SFHA Members Humanitarian Response

Apr 30, 2020

By Michael McLaughlin, HACT Social Insight Lead in Scotland

Through my role as Social Insight Lead in Scotland, I have been lucky enough to have spoken to some of SFHA members taking a proactive role in emergency response to the COVID-19 crisis. As part of the Centre’s Scottish Network, there has been much discussion about ways in which Scottish housing associations are working with community groups and services, including foodbanks and volunteers providing food and pharmacy deliveries to tenants highlighted as most health risk and therefore housebound during COVID-19 crisis

As one of SFHA’s existing priorities is to promoting economic opportunity and investing in the communities in which our members Associations operate, this is great to see, and indeed we would look to support wherever possible.

As has been widely reported over the past six weeks, the current pandemic has already begun to place a large strain on the health, employment, and income of many households, the restrictions in place during the current lockdown, has obviously severely limited the way in which local services and support can  be provided. As community anchor organisations, even in current challenging situations, one positive I have taken is the ability that social landlords have to access and analyse information and infrastructure quickly. That has enabled the provision of some continued level of support in their communities.

Almost all of the members we have spoken to have initially used this information to carryout wellbeing calls to vulnerable tenants, using data they have of those aged over 70, with medical issues, and living alone to highlight levels of need.  Using these as triage calls to refer and signpost available support has allowed housing associations to then mobilise further support to respond to their community needs.

  • Larger Associations such as the Wheatley group have managed to do this successfully using the infrastructure and services they already provide, by increasing resources, staffing, and volunteers towards this delivery. In areas where this is logistically not possible and they have a tenant base, they have also looked to support smaller community groups carrying out work around food provision.


  • There are also examples of Housing Associations using their community centres which are currently closed for the public to directly provide foodbank or storage facility to facilitate deliveries of food and prescriptions within the community. West of Scotland Housing Association, and Glen Housing Association in Fife, have both managed to imbed this in an updated service delivery process to support vulnerable tenants.


  • Partnership working alongside, promoting, and referring tenants to food poverty programmes, and community hubs where set up by Local Authorities is also important for many smaller Associations. There is often a need to link up local services in order to provide a combined and more efficient community resource, which has been done effectively in Govan.  Through partnership with Elderpark Housing Association, Elderpark Community Centre, and charity Aberlour, have joined forces to deliver food and shopping to vulnerable and isolated members of the local community.

I have also heard of smaller but non the less important interventions in terms of support for emergency circumstances, where some Associations have redirected funds and projects to include small hardship funds for tenants in need.  This has been used to set up to help essential costs such as fuel, nappies, alongside food and medicine provisions.

However, I would also encourage associations to think in terms of a longer-term response to mitigate against the impact of COVID-19 within their communities.  Alongside the information on local need that wellbeing calls or other engagement carried out have already provided, there following funding streams are available to our members that may be accessed provide or support local resilience projects.

Supporting Communities Fund

SFHA are working with Scottish Government in order to provide easy access to this fund for our members.  This fund is aimed at Community anchor organisations working in partnership with grassroots and small community-based groups in order to disburse funds to where they are needed, or to link with public services when solely carrying out activity themselves.   Funding to be given out for projects of new or extended activity in the community that is being delivered solely in response to the Covid-19

Wellbeing Fund

The Scottish Government wider Wellbeing Fund is available to Charities, social enterprises, community groups and other voluntary organisations who work with at risk groups.  Housing Associations applying for this, should be immediately focusing on providing vital wellbeing support on issues such as food, physical health, mental health, personal finances, home life, or housing.   These should be providing activities that protect and promote the physical and mental wellbeing of your tenants and communities across Scotland.

Third Sector Resilience Fund

Managed by SCVO, this fund is for existing organisations who require financial support to continue to provide services as result of impact of COVID and Scotland’s national precautionary measures.  Housing Association’s looking to support existing local infrastructure and community groups may be interesting in applying for this.

Food Fund

Where the Association acting as Community Anchor through existing infrastructure such as foodbanks, or essential deliveries.  Where the association is the sole organisation operating and delivering activity in a community they would be expected to link with public services and will still be eligible to apply.

Response Recovery Resilience Fund – National Emergencies Trust

Available to community organisations with an income of Organisations with an income of less than £125,000, this may be suitable for partner or subsidiary organisations providing community resilience within our members areas.

In This Together Fund – Crisis UK

Where associations work directly to provide services to those experiencing homelessness.  Awards up to £5k for short-term responses, with up to £50k available fund long-term projects that focus on change in service delivery in response to COVID-19 crisis.

As part of wider discussions with Scottish Government and Healthcare services, I hope to be involved in upcoming meetings with iHub in order to agree the best way to including our member associations in their local communities emergency response infrastructure, and will communicate any conclusions from this.

We have provided our member association with data analysis highlighting tenants COVID vulnerability, with areas or groups most likely in most need within each the local authority.  Using this as a guide to relevant housing associations to where funds could be distributed to areas with tenants in most need.

SFHA will continue to work with members and partners through several communication streams, including Social Housing Resilience Group to provide guidance and support them to collectively respond to the current crisis.

I have also provided a short Humanitarian Briefing as part of SFHA’s comprehensive set of COVID-19 briefing notes for members, and will continue to be updated as further information becomes available.  If you have any feedback on this or any of the briefing notes, please contact Lorna Wilson on LWilson@sfha.co.uk.

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