COVID-19 & the Social Impact Sector

This week our Social Impact Briefing continues to focus on the COVID-19 pandemic and how it is affecting the social impact sector: from struggling food bank networks to refined strategies for the homeless and domestic abuse victims.

Authors: Borimir Totev
  • Reading time: 5 min.
  • Posted on: March 23, 2020

Here’s our continued rundown of how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting the social impact sector…

Last week, we dedicated our rundown to showcasing some collaborative approaches to tackling this public health crisis. 

As of today the UK death toll from COVID-19 is 335. Last week, the UK government took unprecedented measures to tackle the spread of the virus last week. These include:

  • Ramping up social distancing with the closure of schools, pubs and restaurants
  • Providing employment and financial support, including the announcement of a Job Retention Scheme
  • Issuing guidance on shielding and protecting people defined on medical grounds as extremely vulnerable

We expect further measures to be announced throughout this week. For the most up to date updates from us follow our Twitter channel.

How responsible shopping will help struggling food bank networks

Elderly shoppers at the branch of Iceland at the Kennedy Centre, Belfast Photograph: Shropshire Star

What started with a single Iceland store in Northern Ireland opening early for its elderly customers last Tuesday has developed into measures adopted by major UK supermarkets:

  • From this week, health and care workers will be able to join elderly and vulnerable shoppers at Sainsbury’s​ between 8am and 9am on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Sainsbury’s has also confirmed that all staff who are feeling unwell or self-isolating during the coronavirus pandemic will be paid in full.
  • A number of Tesco stores are now operating on reduced hours, in order to be able to properly restock overnight.Asda is closing its 24-hour stores between 12am and 6am on a temporary basis.
  • Online shopping website Ocado has resumed limited online operation, having suspended its services temporarily last week.

Responsible shopping will take a communal effort and involve unlearning some of our old consumer habits. The current panic buying frenzy is already having a negative effect on food charities that are running low on supplies, due to a drop in donations and inability to buy supplies from supermarkets. The Guardian reports that at least 6 independent food banks are known to have closed down in the past few days.

What you can do to help:

–  The north London food bank Surfa has launched a Coronavirus Emergency Appeal you can donate to in response to this ‘perfect storm’ scenario.  

– The south London charity Compliments of The House that collects fresh, surplus food from supermarkets and restaurants and redistributes it to those in need has had to close its Brixton hub. Donate to their online fundraiser, to ensure they continue working on the streets. 

– The Roman Catholic Diocese of Westminster has asked for members of its churches to ‘step up generosity’. Additionally, it has produced an information poster to display at churches and parishes and is also organising a standby team of volunteers.

– Feeding Britain and the Independent Food Aid Network have urged people to write to their local MPs and donate to food banks. See more on how to write to you local MP here

Refining strategies to help the homeless and domestic abuse victims 

Homeless people

Glasgow City Mission’s night shelter. Photograph: Twitter / @GCMcare

We are expecting that a strategy to safeguard homeless people will be announced today. This includes measures allowing vacant hotels to be turned into homes for rough sleepers with around 45,000 ‘self-contained accommodation spaces’ needed as reported by the Guardian.

Glasgow City Mission, a Christian charity, has already had to close one of its night shelters as a staff member tested positive. The mission has warned of the risks of ‘mass sleeping’ and hopes the outbreak will change the way we think about how accommodation is provided for the most vulnerable in the future. 

Centre Point homelessness charity has written a letter to the PM signed by 36 CEOs asking for a tailored package of support, having provided a detailed briefing of key policy changes needed to protect people living in supported and other types of homelessness accommodation during the pandemic.

The national charity for homeless people, Crisis International, has launched an emergency appeal. You can donate here to provide vital care to rough sleepers who are more likely to suffer from respiratory conditions .

Domestic abuse victims

Earlier this month we wrote about the Domestic Abuse Bill making its way through Parliament and the additional considerations that were needed in order to ensure the protection of migrant women and children.

The issue now arises for people experiencing domestic violence, as social distancing for some would mean being trapped inside with an abuser.

Women’s Aid, a grassroots federation against domestic violence, has asked the government to take swift action to ensure that all survivors are supported to find suitable, safe accommodation where they can self-isolate. In addition to this, the government has been urged to consider refuge workers and all domestic abuse support workers within its contingency plans for professions, which may need to continue to run in self-isolation measures.Women’s Aid also has an online support service and chat function that may be of particular need to vulnerable people at home at this time. Find out more here.

Help and support: England – 0808 2000 247 / Scotland – 0800 027 1234 / Northern Ireland – 0808 802 1414 / Wales – 0808 80 10 800

Further funding

For local charities and grassroots organisations that can provide vital support to people in the quickest way possible:

The National Emergencies Trust, established last year, launched its Coronavirus Appeal in partnership with the British Red Cross, with backing from the Duke of Cambridge.

For Waitrose staff helping those in need in their local communities:

The John Lewis Partnership has announced a £1m Community Support Fund for teams in each of its shops to use based on local needs including setting up additional local delivery services, delivering boxes to local care homes and community groups, donating products to create care packages for customers to share with vulnerable neighbours.

For London organisations facing immediate financial pressures and uncertainty because of the coronavirus:

The Mayor of London, City Bridge Trust and London Funders have announced a £2m Emergency Support Fund for community and voluntary organisations in the capital.

For small registered charities, or local arms of bigger charities, across the UK:

Martin Lewis from MoneySaving Expert has offered £1m in grants of £5,000 to £20,000 for projects that are up and running, or are in the process of being set up.

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