In early April, two weeks into lockdown, we issued a survey to find out how Coronavirus (COVID-19) was affecting our members. We wanted to fully understand the challenges so we could better support members and share results with government bodies to help them support the sector.
The survey was launched on the 9th April and we received 269 responses (14.3% of our total membership). Responses received came from members from a range of backgrounds and regional groups were evenly represented. 70% were employees with the rest split between business owners and self-employed workers. Just over 40% worked in forestry and woodland management, 25% in arboriculture and 9% in public policy. Public and private sector workers were equally represented.
The majority of respondents were still working but most had experienced at least some changes to their activities. Perhaps unsurprisingly, there was a lot of talk of home working and associated challenges. There was also discussion of site visits being on hold or much reduced. A few had been furloughed but we would reasonably expect a higher number now. Similarly, less than a fifth were taking advantage of the government’s financial packages but comments suggested this was a case of ‘not yet’ and that uptake would increase as the situation developed.
There was a high level of awareness of these support schemes and the majority said government guidance was understandable. Responses also raised awareness of concerns about delays in payments, lack of clarity and non-eligibility – for example, business owners who pay themselves by dividends.
In terms of support required, a lot of comments related to clear guidance. In light of this we sought to strengthen our own guidance and signpost to other reliable industry resources. A quarter of respondents talked about lobbying and awareness raising, and we’re continuing to work with partners such as Confor and government bodies to further develop relevant resources for our members. Both CPD and events were important considerations for many, with members commenting positively on what the Institute has already implemented with #MembersHour and other online CPD events.
While this survey is not wholly representative of our membership or of the sector, and of course this is a constantly shifting picture, as a snapshot it has provided a lot of insight. Results are being used to inform our online event planning, guidance for members and consideration of other types of support, as well as shared with government bodies to further raise awareness of the challenges faced by the sector.