Image of John Hume, Chief Executive of People's Health Trust

In this blog, John Hume discusses our response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

For the past eight years, People's Health Trust has supported local people who experience the sharp end of disadvantage, to take action together and make their neighbourhoods even better places to live. This way of working assumes that people have agency, they have ideas and wisdom and skills - all of which is true. Nobody likes to be pitied, to be made to feel helpless, yet at the same time, we all hope that someone will step in to support when things are tough.

As the ongoing pandemic began to take effect in all of our lives, in March this year, we made a decision, like many other funders, to stand alongside our funded organisations and support them. We have relaxed our grant requirements and supported people to use their funds in a different way. Our work is centred around the principle that local people are best placed to understand what their neighbourhood needs. In responding to this crisis, that principle is particularly important.

We’ve been in contact with all of our funded organisations individually to understand what they need now but also what they may need in the future; recognising that this is not a short-term issue with a quick fix. It’s been truly humbling to see the rapid changes made by projects. It’s often said that communities are responding out of necessity, but necessity could have meant closing down and walking away. So many of the organisations we support have done anything but that.

Knowing who is vulnerable in the neighbourhood and checking in; remembering who you haven’t seen for a while; setting up WhatsApp groups for support; ensuring people have enough food and dignity in accessing that food; picking up medication; young people looking out for older people; caring about those who have to go to work. These are just some of the many hundreds of ways we’ve seen people supporting each other locally.

But we need to be ready to support more. We are aware that, very sadly, a number of the organisations we work with have been bereaved by deaths relating to Covid-19. Our thoughts are with the colleagues, friends and families of those who have died. We celebrate the powerful contributions these people made to their communities.

We know people who experience disadvantage are likely to be more affected by Covid-19 and its after-shocks, economically and socially. We also know that both projects’ participants, and workers leading projects, have very real concerns about their mental health. We’re hearing about the challenges some projects have faced; in using or accessing technology and frustrating attempts to socially connect people whilst we are physically distancing; whilst there is significant confusion around the UK government’s support schemes, with many local charities concerned about finances.

In recent weeks, People’s Health Trust have put increasing amounts of time into our networks (and have set up an entirely new network) to offer a space for information sharing and peer support. We’ve developed action learning spaces for neighbourhood leads to ensure that they are supported during this time, and we’ve been lobbying Government to ensure that they consider further funding for charities.

I’m not saying any of this is to talk about us or to blow our own trumpet – this is our job. We are here to stand alongside the amazing funded organisations and give them the support they need at this time whether financial, social or moral. People make change – we just help it to happen.

To read more news from the Trust, click here.

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