Fear, Food and Finance – Digital Divide – Build Back Better
We held three Neighbourhood Conversations this week – Woodberry Wetlands, Clissold Park and Hackney Marsh – thanks to Manor House Development Trust, Studio Upstairs and Hackney Marsh Partnership for hosting – and to Healthwatch Hackney for great support with note-taking.
Many Voluntary and Community Sector groups are participating, along with tenants groups, volunteer groups like Mutual Aid, and local Councillors. We have a core group made up of officers from the Council and from the NHS Neighbourhoods team, along with the Volunteer Centre, Healthwatch Hackney and ourselves, who attend all meetings. Biggest meeting so far had 37 participants.
The calls are going well. The difference between the new calls and the ones where the Hackney CVS Neighbourhood team did all the groundwork is very noticeable; its much more difficult for everyone being in a zoom meeting, and particularly without having done all the relationship building first. Everyone is trying to make it work. Feedback is that they are useful spaces for interaction, raising issues, sharing concerns and knowing who is working in the area.
We prepare a briefing for participants, and many other questions are answered on the calls.
1. We always go round the organisations participating to hear what everyone is doing. Organisations taking part are all working in imaginative ways to continue to provide services. For voluntary and community groups this is mostly:
- Some working on frontline, making food, organising food distribution, and food and other deliveries
- Most continuing to support their client groups with either their continued service by phone/online (e.g. specialist mental health support) or adapting to offering support, signposting, befriending, helping accessing services to do what they can to help. One described the calls as Fear, Food and Finance.
2. A common concern was for those who are not being reached. How can voluntary and community sector groups find out about others who need their support? (Raised that the shield list is not shared).
3. Digital Divide – this is the most frequent issue mentioned, it comes up all the time, for many groups. Concern that people are falling through the net because they cannot find out what is available, and are less reachable:
- Those, particularly older people, who do not know how to use technology/internet, and probably also do not have the technology
- Those who cannot afford technology – or data on their phones, or wifi – see attached email from Hackney Playbus
- Those who struggle to use technology because of conditions like arthritis
- Those families who have e.g. one tablet for many including children to use.
4. Volunteers – many organisations involving volunteers to be able to continue to deliver services. Some frustrations in Mutual Aid groups about their desire to help but no clear role in the ‘system’. Volunteer Centre has 1400 volunteers on their system available to help.
5. Issues on the horizon:
- Organisations see Mental Health/bereavement issues as a big issue coming up, concern about how they can support residents. Need for bereavement support training for VCS workers (Update following the meetings: a working group of the Wellbeing Network and Psychological Therapies Alliance is looking at bereavement support generally, including for VCS frontline, and will circulate plans end of the month)
- Longer term issues of food poverty, currently managed but seen as persisting with economic downturn
- A wish to Build Back Better.