Janet Haugh: Meeting the challenges of the post-lockdown world

Ypeople CEO Janet Haugh discusses meeting the challenges of this year, and how the charity plans to keep the support of those who need it most as its priority.

Janet Haugh: Meeting the challenges of the post-lockdown world

Janet Haugh

There’s a classic song from the Sixties called ‘You Don’t Miss Your Water (Till Your Well Runs Dry)’ which beautifully encapsulates the notion that it’s only when you lose something that you appreciate how much it meant to you.

In the song, the singer Otis Redding is lamenting the fact that, due to the way he treated her, he has lost the one woman whom he now realises he really loved.

But that phrase, ‘You don’t miss your water…’ is one which could be applied to most of us at some point over the last few months.

It’s already slightly difficult to remember what life was like before lockdown descended on all of us, taking a hammer to what we called our normal lives and changing them out of all recognition.

Over these difficult months, I’m sure most of us have found ourselves looking back at the simple things which make life enjoyable.

Whether it’s going out for a nice meal with our partners or families, spending a few hours shopping with friends or just walking in the spring sunshine, we probably now appreciate a little more just how much the simple pleasures of life mean to us, having been deprived of them for so many weeks.

As lockdown has eased at different stages across the country, some of us have had a glimpse at normality or, at the very least, what will pass for it for the foreseeable future.

But amid all the speculation about what the much-discussed ‘new normal’ might look like, the more fortunate among us need to remember that, for thousands of people across Scotland, there isn’t really a ‘normal’ life to return to.

The big concerns for many people are not foreign holidays or retail therapy but more pressing matters like having somewhere safe to lay their head at night or being able to put food on the table for their families.

The charity sector, like many others across the business community, has taken a battering during the pandemic with lockdown posing huge challenges for all of us involved in supporting communities.

But what we have to remember is that life for thousands of people across Scotland was already very challenging even before the pandemic.

To echo the SCVO’s admirable #nevermoreneeded campaign, we’re now entering a radically altered landscape in which the support provided by charities is, if possible, even more essential than it previously was – before the world we know changed so radically.

In that new environment, it’s already very clear to us that the services Ypeople provides – helping people who are experiencing homelessness or facing the threat of homelessness, offering supported accommodation, providing mentoring or counselling – are now going to be in even greater demand.

We operate services across the country and during the lockdown period we have been able to maintain the vast majority of our operations.

That created many issues for our teams and they responded by using their commitment and ingenuity to find new ways to keep vital support in place despite the barriers which social distancing erected. In doing that, we were supported by local communities and other charities.

A typical example is our Orkney Young Persons Supported Accommodation service which arranged socially-distanced cooking, created activity packs promoting physical and mental wellbeing and organised funding for mobile devices which enabled our youngsters to keep in touch with and get support from friends and families.

Now, like our colleagues across the third sector, we face a different challenge. With no imminent sign of a vaccine being developed, we have to find ways to work effectively in this new post-lockdown environment.

Crucially, we firmly believe that we need to invest further in growing our services to meet the changing needs of the people we support.

Thanks to the dedication and commitment of our staff and volunteers, Ypeople has grown significantly over the last five years, with over 4,500 people being supported during 2019/20.

Before the onset of the pandemic, our intention in the year ahead was to increase investment in new and even better services. And as our communities take the first hesitant steps back to normal life, we recognise that increased investment is more necessary than ever if we are to help those who most need our support.

As the first part of that process, we are launching a recruitment campaign that will augment our teams across Scotland who have performed so admirably over the lockdown period.

We believe that it’s only by expanding and enhancing our services now, that we will be properly equipped to support those who most need our help in the coming months.

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