skip to main content

Is the Third Sector boxed in or punching above its weight?

6 April 2020

Our Head of External Affairs, Jacqueline Cassidy, discusses how our friends, colleagues and partners are responding in a time of crisis

Working from home is something I do regularly but this is a little different… now I am joined in a tiny box room by two children, two cats and occasionally one husband crashing Zoom meetings, demanding snacks and asking me to explain the volume of a cylinder.

I’m not sure whether they’ve joined me because it’s the warmest room in the house or whether everyone is seeking some reassurance by being close to our fellow inmates - I think it’s probably a bit of both. In between the chaos, I have been struck by the extraordinary work that colleagues across the sector are undertaking to support children and families.

Whilst the current situation is exceptional, the response of the third sector is not. This is how the sector always deals with crisis. We deal with them every day on small and large scale: the child and their family with no food on the table, the young homeless person with a background littered with neglect, or the macro problem of not enough money and resources to support everyone to do the job that needs to be done.

Statistics from a survey by the Institute of Fundraising and NCVO this week highlight the phenomenal response from organisations to the challenges of COVID-19. As TFN reported, 43% of organisations surveyed have reported an increase in demand for their services (click to read).

Government has been quick to reach out to organisations working with vulnerable children and families to try and understand their needs and how they might help. In this time of crisis, they recognise the vital services that charities provide and the important relationships that they hold, and their importance in an emergency.

The Third Sector is, and has always been, an emergency service. Responding to need when other services don’t know what else to do, or where else to go. How often do schools struggle with how to support a child presenting behavioural challenges and after much trying say ‘Let’s call in Barnardos/Children 1st/Place2Be’ etc.?

We often hear about ‘the hard to reach’. But the calls to our members, partners and our colleagues suggest that everyone knows how to reach vulnerable families and children, and it’s the third sector who holds those relationships, knows how to support the families and how to speak with them in a way that is supportive, dignified, and improves outcomes for all.

Our members, and partners and colleagues across the sector are stepping up to meet the need, at the same time as managing significant reductions in income, massive organisational change and mind-boggling societal change.

As this extraordinary situation continues, and afterwards, there needs to be a recognition of the emergency service that the sector provides.

This recognition needs to include a seat at the table in local authority planning and design of services, it needs to be factored into resourcing and funding including investment in the local infrastructure that supports the sector, and our evidence and experience needs to be valued and acted on.

Be part of our network

There are so many reasons to get involved

Click to find out more


Find out more about Enquire, the Scottish advice service for additional support for learning

Click to visit the website


The website for young people offers advice and support on accessing their rights

Click to visit the website