Community organisations, key to effective coronavirus response, must now be trusted to lead recovery, finds new Locality report

A new report from Locality highlights the vital role that community organisations have played in meeting community need and supporting people during the Coronavirus crisis.

  • Community organisations often quickest to mobilise and key to coordinating and delivering emergency support.
  • Locality call on government to: support a community-powered economic recovery; create collaborative public services; and, provide support to turn community spirit into community power.
  • Community organisations have been the ‘glue’ linking mutual aid groups with private and public sector responses.
  • Over 100 organisations contributed to the report, with input from community organisation chief executives and council leaders from across England. This includes case studies with organisations in Berwick, Bristol, Coventry, Grimsby, Hackney, Manchester and Thetford.

The report looks at how community organisations reacted and adapted to the challenges of the crisis. Over 100 organisations contributed to the report, with input from community organisation chief executives and council leaders from across England.  This includes 7 in-depth case-studies with groups in Berwick, Bristol, Coventry, Grimsby, Hackney, Manchester and Thetford.

When crisis struck, across the country community organisations were early responders, coordinating volunteers, delivering emergency supplies, supporting isolated groups, and finding creative ways to keep communities together.

The report revealed that:

  • Community organisations have often been the quickest to mobilise and adapt their services to the crisis – but need support to meet the challenges of the future
  • Community organisations have been the glue that has held together the community response – coordinating and connecting grassroots groups with public and private sector responses.
  • In areas where the public, community and private sector already have strong, collaborative relationships, support was made available faster and has been more effective.
  • Community organisation have been able to harness the upsurge in community spirit – working with and coordinating grassroots groups and hyper-local support.

Danny Whitehouse, Chief Executive, Charles Burrell Centre, Thetford, said:

“We were able to mobilise a response to the coronavirus so quickly because of our strong networks locally.  We’ve formed deeper partnerships with our key local partners: our town, district and county councils, mutual aid volunteer groups, other voluntary sector organisations, our membership network, Locality, and our funding partners. As we look to recovery, we hope this, combined with the new wave of community spirit we’ve seen, will equip us to deal with the social and economic challenges that are coming down the track.”

Amy Kinnear, Chief Executive, Southmead Development Trust, Bristol, said:

“Our role is vital as we have established relationships with all the GP practices, adult social care and through the community so we have been able to quickly identify those at risk, link services up and become a trusted and known source of advice and support.”

The report also explores various changes and challenges that have emerged during the crisis, giving the following recommendations:

  • Expand the Community Ownership Fund to capitalise community organisations by leveraging Dormant Assets and other funding to establish a £1bn investment plan for community assets over the next five years.
  • Provide £500m revenue funding to protect, strengthen and grow existing community organisations and provide a pathway for new mutual aid groups to become established.
  • The procurement flexibility to work more collaboratively with suppliers introduced at the beginning of the coronavirus crisis should be spread across public sector contracting authorities, through further Cabinet Office guidance.

Tony Armstrong, Chief Executive of Locality, said:

“We cannot overstate the role community organisations have played in providing and mobilising support during the coronavirus crisis. They have taken a lead in the distribution of food, medical supplies, and hot meals, provided a friendly voice for isolated people and delivered ongoing support for people in crisis. The challenge we face now is ensuring that these groups are given the voice, power and resources they need to support their communities through the recovery from the pandemic.”

“Rebuilding our economy is going to be a national priority, but we have to learn the lessons of failed economic policies over several decades. Our recommendations for devolution of power and resources to communities are radical, but common sense. They would deliver much of the Prime Minister’s ambition to level up the country, build self-reliant and resilient communities and help us bounce back stronger from this crisis.”

You can read the full report here: https://locality.org.uk/corona-virus-recovery (Link will be live on 16.06.20)

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