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Frontline volunteers give loud word of warning, one year on

Volunteers have warned that key local organisations and community spaces will not survive without proper funding and support in a new report.

The report published by Local Trust, draws on conversations and research with 150 communities across England a year after the first lockdown.

In the report, the volunteers share real concerns about what will happen next, saying that key local organisations and community spaces will not survive without proper funding and support.

These are places that relied on income from room hire and fundraisers, which have come to a halt because of the pandemic – yet they have been crucial in providing a point for volunteers to organise local support during the pandemic.

Additionally, the report reveals how communities with access to resources and social infrastructure of this kind have been more able to work collaboratively and respond to the multiple obstacles that they faced.

In those places without these assets, the situation was different and the challenge more severe.

‘We already had an existing plan [before the pandemic] focused on making the community more cohesive, supporting older people and tackling loneliness,’ said a volunteer at W12 Big Local in White City, London – Jenny Chigwende (pictured).

‘We’re already so connected to different organisations because of our work through Big Local, we felt the best way to support communities was to provide funds to the groups and charities that communities lean on. Our main priority was giving out emergency funds to those who needed quick financial support.’

Everyone featured in the report is part of a national community-led funding programme called Big Local.

The programme, funded by the National Lottery Community Fund, gives 150 communities across the country £1.15m each, with almost no strings attached, to create long-lasting change in their neighbourhoods over 10 to 15 years.

‘The 150 communities we work with have shown incredible strength and resilience during the pandemic, showing the value of long-term investment in building the capacity and confidence of local people to take the lead in making a difference in their own neighbourhoods,’ said Local Trust’s chief executive, Matt Leach.

‘However, many in those communities are concerned about what comes next, and the challenge of sustaining what have been incredible levels of energy and commitment through what might be a long and challenging recovery.

‘At the same time, we know many ‘left behind’ communities have been hit even harder by the pandemic, with fewer mutual aid groups and lower levels of funding to help support local activity by residents; these places are at real risk of being further left behind if they do not receive targeted long-term investment through the proposed Community Wealth Fund, to support residents to rebuild local social infrastructure and increase the resilience of their communities for the future.’

Photo Credit – Zute Lightfoot on behalf of the Local Trust

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