Update from Neighbourhood Conversations

Update from Neighbourhood Conversations – week ending 24/04/20

Befriending and finding help – concerns for families – social inequality – build back better​

This week we held Neighbourhood Conversations in Shoreditch & City (hosted by Shoreditch Trust) and Hackney Downs (hosted by MRS Independent Living). As before the support of the Council, the local NHS and the Volunteer Centre in helping answering questions, and the participation of organisations across the VCSE sector was invaluable. As before it is humbling to hear how all organisations are putting aside day to day needs to adapt their services to contribute to the effort to support those in need.
Calls this week focussed beyond immediate needs for food and medicine, with discussions about how to link vulnerable families and individuals to the wider, more holistic support they need. Signposting and befriending are high on the list of what is needed, both now and for the longer term.
Concerns were expressed for all residents who are now housebound, and particularly for:
  • Families – especially those in temporary accommodation, and where caring for an adult or child who may be on the shield list. Many reported families finding home education difficult, especially where there a shortage of space or technology, and more broadly, VCSE organisations having concerns about young people who are not engaging with their online offer.
  • Residents with a learning disability, autism and dementia and the need for development of resources  and tailored support
  • Some self-employed people and casual workers falling through the gaps, and anyone now trying to access Universal Credit who needs help to complete the forms
  • Those who have never had to ask for and accept help before, the barriers this presents, and how the offer of help can adapt to accommodate.
The digital divide continues to be a theme, along with the exacerbated social divide evidenced by extremes of cultural capital across communities and areas. The cultural divides were also discussed – the needs for information to be in community languages, the lack of cultural appropriateness of some of the food distributed, and the need for greater representation of minority communities in the Neighbourhood Conversations and other forums.
Safeguarding is another theme, with increased isolation making some residents more vulnerable to scams, and the associated need for care and vigilance by all volunteer groups. 
Many VCSE organisations reporting they are working at capacity to support residents, with hugely increased workload. There were also questions about the capacity of the Council, the NHS and the system as a whole to meet the demands placed on them.
This week some more post-crisis thinking. Noting that there will be large numbers of older and vulnerable residents who will be physically less fit.  And alongside this a recognition that VCSE organisations will be much needed to support residents with the build back, but that a number will financially collapse during this time. 
Through it all, a continuing desire and commitment to build back better.