Background This paper reflects on different stakeholders’ perspectives on how voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) organisations in the UK, particularly those embedded in communities (‘community anchors’) supported responses to the Covid-19 pandemic and the potential implications for how these organisations are valued and supported for their contribution to local health and care systems in the UK
Methods A review of ‘grey’ literature using a rapid review methodology was completed. Websites of 30 organisations known to be active in producing documents and reports concerning the role of the VCSE in health and care systems were searched. Data were extracted by one reviewer into an Excel spreadsheet under the headings: title, author, type of evidence, population, actions, impacts, enablers/challenges, and other. Results were combined into a narrative synthesis.
Results Thirty-four reports were included. Unsurprisingly, the VCSE sector itself has the keenest insight and understanding of what they have been doing during the pandemic, of the complexities of the sector, and what their role could be in the recovery. In contrast, government perspectives, particularly at a national level, are fewer and more distant. They demonstrate a less detailed understanding of the complexity of the response and the importance of the long-term relationships between VCSE organisations and communities. Actions tend to focus on narrow areas of policy (e.g. volunteer passports), which can feel like rather simplistic responses to the complex relationships and challenges at a local level.
Conclusion The most comprehensive description and analysis of the contribution that VCSE organisations made to the pandemic response in the UK comes from the VCSE itself. However, it is important that a deeper understanding of what happened at a local level is carried forward into local and national governmental policy.
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