What is the name of the project/ activity? Springswood and Lynton Covid 19 mutual aid.
Where did the idea come from?
I was worried about people with no support networks when lockdown first started.
Was it developed as a new initiative/ project/ group? Or was it an existing organisation/ group changing what it did?
I checked if the community centre were doing anything but they weren’t
What did you hope to achieve? What was your initial aim?
To provide support to people on my street and the neighbouring streets
I printed out notices and put them through everyone’s door – about 120 houses on the main street and the avenue off it - saying to contact me if need anything getting and asking for people to help. I had 60 people offer. I spoke to some people I knew were shielding and checked they had support systems in place.
I made a Face Book page to put up information about the lockdown and the official guidance.
A couple on the street offered to set up a WhatsApp group which became a vehicle for people to make contact and chat to each other, especially on the avenue of terraced houses where people didn’t really know their neighbours.
I had a few requests for help and I either did it myself or put it on the whatsapp group.
People on the whatsapp Group would post appeals and others would answer and fulfil them.
If someone was going into town, they would let people know and pick up a few items for them. This resulted in less trips out of the neighbourhood for pints of milk etc.
The food bank put out an appeal for donations and a table was set up behind one person’s house and regular weekly collections were made, and still continue but with less donations now that the supermarkets food bank baskets have appeared again.
When the clap for carers ended a couple of people with previous links to a local private care home organised cakes for carers, people baked cakes, children drew pictures and people took them to the care home. There hasn’t been much feedback from the home but someone now has a link to the owners and hopefully we will find out what is useful. This is being taken forward by a couple of neighbours who like to do the baking and it will probably become a monthly visit rather than fortnightly.
Did you get the take up you expected?
Over half the households have been in touch. Lots of people wanted to help, to do something to support others.
I had a few requests for help, but most people had existing networks they could draw upon, some older people felt reassured that if their grandson couldn’t come then there were others who could help. They appreciated that even though they are shielding, they are not forgotten.
I did a second leaflet drop, 3 weeks after the first, with the WhatsApp group number and Facebook page name as well as my phone number, and did a general update.
Did you make any changes as time went on and the virus became less acute for some people?
The initial WhatsApp group became a social chat so we split the helpline from this and set up a different one for people wanting help.
The “chat” group was very busy during lock down, with between 20 – 200 posts a day, mostly chatter about baking, weather, uplifting stories, music, poetry etc. It was also useful for requests for borrowing garden tools, ladders, needing seeds and plants as the shops were shut. There were some squabbles over dogs barking and litter, some people left. 17 people out of 30 remain
The “helpline” had 40 original members, it currently has 31.
The FB page still exists and has 46 Members. I have recently posted the new guidelines as we entered the second lock down phase.
Both the WhatsApp and Face Book systems can be kept running and used if we need them. I suggested closing the groups but people wanted to keep them.
We post the requests for the food bank and Carers support each week and share the photographs of the community donations.
Based on your experience, what do you think that communities can do best on their own?
The pandemic sparked the need for more local connections within our own communities. It became evident that it was more the social need rather than needing help.
This was a “neighbours helping neighbours” model. The social media group meant it is self running and self supporting. People also felt safer knowing that their “helper” was a known person in the wider network.
The use of a landline and physical address meant those without social media could either use the phone or drop a note or shopping list in if needed.
Based on your experience, was there any help that would have made your work easier?
It was useful that Paul and Ruth came forward who were able to help with the WhatsApp group as this is not something I used.
The community centre set up a HUB which we linked into but havenot had a great deal of involvement with. Paul became the lead communicator with them.
Based on your experience, were there actions you wanted external agencies to take?
The external agencies were slow to set up and when they did, they wanted to formalise our involvement. Paul took the role as community liaison. As a “neighbour helping neighbour” model, we didn’t really fit their format.
We have several people within the group who hold enhanced DBS from their work as nurses, social workers, teachers etc so should we have needed to be handling sensitive information, these people could be allocated.
The external agencies wanted us to tell them what we were doing but did not tell us what support they were able to give us.
What are your overall reflections on the project?
People, who normally worked away from home and had few connections with their neighbours, needed to make contact with other people in the first phase of lockdown and used the WhatsApp forum to make connections and to share ideas and requests (often related to baking!). A few friendships have come from this and people are more aware of others on their street.
Most people utilised existing networks or family to get shopping and prescriptions collected but people felt reassured that there was a backup if needed.
We were able to respond to different needs as they arose, such as the food bank needing donations, and making the links to the local care home.