The ongoing response to the Covid-19 pandemic demonstrates the value of a whole-community approach when responding to emergencies. As envisaged in this framework, we have seen how collaboration between local and central government, statutory responders, businesses and the voluntary and community sector, community networks and individuals have been critical to our response. While there are no current plans to review the 2019 framework, we continue to learn lessons and evolve processes and guidance as appropriate.
I declare my interest as chairman of the Reserve Forces 2030 review. One of the few silver linings of the pandemic has been the response from more than 200,000 members of the public to be an NHS volunteer. The challenge, though, has been utilising them, partly because of a federated NHS and partly because of a relatively frail national resilience structure. With that in mind, what plans do the Government have to harness this latent appetite to volunteer, perhaps with the creation of a civilian or NHS reserve—a reserve that right now could be used to help vaccinate the general public?
My Lords, our reservists, particularly in the military, have been playing a key role in the Covid-19 response. They form an exceptional group of people with specialist skills and expertise. Veterans from the Armed Forces have also played an active role in their communities and their skills have been used to really good and practical effect during the pandemic. As we have said before, including Army volunteers and others who have been working with the NHS, some 500,000 people signed up and by early April, over 750,000 had done so and started undertaking tasks such as delivering medications from pharmacies, driving patients to appointments and making regular phone calls to isolated individuals. The Government continue to review the learning from the emergency and the ways to improve these arrangements.
My Lords, does my noble friend agree that while many local authorities have done a very good job, some will really need to revisit their own resilience plans? It may be that once the pandemic is over, the Government could consider whether all local authorities should revisit their resilience plans and look at how they interacted with all the other stakeholders to see where the gaps were. Perhaps my noble friend could then give guidance to local authorities on what is expected of them during any future pandemic or crisis.
My noble friend is right. The Community Resilience Development Framework is only that—a framework of things. We need to take the learnings from the pandemic, so far, and to work with local government representatives to ensure that they have learned the lessons.
My Lords, volunteers give their time for free, but the act of organising volunteers is often a considerable expense. Will the Government look at a windfall tax on those few companies which have done exceptionally well through the crisis to help to unleash and support the goodwill of the British people in this regard?
The Government have no plans for a windfall tax, but I can say that we have pledged £750,000 to help those in the voluntary, community and social enterprise sectors so that they could continue their work to support the country during the coronavirus outbreak.
My Lords, as the Minister has said, the relationship between the centre, local government and communities before, during and after a crisis event is absolutely essential. This has been reinforced during the Covid problem. Does she agree that true resilience means learning from crises and moving forward far more than the engineering definition of resilience, which comes back to the status quo ante? How will she implement learning the lessons of the Covid crisis as regards moving forward?
In June this year, the Prime Minister asked Danny Kruger MP to set out proposals to sustain exactly this: the community spirit and high levels of voluntary action undertaken during the Covid crisis. The report was published in September as Levelling Up Our Communities: Proposals for a New Social Covenant. The Government are looking at the recommendations made in that report.
My Lords, in reviewing the work of various community resilience development forums in my region, there seems to be a considerable variety of activities and information being made available to the public; it is likewise for the approaches followed by the different forums. What does the Minister expect them to achieve and is she content that they are all operating as anticipated?
I cannot comment on the particular area of the noble Baroness, but I think that the framework this document provides should be used by the whole of the voluntary sector. There is a key role for local government in this area to hold the ring around local groups and organisations to make sure that they all work to the same end.
My Lords, during the pandemic, many faith groups have played a key role in supporting not just their own members but their local communities. They can also be key conduits for information. I declare an interest as an Anglican priest. I read recently that the London Resilience Forum is the only one to have a faith panel. Does the noble Baroness know of any others? If not, would the Minister like to meet the London chair of the panel to learn from that experience?
I know about London, but I do not know of any others that have faith from outside the capital. It is an important area, and I would be very willing to meet the noble Baroness to talk further about this issue.
My Lords, following on the question put by the noble Lord, Lord Reid, have the Government made an assessment of outstanding examples of the implementation of the Community Resilience Development Framework during the Covid-19 pandemic, and will they publish examples of best practice as learning tools? I note the recommendations made in the Kruger report, but will they also publish the best examples as a learning tool for others?
We have many examples of really good practice. At the moment, the Covid pandemic is taking up so much time but I am sure that, at the end of it, the relevant department will make known all the good practice that is happening and which can be learned from.
Presumably, the framework will need some bolstering after Covid, and perhaps some extra resources. I am thinking in particular of things such as broadband. I heard the noble Baroness say that there would be an extra £750,000, but quite honestly that does not sound very much when we look at the whole framework and the valuable work being done. Are the Government thinking about improving the provision of resources for the framework?
There are no plans to improve resources for the framework at the moment. The noble Baroness will understand that a lot of government money has gone into all of our communities through the pandemic, but we keep everything under review.
My Lords, the Minister referred to gaining information from the best practice that has been deployed during the pandemic. Will she take on board the best practice in volunteering from the devolved Administrations as part of any review into the Community Resilience Development Framework?
I should say to the noble Baroness that we certainly will do that. In fact, I have here information that Monkstown Boxing Club in Northern Ireland has delivered a wide range of programmes to those young people who are the hardest to reach, aiming to help them through the difficult times due to the coronavirus.
My Lords, I thought that I would not get my question in. We have witnessed examples of immense heroism among individuals and groups who have shown courage in the face of this harsh pandemic. Given that that is selfless kindness towards the well-being of others, will the Government commit to ensuring that sufficient funds are made available, as raised by other noble Lords, for the third sector to ensure that groups are financially strengthened to match the ambition of the Community Resilience Development Framework? In the process, will they empower and promote women’s leadership in its delivery?
The noble Baroness is right. We hope that come the end of this spring and over the summer, a lot of people involved in the community and charity sectors will be out working again and getting their money as they normally do. In the meantime, we are keeping all of this under review.