When I’m feeling cynical, I look back on last year as one long reaction to the ever-changing social security system. Reading up on legislation, lobbying politicians for amendments, discussing with folk how the predicted changes will impact their lives … it often seemed a sobering and thankless task.

Through the conversations I was involved in, I heard many charities across Scotland speak of this coming at the worst possible time. A perfect storm was brewing of local authority budget cuts, increased service demand, and an overhanging cloud of future financial uncertainty for the sector.

conditions are likely to become tougher for many of the people that we work with

Many felt they had to shift to crisis intervention and it became very difficult, if not impossible, to find the time, resources (and energy!) to plan a more preventative agenda for the future.

Thankfully, I’m not normally cynical and looking back I can see that, amongst the fire-fighting, many charities determinedly found that space. I think it’s testament to the dedication and optimism of our sector that we pursued partnership working and articulated a positive vision for the future, at a time of such acute crisis.

In July SCVO brought many together for the Scottish Government’s Fairer Scotland conversation and many of the points we raised were included in their recent progress report.

The Glasgow Council for the Voluntary Sector, through both its Building Connections project and a Welfare Reform Expert Group, has created the space to share learning and best practice across the city.

The sector also responded impressively to the arrival of refugees to new parts of Scotland. Scottish Refugee Council has played an invaluable role in ensuring this process is done correctly, and local communities have welcomed the new arrivals. The Skills Bank set up by locals in Bute is a fantastic example of this. Look out for a refugee integration workshop at the Gathering in February.

In East Ayrshire, West Dunbartonshire, and Edinburgh, SCVO helped bring together the third sector interface, charities, local authorities, housing associations and others to mitigate the worst impacts of the cuts collectively. If you’re based in East Lothian, get yourself involved inour Welfare Reform roundtable at the end of this month.

Recognising the invaluable role played by many small community-based organisations throughout Scotland, the SCVO helped to deliver the Community Capacity and Resilience Fund (CCRF) last year. With grants of up to £5,000, many small organisations have received much needed cash to develop creative solutions to complex problems. Look out for an SCVO report on these fascinating local projects coming soon.

In the near future, conditions are likely to become tougher for many of the people that we work with. Budget cuts will continue and partial devolution of the welfare system will not create the space for substantial change. However, as long as we continue to engage with each other, learning from those most affected by the changes, we can work towards a better future.

And don’t forget to stay up-to-date with all the welfare news, events and intelligence by signing up to the welfare cuts bulletin!