Ellie Benton and Anne Power
Published 9 February 2021
The COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdown that followed created a unique set of circumstances: people over 70 and those with underlying health conditions were forced to self-isolate; day to day activities stopped; people began working from home and were cut off from families and friends. The forced closure of many businesses created economic anxieties and nine million people were put on furlough. The virus put extra pressure on NHS staff and carers who had to continue their day to day duties. In response to these unprecedented circumstances, a wave of community spirit spread across the country. 750,000 people signed up to the NHS volunteer scheme, 250,000 signed up to local volunteer schemes in the first 3 weeks of lockdown, and there are countless examples of small local initiatives to raise people's spirits such as community gardens. Alongside this wave of volunteering, there was a surge in the formation of mutual aid groups. There are now 43000 mutual aid groups across the country.
LSE Housing and Communities has a long-standing interest in the role of mutual aid in helping to tackle community problems. To capture the community response to the pandemic and understand the role that mutual aid groups were having in helping people in communities we contacted 70 mutual aid groups and selected 20 to be the main focus of our research. Our main findings are available in our report “Community Responses to the Coronavirus Pandemic: How mutual aid can help” (https://sticerd.lse.ac.uk/dps/case/cr/casereport134.pdf). We also had conversations with organisations such as housing associations that were going above and beyond their everyday duties to support their tenants. This report contains 21 case studies representing a range of type, size, and geographical locations of groups. We hope the case studies demonstrate the amazing work that the groups are doing to support their local communities. This research was conducted between May and September 2020 and the information in this report reflects information that was gathered during this period.