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Tue, 09 Jul 24 10:00

Community spirit

Covid-19 has understandably consumed nearly all of our attention over the past couple of months. The pandemic is affecting each and every one of us in a range of ways; missing loved ones who we can’t see in person, struggling with the loss of routine or feeling concerned about our own health or the health of others, and of course working in this strange new world. Now we have moved to the first phase of relaxing lockdown we are grappling with building the green shoots for “recovery” and “living with Covid”.

In these emotional roller coaster times there is a lot to make sense of but it is crucial that we build on the strengths that have come from working differently. One of those strengths is the impact of communities rising to the challenge. We have seen amazing examples of communities coming together to support those who are most in need with acts of kindness and generosity, as people adapt to life in the midst of a pandemic.

Up and down the country, local systems have been put in place to make sure that children, young people and families are protected and vital services can continue, but crucially our communities and neighbours are looking out for each other wherever they can and a strong sense of community spirit has given hope to many. The effects of lockdown or self-isolation can exacerbate existing anxieties and worries and be particularly difficult for the most vulnerable, so it has been heartening to hear so many stories of communities coming together in a short space of time, collecting shopping for their neighbours, making a phone call to check in with someone living on their own, or volunteering with one of the many organised systems of support. Rainbows and messages of thanks and hope radiate from windows and our weekly clap for our wonderful key workers brings neighbours together around a shared purpose. Even the smallest acts of kindness, like asking someone how they are, can have a significantly positive impact on those who may be struggling.

I may be a little biased, but examples of amazing work our young people have been doing to support those in need right across the country have proliferated. There are stories of young people who have been volunteering to support local foodbanks, using social media to reach out to those struggling with lockdown and many putting their creative skills to great use to raise money for charities or create online messages of support and advice. Real inter-generational activity is taking place, supported by a range of digital platforms.

Partnership working with volunteers and communities has been vital in shaping our local responses and we need to build on this partnership as we work on recovery and a new normal. We need to recognise the strengths of our communities and enable them to continue to grow. With many neighbours and concerned individuals looking out for one another and new relationships being developed, a greater awareness that wellbeing and safeguarding is everyone’s responsibility is evident in the responses we have seen.

Local authorities act as leaders of place and in our leadership roles within children’s services we aim to support our services and our schools to be at the heart of communities and to be flexible according to their varied needs. This crisis has shown in abundance the strengths of those communities, so in building a new normal we need to value them and enable those local strengths to grow. The first test will be in these next few weeks as we support our schools to reopen to a wider range of children; this will take time and ADCS continues to make the point that five or six weeks’ notice is ideally needed to allow us to prepare effectively.

In times of crisis comes opportunity and this pandemic will be no different. There will undoubtedly be a lot we can learn from how we have dealt with the challenges presented by Covid-19, but it’s important to recognise the inspirational stories of how local communities have also risen to the challenge.

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