Building a social stimulus to tackle COVID-19

This latest report from UK think tank Onward looks at how communities are responding to the coronavirus crisis.

This is a two-part report and is the latest release of Onward’s new research programme Repairing our Social Fabric, a cross party review into the state of community in the UK. The research consisted of two parts. First, an in-depth research project to look at how communities were responding to the crisis, looking at Glasgow, Grimsby, and Barking and Dagenham. This work involved qualitative research interviews with key civic leaders, including volunteers, local authority staff and charity workers. Secondly, Onward convened a series of exploratory sessions with experts and leaders from the civic and community sector to discuss the challenges organisations were facing and potential solutions. The Action Research report finds that there has been an outpouring of neighbourliness and civic-mindedness, epitomised by 750,000 volunteers signing up for the NHS Volunteer Responder scheme almost overnight, but that many communities and civic groups are struggling to manage soaring demand with severe funding and operational restraints. The report warns of the risk of thousands of local charities and community groups becoming unviable just at the moment when they are needed to support vulnerable and isolated people during lockdown and to bring society together as the immediate crisis abates. Charities and groups interviewed for the research reported being “overwhelmed by volunteers” and told how local people had “stepped up, the community dragging it [the response] forward” but that because volunteers had been redirected “to help the wider community… this will have an effect on our finances down the line.” Alongside the Action Research, Onward published its 15-point plan for a social stimulus to strengthen society in the short, medium and long-term.

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