How has Covid-19 Affected Portsmouth’s Voluntary Sector?

S&C has recently launched a new project to capture the impact of Covid-19 on different communities and sectors in Portsmouth. Paris Ali-Pilling explains how his experience of working with S&C over the past year has led him to report on the impact of Covid-19 on Portsmouth’s voluntary sector, via an online survey and interviews with local voluntary sector leaders.

I have been a full time volunteer at S&C since July 2019, when I left my previous career working in early years education. I was disillusioned with the sector as a result of my experiences working in nurseries, and wanted to take some time to explore other options for my career.

I’d been lucky enough to see the birth of S&C back in 2015 as I knew one of the founders, Sarah Cheverton. I saw the planning and hard work that went into creating the website, and helped out where I could with admin and the website. When I decided to take a career break, I asked Sarah and Tom if I could help with the website as a volunteer, and never looked back! I started off working on the website ‘behind the scenes’, but soon became interested in reporting, and with some help and training from the team, I was quickly writing articles myself, and getting more involved in the long term plans for developing the site.

When Covid-19 hit the UK, it couldn’t have come at a worse time for S&C. We had a number of funding bids in preparation for programmes working with local young people and residents to help them report on issues that mattered to them in their local communities.

Lockdown brought these projects to a halt very quickly.

We could no longer work together every day and moved to working virtually, and our plans for projects ‘in the real world’ came to a sharp halt. Social distancing and remote working took on additional importance as my Editor, Sarah Cheverton, who has Multiple Sclerosis, quickly made the decision to ‘self-shield’. We parked the funding bids for projects we had planned, and started to look for new ways of funding the organisation, with the additional challenge that we could no longer work safely in the community, so these projects would need to be ‘virtual’.

We were incredibly lucky as we soon won a funding award from the European Journalism Centre, and another from the Public Interest News Foundation, to report on the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on different social groups and sectors in Portsmouth.

As part of these projects, I will be reporting on the impact of the pandemic on the voluntary sector in Portsmouth. As a volunteer who has worked with S&C since the beginning, I have seen first-hand the drastic way the pandemic has changed the way we work: from switching to digital-only working in our team, changing our plans for funding, and losing other members of our team as a result of the pandemic and the ‘new reality’ of lockdown. I’d also worked on a number of articles with local charity for victims and survivors of domestic and sexual violence, and stalking, Aurora New Dawn, and had seen how the lockdown both transformed the way the organisation worked, and the way the Aurora team worked with their clients.

We are now running an online survey for voluntary sector organisations, community groups and associations, and social enterprises can share how Covid-19 has affected their organisation, the communities they serve, and their own staff. The findings from this will be shared with local MPs and councillors to help them better understand the challenges Covid-19 has caused for the sector in Portsmouth.

Click here to complete our Covid- 19 Survey for Portsmouth’s voluntary sector.

Over the coming weeks, I’ll also be interviewing leaders of local voluntary sector organisations and exploring the challenges and opportunities the pandemic has presented them with.

If you represent a voluntary sector organisation, group or charity in Portsmouth and you would like to be interviewed, please contact me on

If you are part of a local community group or association, charity or social enterprise, please complete our survey and share it with others and help us find out how Covid-19 has affected our local voluntary sector.

S&C has been awarded funding from the European Journalism Centre Covid-19 Support Fund to explore the social impact of Covid-19 on diverse communities and sectors in Portsmouth:

  • voluntary sector, including charities, community groups and social enterprises
  • small businesses and self-employed people
  • BAME communities

We have also been awarded funding from the Public Interest News Foundation Emergency Fund to explore the social impact of Covid-19 on migrants, and asylum seekers and refugees.

If you are interested in sharing your experiences in any of these areas, get in touch with us over on Facebook and Twitter, or email us at 

Image by Sarah Cheverton.

S&C is managed and operated by a small team who work on a voluntary and freelance basis to run our website, social media and engage with local residents and communities. Like all independent news providers in the UK, we’ve been hit hard by the pandemic. If you want to find out more about the challenges facing local independent news: visit the #SaveIndependentNews campaign website, get involved with S&C, donate, and help us spread the word on Facebook and Twitter. And if you want to know more about us, click here.