Written evidence submitted by Dr Jordan Vieira, Mr Connor Watt, Ms Nikita Simpson and Professor Laura Bear, LSE Covid and Care Research Group



This research was conducted by the Covid and Care Research Group, hosted by the London School of Economics (LSE) Department of Anthropology and funded through a grant from the LSE. Our research group employs ethnographic methods in order to better understand the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on disadvantaged households and communities across the UK. Understanding the multiple and intersecting forms of existing and new disadvantages that groups face is critical to the development of policy that is inclusive and meets the density and variety of needs of people who live at the intersection of different forms of vulnerability. Our research group has conducted interviews since March 2020 with community leaders, community groups, and new associations of vulnerable people across different locations to gain insights into these issues and to generate policy solutions and support local community initiatives. Insights for this call for evidence are drawn from case studies in Hackney and Ealing that examine the relationships between Local Authority and voluntary community organisations since the start of the pandemic.



Key Findings







Context and Case Studies


Pre-pandemic context and aggravating factors






Ealing case study

In Ealing, the LA response to the pandemic in ‘Ealing Together’ was a watershed moment for community and voluntary organisations. The provision of unrestricted funds and the suspension of procurement processes left organisations feeling ‘liberated’, able to ‘get the job done’ to ‘form new collaborations and partnerships’ and to successfully layer care. The alignment around a common set of objectives and strong communication networks, such as Connect Against Covid: Help Everyone (CACHE) Network, and other forums have been instrumental. A multitude of such partnerships emerged in this moment that would not have been possible before, bringing together statutory care providers and community organisations.


Organisations that address the needs of minority groups, such as South Asian and Somali communities, are often perceived as ‘informalised’ and lacking in the ‘knowledge’ to be able to access funds and support from key VCS and LA organisations. There is a sense that if they were given support and capacity training – for instance in launching websites, establishing governance structures and audited accounts – they would be better equipped to access funding.


Hackney case study

At the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, Hackney was already well served by a dense network of voluntary and community groups that had grown in response to need arising from significant cutbacks to statutory services since 2010. In the early stages of the pandemic, Hackney Council, in collaboration with various umbrella organisations, repurposed a borough-wide programme called ‘Neighbourhood Conversations’ to foster connectivity between these community/voluntary groups and statutory service providers with the aim of increasing assessment and provision capabilities generally. 


The aforementioned tensions between well-established organisations and smaller groups in relation to funding bids is prevalent in Hackney. In order to address this, the Council trialled a ‘consortia funding’ approach with the Food Network (an alliance of food provision bodies). A number of organisations were encouraged to collaborate on funding applications, thereby sharing the capacity and expertise of the larger groups with the smaller, and allowing the larger organisations to achieve greater reach through the more fine-scale networks of the smaller organisations. Although beneficial in terms of allowing the smaller organisations access to administrative infrastructures and extensive knowledge which in turn increased the likelihood of winning funding bids, there was little incentive for the larger organisations who found the process a drain on resources, and who were also reluctant to share best practices. 


Another prominent issue in Hackney was the prioritisation of emergency provision activity, namely food provision programmes, at the expense of support which targeted longer-term and structural issues e.g. mental health support charities, or programmes aimed at alleviating exclusion of young BAME people. Although there was an appreciation that greater support for those organisations providing basic provisions was necessary at the onset of the pandemic, the emergence of various additional crises becomes a major risk without ongoing support for a much wider range of community support services.


Policy Recommendations



June 2021