Here is our round up of key issues and concerns from Neighbourhood Conversations in Springfield Park (hosted by Boiler House) and London Fields (hosted by Mind in the City, Hackney and Waltham Forest), which are the final ‘Phase 1’ meetings, before we start looking towards Phase 2 Conversations, taking place from 11 May.
Digital Divide continues to be a key concern, particularly for those living in temporary accommodation, families and older people and both highlights and exacerbates social inequality. Frontline staff report those that are cut off digitally are more profoundly impacted by the uncertainty of when lockdown will end, which has a knock on affect on their mental health, with fewer options for support to be able to signpost people into.
We continue to collect information about these issues, as well as potential solutions in the short and longer term, from the VCSE and are sharing these with Hackney Council and others.
Signposting; many reported that a significant amount of time and resources are spent in trying to find up to date information on services and resources to signpost into. The volume of information available from a variety of sources is a big part of that challenge, as well as keeping up to date in a constantly changing picture. Information and resources specifically focused on supporting children and families was felt to be of particular importance, with VCSE reporting families are really struggling without clear ideas about how and who to connect with for support.
Those taking part in Conversations reported big increases in demands for services and practical support across the board but particularly those addressing isolation, practical needs, mental health and bereavement support. The system offer on befriending, in development currently, is much needed. Understanding the needs and implications of trauma and the longer term impact of this crisis, people are concerned about the well being of staff and for the wider community.
Longer-term, there are concerns and fears that large numbers of people are not accessing medical services for preventative care, and may go on to develop more serious health concerns over time. There is a need for clear communications and guidance on accessing health services, and addressing fears relating to threat of contracting Covid-19. This is something the council are focusing on and trying to address.
As we move towards the ‘new normal’, we need to sustain and co-ordinate a bigger picture of change: several talked about the importance of building on the opportunities of positive change that could emerge from all of this, including around the enthusiasm and activism of the Mutual Aid groups, who have described wanting to be part of the long term ‘architecture of support’ for local residents.