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Communities vs Covid-19: hundreds of neighbourly support groups spring up

More than 200 ‘mutual aid’ groups have sprung up across the UK to support those suffering from the effects and threat of the coronavirus outbreak

More than 200 ‘mutual aid’ groups have sprung up across the UK to support those suffering from the effects and threat of the coronavirus outbreak

As of Sunday afternoon, 249 groups had been established across the UK to help people impacted by Covid-19, or who are self-isolating in a bid to avoid the virus. Coordinating via WhatsApp and social media, they are helping with everything from shopping and dog walking to picking up prescriptions.

The groups, which are being coordinated nationally by Covid-19 Mutual Aid UK, are offering practical support and telephone calls with people who are self-isolating due to infection or increased vulnerability.

Anna Vickerstaff, one of the coordinators of the national network, said: “No matter what we look like, where we live, or how much money we have, getting sick reminds us that at our core we’re all just human.

“And in every country it’s the old, the sick and those already struggling who will be affected worse. That’s why we set this network up – because we want to make sure that no one in our communities is being left to face this crisis alone, and because we want to try and redress some of the serious inequalities this outbreak will expose.”

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According to Vickerstaff, the groups are being set up and run entirely by volunteers, with the hope being that they can help to make sure people who need support get it.

“With the NHS and public services having been so ruthlessly underfunded in the last decade, we really just want to make sure that people don’t end up suffering alone, or without the basics and support that they need from the outside world,” she said.

Vickerstaff added that there are “pretty big questions” about whether or not the government’s response to the crisis has been fit for purpose. “So it’s even more important that so many ordinary people across the country are keen to offer solidarity to each other in a moment of need,” she said. “We’d love to see even more communities get involved too – and we’re developing resources to help people take action in their neighbourhoods.”

Finding the group lifted our spirits and changed our view of the future

Emma Wood, who has been offering community support in Lewes, Sussex, said: “I spent Saturday walking around Lewes putting postcards through letterboxes and leaflets in our library and a few cafes and shops. Some lovely people have phoned to say how much they appreciate knowing there is help around and letting me know who is unwell in their family.”

Hope Winter-Hall, a resident of the borough of Islington in London, said: “I am a disabled person with a care package. I am self-isolating with my 92-year-old mother. We already know that social services and the NHS were overwhelmed before this virus hit. I am very well prepared for months of isolation but I will be needing help before it is over. Finding the Islington Mutual Aid group lifted our spirits and changed our view of the future.”

A full list of groups is available here

Image: Nina Strehl

Read more: Positive responses to coronavirus

This is part of our ‘Positive responses to coronavirus’ series:
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