despite having their own identity, or where they don’t quite have their own legal identity yet e.g. Rainbow Glasgaroos has its own identity but still very closely aligned to us and Trans Active doesn’t have its own bank account or autonomous identity yet.
We also have a pretty diverse volunteer group ranging from fairly well-off professional people to very marginalised and impoverished individuals and there’s been a striking amount of support offered through our volunteer programme in particular.
Quick overview summary of the stuff we’ve done:
– regular forums to bring sports group leaders together
– bulletins to support groups
– initial survey about digital skills and needs (in conjunction with Equality Network and LGBT Health, and leading to some groups getting Zoom licenses and some support to run things)
– we’ve provided a shedload of individual online support sessions which we didn’t do prior to COVID
– a substantial and pretty well attended online group support and training sessions ranging from quizzes, bingo, murder mystery etc through to speakers on key issues, debates on aspects of sports inclusion, Q and A’s with athletes and so on.
– we’ve done some hospital runs and food runs for some of our more in-need volunteers and group members and a few visits to volunteers who don’t have internet access
– we’ve done individual interviews with each of the sports clubs at different points throughout this. At one stage, this led to us approaching lottery for some additional funding, they signposted us to Equality Network who were already working on something with some other national orgs, and we ended up getting involved in this partnership to lever some specific funds for sports groups which we’ve since been distributing via 2 small support pots of funding.
– essentially our work has been to respond to the needs that we are getting back through the interviews and the forums from very tangible things such as the aforementioned funding, to practical things such as access to some of our paid online tools like Survey Monkey, and support to write up some guidance for clubs and so on
– access to digital equipment and online connectivity for those in the worst positions
– online challenges on a couple of levels – somewhat tongue in cheek ones through to personal best challenges.
– finally along with colleagues around the UK, some of our groups contributed to this report: https://pridesports.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/Covid-Survey.pdf
In terms of target audience we’ve very much gone with our pre-existing networks and groups and contacts and we haven’t developed any new community based services that seek to extend the community that we’re connected to, though many of our online activities have very much done that by bringing us into contact with many new people in different ways. I’d say it’s been a successful enough approach for us in terms of us providing support within our existing reach, but where we have provided more welfare type supports, we’ve done a lot of it and it’s been pretty intense at points. Those in poverty, trans people and asylum seekers who we work with have all been particularly adversely affected and therefore lots of support has gone to those members of our community. Surprisingly (for us) amongst our volunteers we also had a lot of need from young people come up and we’ve supported young people too, but also made a few referrals to more appropriate support at LGBT Youth Scotland.
A major theme has been that it took many people a long time to realise the impacts that it would have in the medium to long term and there are many still grappling with this – another major theme has been a lot of people in our community have been putting up with impacts because they feel there are people worse off than them and so have been initially reluctant to get welfare type support – we’re starting to see a shift here now. And finally I’d say that often sports groups, and memberships of clubs are seen as a bit of an additional luxury at times and so often the first thing that people will sacrifice when the going gets tough. However the importance of these spaces in the recovery effort around physical, mental and emotional health and wellbeing can’t be understated and so if someone can no longer find themselves able to take part in their badminton club anymore then it’s not just a minor deal, they are getting a double-triple dunt of impact as they are losing community, they are losing wellbeing strategies, they are losing their own structure and stability and so on.