Dr Kalbir Shukra presented an overview of her findings from interviews with 20 team members from Lewisham’s Covid Response Hub, made up of redeployed staff from 5 organisations.
Discussion Feedback on the Report’s 3 Recommendations
Democratic renewal and community engagement
- Some existing structures such as Local Assemblies can work well but are not always representative of whole communities and one can often see the same faces at these events
- Covid has brought more engagement with some communities and people seem to have become more aware of local issues, had more time to give (e.g. through furlough) and get involved. There is an opportunity to build on this momentum
- Systems need to take into account of hearing from people not usually heard from, such as people from BAME communities, those with specific needs, younger people with employment needs. However, are the seldom heard voices actually ‘hard to reach’, or do we just not do a good job of reaching them?
- Young Mayor’s Team – getting them more engaged with wider voluntary sector as they are in a unique space engaging young people with democratic issues
- Services becoming ‘digital by default’ – what effect will this have on community engagement?
- Lewisham traditionally has a strong history of involving faith groups. Can we do more now?
- General feeling in the discussion that Lewisham does have a relatively strong history of proactively involving local community in democracy.
- The surge in interest in local volunteering presents a big opportunity to build on, especially as Lewisham becomes London Borough of Culture in 2022
- Exploring a new deal with residents, a set of principles of what residents can expect from the Council and what we can all expect of each other in our community.
Creation and investment
- Acknowledgment that we are inheriting a difficult economic environment due to Covid, Brexit and historic recession. However, there are things we can do collectively as a sector. One example discussed was a food project where different volunteers came together and they all used their professional skills to make a greater impact.
- Journey for a volunteer where they move between organisations, given references and gain skills for added value could add real impact.
- Social entrepreneurship should be encouraged even for community groups where they see a gap in services and products and are able to make the most of opportunities and support each other.
- Explore new ways of working as the world has changed (e.g. we’re so used to having digital meetings) other things will have changed. We need to remain flexible to change with the world and build on momentum of talking to each other
Relieving residents’ immediate problems
- Discussion around where do people in need go and get help and information from? Maybe we need more hubs, where people can pick up food, information and help, that can clarify where people go for which needs.
- We’re not having face to face interactions we usually have but we do have increased contact in some areas through phone, digital and capturing more data. How do we create the spaces in the future for people to come together?
- Continuing to join up more services and work in partnership e.g. Advice Lewisham partnership are doing this well
- Aware of the fear of authorities e.g. some refugees and asylum seekers may have suspicions around information sharing and this may be a barrier to accessing some support
- How do we finance this better locally? Covid brought good relationships through bringing in external funding in partnership – how can we see more of this?
- Digital – There are certainly some positive however it does exclude people to only do things digitally.