Scotland's public bodies must build on community response to Covid-19

28 October 2021
Communities played a crucial role in the response to Covid-19

Communities across Scotland provided a vital and immediate response to help mitigate the impacts of Covid-19, and the momentum and lessons need to be sustained.

A joint update from the Accounts Commission and the Auditor General for Scotland outlines how Scotland’s public bodies worked with and empowered communities in the response to the pandemic, creating new ways of delivering support. The speed at which some communities were both enabled and empowered to work with councils, partners and charities showed how bureaucratic barriers can be quickly removed.

This momentum needs to be maintained, alongside a determination not to return to pre-pandemic ways of working. Doing so would help alleviate the unequal impacts of the pandemic on Scotland’s most disadvantaged people, but requires leadership and partnership working at national, local and community levels.

The update also provides several case studies from across Scotland of community responses to the pandemic. The learning from these case studies, and the wider response, are aimed at supporting public bodies, alongside their communities, to develop longer-term approaches to supporting and empowering citizens.

Geraldine Wooley, member of the Accounts Commission said:

Covid-19 made some public bodies quickly deliver services differently. In many places, voluntary sector organisations were able to work at pace and with a greater freedom to support their communities. Community organisations across Scotland have a depth of understanding about local needs, that we should continue to tap into. They were able to identify those who were most vulnerable, bringing insight into very local issues. Their ability to quickly maximise local knowledge and connections was crucial in the local response.

We urge councils to build on this and not return to business as usual. Truly empowered communities are vital in helping reduce the disadvantage and inequalities that have become more severe because of Covid-19.

Stephen Boyle, Auditor General for Scotland said:

Empowering communities is a national priority for the Scottish Government. It reaches every corner and aspect of how our public services are delivered. Public bodies need to be able to take risks, however, to be able to be innovative and try different ways of working, within a culture of trust that embraces change.