The Covid-19 lockdown created many challenges for third sector organisations across Scotland and our members have responded strongly and admirably to the crisis.  Despite facing an almost overnight loss of trading income many community reuse and recycling organisations have been pivoting their efforts to support those in their communities who were isolated or were particularly vulnerable during the lockdown.

In this Lockdown Conversation, Lesley Campbell, Reuse Consortium Coordinator at CRNS speaks to Heather Buchan at Aberdeenshire Council and Mark Morgan from Stella’s Voice about how the consortium worked together to furnish temporary accommodation at the start of lockdown.

How did you get involved with the Reuse Consortium?

Prior to Covid-19, Aberdeenshire Council had already been exploring the Reuse Consortium through a pilot programme, purchasing reuse furniture to furnish properties for their Homeless clients.  Stella’s Voice are a charity operating from Peterhead in Aberdeenshire, with their main charitable purpose being to work overseas to prevent vulnerable young people from being trafficked.  They generate an income from reuse and recycling, and as a member of CRNS, they were eligible to become a member of the Reuse Consortium.

How did lockdown affect your organisation and the work you were doing?

When lockdown hit, Aberdeenshire Council had to quickly formulate a plan for supporting their most vulnerable clients, in a scenario where they couldn’t use shared accommodation or hotels for emergency out of hours service, due to Covid. They had to urgently get properties ready for clients, and in the Peterhead area, this meant using the Reuse Consortium for furniture.  On the other hand, Stella’s Voice were looking at how to operate safely in the lock down situation and how they could respond to the Council’s requirements to for furniture, at a time when donations had stopped completely.

How did the Reuse Consortium help during lockdown?

As Mark from Stella’s Voice said, they called on support from the wider Consortium members, and sent vans to Glasgow, Fife and Dundee to collect furniture and white goods that would enable them to respond rapidly to help Aberdeenshire Council.  For the Council staff, having working relationships at a local level made life so much easier.  They were able to pick up the phone and ask if Stella’s Voice could help, and the response was always there. As Heather says “they’ll do it like yesterday!”

What are the benefits of purchasing from the Reuse Consortium?

From the Council’s perspective, the furniture is excellent quality and because they are purchasing from a Scotland Excel contract, there is the reassurance of quality and safety.  The furniture is also very good value, and their clients “are amazed it is reuse furniture”.  The income to Stella’s Voice from the contract with the Council, means they can provide local jobs and training as well as enabling their local charitable work such as food provision and supporting local causes.

Heather says: “As a local authority, we are delighted to see something going into the local economy and we are also saving stuff from going to landfill”.

From Stella’s Voice, Mark says: “ I cannot recommend the Consortium highly enough, for us there wasn’t a downside to it”.