As we approach the first anniversary of the first national lockdown, there is growing evidence that the pandemic has widened pre-existing inequalities. The coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis has not affected everybody equally, says a new report from Toynbee Hall and Thrive LDN.
Publishing early findings today, Pandemic Stories -a peer-to-peer research report by Toynbee Hall with support from Thrive LDN – gives voice to people from London’s hardest hit communities.
The report highlights how the last twelve months have not only been a health crisis, but have dramatically affected people’s social, economic and family life as well as their mental health. It raises several key issues the peer researchers are now asking London’s policy makers to think about as the city moves towards a future beyond the pandemic.
The report tells the stories of Londoners disproportionately impacted because of low income, disability, racial background, or housing tenure. Beginning in June 2020, interviews were carried out by Toynbee Hall’s trained peer researchers, people who come from the same communities as the interviewees and share their experience of the issues. The interviewees ranged from those aged 18 years to 80 years old, from diverse backgrounds, with three out of four from a Black or other ethnic minority background, and over half with long-term disability.
Toynbee Hall held regular sessions with the researchers to understand the findings and explore possible solutions to improve wellbeing and financial resilience. The researchers shared these in turn with the interviewees and their input was used to develop proposed solutions which interviewees and peer researchers all believed would create lasting, positive change.
Commenting on the report, Sian Williams, Director of Policy at Toynbee Hall said: “We know now that those who were already facing systemic injustice before the crisis began have been disproportionately affected. For many of the communities our peer researchers interviewed, the pandemic is just the latest onslaught in a steadily worsening series of crises they face.
“Taking action is essential to community empowerment, and we are working with the peer researchers and a wide range of stakeholders to honour our commitment to make sure that their voice and views are driving social and economic reform through the process of co-design and co-production. We believe policy made with the direct involvement of those affected is better policy.”
This evidence of COVID-19’s harsher impact on disadvantaged communities, and its effect on mental health and wellbeing, maps to other community research carried out by Thrive LDN.
Since March 2020, Thrive LDN has been coordinating the public mental health response to the coronavirus pandemic on behalf of Public Health England (London) and wider partners, with the aim of ensuring London’s diverse communities have the strength and resilience to cope with and overcome these unprecedented events.
During this time, Thrive LDN has engaged with over 200 community groups and organisations and listened to over 10,000 Londoners to understand more about the experiences of 20 disproportionately at-risk communities.
Struggling with uncertainty for the future was a common theme in Thrive LDN’s community engagement. However, there was also a message of hope. Pandemic Stories and Thrive LDN’s wider community research show a clear relationship between resilience and coping with uncertainty, and the power of relationships, social networks and working together.
Supporting Londoners’ wellbeing through a challenging year
Thrive LDN’s progress report, published on Thursday, 18 March 2021, sets out what Thrive LDN and partners have done to listen to the experiences of people whose voices are too often ignored, and respond with resources to help manage what for many Londoners has been the toughest year of their lives.
Thrive LDN report that between April 2020 and March 2021, more than 685,000 people have taken part in projects, events and activities which the citywide movement has led or collaborated on. Just some of the activities outlined in the report include funding grassroots organisations, suicide prevention training, mental health first aid training, online webinars, sudden bereavement support, and a World Mental Health Day Festival co-developed with young Londoners.
Dr Jacqui Dyer MBE, co-lead of Thrive LDN, said: “It is heartening to know that so many Londoners are participating in Thrive LDN and partners’ activities to support their wellbeing. The need for a concerted and coordinated approach to supporting the mental wellbeing of Londoners is more important than ever before.
“As we emerge from the current crisis, we must continue to put people and communities in the lead, allowing us to develop meaningful and trusted relationships at a London, multi-borough and community level. Doing so will allow us to support the wellbeing and resilience of all Londoners who need help and support now and beyond the pandemic.”
Writing in the foreword, the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “As we lay the foundations for our recovery from this pandemic, we must be mindful of the devastating mental health consequences of wider inequalities, whether they are as a result of problem debt, rising unemployment or structural inequalities. As Mayor, I will continue to ensure that mental health is considered across all our recovery plans. Nobody’s mental health and wellbeing should suffer because of who they are or where they live.”
To explore both reports in full visit www.thriveldn.co.uk/resources.