Friday, 10 July 2020

Mutual aid survey results

UK Mutual Aid conducted a survey aimed at support users and providers.  It set out how UK Mutual Aid is here to support the local community through our 1,800 volunteers, to empower grassroots groups and communities to better organise, plan and coordinate through technology.  We have acknowledged that our community’s needs will change over the months ahead. Because we wanted to know what our local community wanted, we asked people to fill out a survey to help us better understand the needs and ensure we can deliver relevant and practical support.

It should be noted that 95% of the 20 responses given in the week ending 27th June 2020 were from support providers.

Mentioned by six people, mental health, health, illness and emotional support were top of the list in terms of concerns for the community in the immediate and long term.  This was closely followed by issues of unemployment and people losing their jobs, mentioned by four people.  Concerns about financial support, economic hardship and poverty were also mentioned by four people.  Loneliness, isolation, social disconnect with the elderly, care and companionship were mentioned by four people.

Two people expressed concern about food access and hunger.  One person mentioned each of the following: fear, housing, education, people taking advantage of the system, race, cultural and religious relations, domestic abuse, what our goals are going to be, fewer volunteers but still having people who need help, community cohesion, inequality and deprivation, young people's engagement and protection.

Changes that people want to see were safe social spaces for young people, a more engaged local council and coordination between groups, good collaboration between all organisations, more activities to bond people together, more social events to get lonely people out of the house and help for people home schooling, more local small community initiatives in parks or schools, monitoring the system more, getting the organisers to call the volunteers and see if the users are needed, a more supportive community that can help each other, cohesiveness and multicultural support for all, connection in between charities, individuals, volunteers and local business, social events connecting the people, help getting back to work, help with mental health, more communication, a community centre, a website or notice board for seeking apprenticeships and initiatives and to see which organisations need volunteers, empowerment, jobs, the ability to adapt to where the need is, more people knowing each other and supporting each other and more support network for single people, mixed age activities, coffee groups, tennis and walks.

The roles that respondents saw for themselves in making these changes were being active volunteers and contributors around work commitments, involvement with an organisation, supporting vulnerable people, voluntary work, helping on the ground, expanding service capabilities in various sectors, being dynamic, promoting services when possible, organising and connecting individuals or organisations, signposting, marketing, look at funding streams, food hubs, community organising, job clubs, admin and organiser roles.

Let us know if you have any comments and if this survey summary brings other ideas to mind.

Wednesday, 1 July 2020

UK Mutual Aid – setting up the pharmacy team


I was intrigued to speak to Paloma to find out how her involvement in UK Mutual Aid came about.  She told me that having moved from Madrid five years ago she was quite established in London when the pandemic struck:

"The pandemic was coming up and I was working with elderly people and so my work is related with that, doing art and crafts with them so because of the restrictions of visits in home care houses I found myself jobless and I was happy to fill the gap doing something else.  I really wanted to help and have done volunteering all my life.” 

So how did Paloma get involved?  This is what she said:

“There were some people who would stay home and wouldn't even move from there.  Even if the virus can affect all people, including the younger generation like us, it would affect us less.  That's why I started.  I think I saw in an article somewhere, I'm not sure where, I saw the Facebook group and nobody was doing my area.  I'm in Brent Cross so I set up a group for Brent Cross and then I met Jia, the person who did the map, and I started to work with him as we lived very close to each other.  I thought that it would be good to communicate with other areas so that we can be better and stronger and to be aware of the vulnerable people.  The system we have is very safe because we do check-up calls at different stages.  The service is for free and reliable.  At the beginning it was crazy, two weeks non-stop 12 hours, I would wake up in the morning at 9.00 and end up at 10.00, 11.00 with meetings, leafleting."

And the pharmacy group?

“When the pandemic started all the classes were cancelled.  I said I would cover the gap.  When I started to do UK Mutual Aid, my first mission in the group was to organise the group in Golders Green.”

"We created a Barnet admin group with organisers with a common way of working.  I took Golders Green and Jia took Hampstead Garden Suburb and now I am very focused on the pharmacy team, delivering prescriptions.  We found out that one pharmacy called us saying that my driver is sick and we have 20 prescriptions to deliver.  Our system was matching one person with the closest volunteer and that system wouldn't work.  It wouldn't make sense to send 20 volunteers.  It made sense to make smaller groups and deliver prescriptions.  We are now around 20 people. Now it's easier.”

And what is it about mutual aid that inspired Paloma?

“What I really like about mutual aid is that we create a great community so that we know our neighbours, coming together for a common purpose. I think this group will evolve in other directions, including community events.  One of the things this pandemic has shown us is that we are so disconnected with other generations.  Before the pandemic it was more about myself and this has brought people together."

And where does Paloma see UK Mutual Aid developing in future?

"My idea for the future is more create a community, I want to work on that side, I want to create a community where the age of people is not a barrier and that you can interact with people of all ages, to know your neighbours. I would say, for instance, a way of connecting with elderly people would be a printed newsletter, social events for people to meet each other so that you can know your neighbours.  For me the evolution will be helping the people who still need prescriptions and evolve as a befriender, the social aspect.  You match with a volunteer and that person develops relationships more naturally.  You already have the structure and it would be easier.  We can move it to a social network for everyone in the area, for neighbours in the area to meet."

Paloma is clearly inspired by the elderly people she has met:

"I was actually thinking to do Zoom events with them, they can tell their stories, that person has been in two wars and has a lot to tell.  I have met a lot of interesting people and we can learn from them!"

"A lot of people told me: We have to have a coffee after this... I will do a rota for coffees. I was thinking to see the person behind the phone!"

How has the group been evolving?

“To keep the group alive, we have the idea of free classes so we have started yoga, art for children, salsa classes, craft, theatre classes for children, Zumba.  A volunteer can offer their time, something to share, we can share events."

Paloma clearly sees the impact that UK Mutual Aid has had:

“I don't want this to disappear, I don’t want to throw my effort away.  I want it to become part of something bigger...”