When I went out today for my allotted daily exercise – what I like to call my Boris Break or maybe my Johnson jaunt – the neighbourhood was pretty empty and my street was completely deserted. Behind closed doors and on Whatsapp there was plenty of chat from my neighbours. For now it’s mostly getting-to-know-you stuff, as someone who lives in London, I’m barely on more than nodding terms with most on my road, but there’s an acknowledgement that we may soon be called on to barter items and help out with people who need food or medicines as they become ill.
But there are more formal calls for volunteers. The UK Government has called for a quarter of a million of them to help the most vulnerable – a lot of it is transport to medical appointments and helping people get medicine. There has been some effort to coordinate mutual aid societies to support the most vulnerable for example The Resident in London has a ‘complete’ list of mutual aid societies which seems to be drawn from Facebook – but street level groups aren’t there and perhaps shouldn’t be there given the potential signal to noise ratio.
Councils however are trying to coordinate volunteers as well – amid calls to clarify what role councils will have in supporting those who are the most vulnerable. Councils do not always have the capacity to coordinate volunteers themselves – for example my council’s latest update is to say they’re working as fast as they can through all the offers of help, but others are working with local community umbrella and outreach groups. Camden, for example, is working with its partners to marshal efforts:
Woking is also working with in a local partnership And in Ireland, volunteers are directed to local Volunteer Centres who will be coordinating efforts for now in coordination with government departments.
Of course, coordination is important but just as vital is being able to communicate with the potential volunteers and many council and voluntary sector organisations are running with small comms staffs. Some small councils may just have one person.
We are producing a briefing outlining how this will work and good practice examples. If you have examples you can share of what’s working in your area, then please email me firstname.lastname@example.org with any examples or queries.