A community-led Covid recovery

Mark Golledge
5 min readFeb 8, 2021

Last week I came across a thought provoking article by The Kings Fund focused on Covid recovery and resilience. At first I thought it was rather premature to be considering, planning for or indeed starting a Covid recovery. At the time of writing in February 2021 much of the focus is understandably on limiting the spread of infections, reducing pressure on health and care services and on actively rolling out the vaccination programme. But if there is one thing we know from previous events it is that recovery often starts during a time of crisis.

For health and care services we know that a significant part of the response will be on tackling the backlog in treatment and getting services back up and running. However, as the Kings Fund highlights — it won’t be enough to just focus on restarting services. Local system partners must work together with local communities to prepare for and support Covid recovery.

The Kings Fund article highlights four areas that should be part of the response:

  1. Making mental health and wellbeing central to Covid recovery
  2. Ensuring that local communities are not left behind and that inequalities are reduced not widened
  3. Making the response a collaborative one across different sectors and organisations
  4. Prioritising workforce wellbeing.
A path to recovery — from The Kings Fund: https://features.kingsfund.org.uk/2021/02/covid-19-recovery-resilience-health-care/

Local communities and neighbourhoods should be central to this Covid response.

The pandemic has clearly demonstrated the vital role that many people have in showing care and compassion for their neighbours. I wrote back in March 2020 about how communities were at the centre of the response to Covid. The rise of Mutual Aid Groups, volunteering as well as more informal support to families, friends and neighbours has continued during 2020 and into 2021.

In many ways a response to Covid recovery has already started. There are already practical examples of where that recovery response is underway. London is one of those areas where the Mayor has launched a community led recovery programme to support Londoners.

As Robin Hambleton reminds us, to support community resilience we need to give local people more involvement in the decisions which impact them. A community-led response to Covid is essential.

Suzanne Wilson in her recent blog, the Glasgow Centre for Population Health and more recently Involve and Mutual Ventures have all started to consider what is needed for a Covid-19 response and recovery. In parallel to the Kings Fund, many of these draw on previous experiences of how communities have responded to traumatic events. We know that individuals, families and communities will respond in different ways and any response needs to take this into account.

Our response to Covid recovery should:

  1. Be participatory — By listening and involving people in their neighbourhoods

Our response must start with listening to, and involving local communities. We need to interact with people in their neighbourhoods and give people the opportunity to talk about their experiences in their own context.

Communities should have a clear voice in defining what important to them and how this should be implemented. Participatory approaches have an important role to play here. Many of the solutions required for supporting Covid recovery lies in the communties themselves.

Areas such as West Midlands, Coventry, Falkirk (who have invited local people to say how they’ve been affected by Covid and shape priorities) and Scotland (more widely) are examples of areas that are already taking steps to facilitate this.

2 Be locally led — By giving the voluntary and community sector a central voice and valuing the contribution of anchor institutions

Priorities for Covid recovery need to be determined through community involvement — and be owned by those local communities. There is an important role here for the voluntary and community sector. During Covid we have seen the value of these organisations in helping people to remain independent and resilient in challenging circumstances. As we prepare for a Covid recovery it is important this continues.

We also need to value the contribution of anchor institutions — both voluntary and community sector anchors in a place as well as those larger organisations. There is an opportunity here both in supporting the existing workforce but in supporting people into work.

3. Be about wellbeing — By supporting mental health and as part of this take a trauma informed approach

Prioritising wellbeing and supporting mental health will need to be central to the response. Covid has impacted people in different ways — children and adults including practitioners working in health, social care and other areas. Countless individuals, families and communities have sadly lost loved ones — and we must give people space to respond in their own ways.

In the long-term we will need to work together to help people get back to life gradually, give people space to make sense of what has happened, deal with practical and financial concerns and offer pyschological support to those who need it.

A community based response is essential here — helping people (whether that be individuals, families or communities) understand what is important to them and be able to draw on what is around them in their local places.

The opportunity of physical community hubs in supporting recovery for example has been written about — drawing on learning from Blackpool, Kettering and Northwich. Part of our Covid recovery needs to involve ‘nurturing the spaces in which we come together with friends and neighbours on an equal basis’.

4. Be about person-centred support — By bringing together services in the places that people live to assist people who are vulnerable to the impacts of Covid

During Covid we have seen significant efforts among organisations (statutory and voluntary) to work together to support local people. We now need to properly join up care and support for people — based on what is important to them. This should start with those people who are vulnerable to the impacts of Covid (considering physical, psychological and social needs).

The post by National Association for Primary Care highlights the opportunities we have to truly bring together people to deliver this building on work of Primay Care Networks and Neighbourhoods. Giving people better access to care within their local communities, removing the barriers between organisations providing that care and support, and assisting those most vulnerable in our local communities needs to be central to a Covid-recovery.

We must use the opportunity from Covid recovery to establish ‘a new normal’ — a way of life that, in some ways, might resemble life previously. But one which has adapted to and been changed by the crisis, that applies what we have learned and presents everyone with a hope for the future.

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Mark Golledge

Neighbourhoods Programme Lead working across health and social care in City and Hackney | Previously: NHS and Local Government |