New research: Covid mutual aid groups are here to stay
On the day we meet in Parliament to call for a Community Power Act, we are pleased to present new research showing that over four in ten of the local groups which sprang up in the first days of the Covid pandemic have become permanent hubs of neighbourly support.
Our analysis finds that 41% of the thousands of Facebook groups formed in March 2020 specifically to support neighbours through the first lockdown are still going strong 25 months on. With far fewer people self-isolating or requiring Covid-specific support, the activity of these groups has moved on to a whole range of other issues including community kitchens, skills exchanges and even housebuilding.
- In Dorset, the Dorchester Community Kitchen (now Community Share) started out as a Whatsapp group chat and quickly became a huge food-sharing service delivering 150 family food parcels a week. They now run a number of local community larders across Dorset. During the pandemic they realised mental wellness would be a priority post-lockdown. As a result they are now delivering First Aid for Mental Health courses for communities across the country.
- Leighton Linslade Helpers in Bedfordshire started out as a Facebook group in March 2020 and was quickly brought into the official emergency response to Covid locally. Since then it has become an established community organisation, running a community fridge, acting as a hub for support for Afghan and Ukrainian refugees, and even helping homeless people into housing.
Organisations like this have shown what community can do. But it shouldn’t be the exception. It should be the norm. That’s why today community leaders and community-focused organisations from around the country are descending on Parliament to call for a Community Power Act – a major new law which would give local people the power they need to shape the places where they live. This Act would:
- Establish new community rights over spaces, services and spending decisions
- Enable Community Covenants – neighbourhood-level arrangements bringing local people, community organisations and local authorities together to share power and make decisions.
- Establish a Community Power Commissioner – an independent office charged with ensuring action is taken across government to unlock community power.
On 13 June We’re Right Here is bringing more than 100 local and national supporters to Parliament to make the case for a Community Power Act. Politicians from across the political spectrum are attending and speaking, including Alex Norris MP (Shadow Levelling Up Minister) and Doug Pullen (Conservative leader of Lichfield Council).
Sacha Bedding from the Annexe community centre in Dyke House, Hartlepool and one of the leaders of our campaign, said today:
“The pandemic showed us all how powerful community can be. And that spirit of togetherness is still strong. But it’s happening in a system that still fundamentally distrusts the idea of local people having real influence in their neighbourhoods.
Local people can be a big part of the answer to the problems facing us as a country. We just need the powers to get on with the job. That’s why we’re calling for a Community Power Act, to change where power lies in this country – so that local people can genuinely shape the areas where they live.”
Our analysis draws on the publicly available data collected at Covid-19 Mutual Aid UK. From a database of 3,074 Facebook groups registered on the site, we randomly selected a sample of 1,000 groups. Of these, 769 were found to have been newly registered in March 2020 with the specific objective of supporting neighbours through the Covid-19 pandemic. Of these 769 groups, 319 (41%) were found to have made at least one post in the last month (between 01 April 2022 and 01 May 2022) not relating to Covid support. From this analysis we assume that 41% of all the Facebook groups set up in March 2020 have developed into community support groups with functions that extend beyond pandemic-related support.
The research follows work by the APPG for ‘left behind’ neighbourhoods which found that there were lower rates of mutual aid groups set up in response to the pandemic in areas identified as ‘left behind’.
This research was also featured in The Guardian.