When buying a new TV with built in Freeview the existing VCR and DVD Recorder were not able to record the Freeview channels, only the 5 analogue channels.
Took a while to fathom out the DVD recorder, (Sony), did not have a built in tuner.
Choice was to buy and connect a digital set top box or buy a DVD Recorder with built in Freeview.
Had it setup for free, with the VCR and DVD recorder connected via scart. VCR still only records analogue channels though.
If anyone wonders why both? A VCR is connected to another TV elsewhere and my wife uses this to record her favourites and playback on the new TV. The DVD Recorder is a new fangled complicated thing as far as she is concerned,
As has been said unless the recorder has a built in Freeview tuner, and if it is a VCR odds are it won't have, you will not be able to record on it, even if the TV is digital as the signal goes from recorder to TV not the other way as the TV aerial is plugged into the recorder, the only option is a new Freeview enabled recorder, which will be DVD or DVD/Video combination or a Freeview box between the aerial and the recorder, this will not be as flexible though
I suspect that what you really need to be able to do everything you want is a twin tuner Freeview box with a built-in hard drive recorder. Like this one: click here
This will allow you to record one channel while you watch another, and pause live TV. You already have a DVD recorder, so if there are programmes that you want to preserve for the long term (instead of just watching them and then deleting from the hard drive) you could output them to the DVD recorder.