As the UK lockdown continues in the fight to deal with COVID-19, new challenges have arisen for some of the most vulnerable people in society and we have become more reliant than ever on the frontline workers that hold up our services and support our communities. This week we partnered on our second Digital ThinkIn with Tortoise Media. Tortoise ‘ThinkIns’ bring different people together to debate the latest thing in the news. This series of ThinkIns is all about listening to the unheard stories of the coronavirus pandemic.
This ThinkIn was chaired by Polly Curtis, Editor and Partner, Tortoise and featured two key workers, a food bank volunteer, a careleaver, the Head of Safeguarding Law at Brighton and Hove City Council, amongst other voices involved in the conversation. Here’s what we learnt:
Job Insecurity and Poverty
It was important to hear the impact coronavirus has had for those who are financially vulnerable, and now deemed medically vulnerable, too. Chris Standland is a key worker, working at Young’s Seafood, a food factory and the biggest employer in Grimsby. But he was told he needed to ‘Shield’ and self-isolate as he was medically vulnerable. He’s struggling to get by as instead of being furloughed, he’s on statutory sick pay, which he says is the equivalent of being paid 11 hours a week, instead of the 48 he had been working.
We met MD in Newcastle in March, he is an asylum seeker who came to Newcastle from Bangladesh. He’s used to living on just £5 a day and inspired by his mother’s kindness he has been delivering food parcels to vulnerable families and asylum seekers in Newcastle.
Something that we haven’t heard a lot about is Family Justice. Natasha Watson, Brighton & Hove Council said they initially saw a spike in emergency cases and the level of risk for children was having to be quickly assessed. Covid-19 and lockdown have created big issues for the sector, as active support in a community is needed to keep families together and out of the care system. Some of the families they are in contact with are experiencing poverty, domestic violence, addiction, mental ill-health – all things that are going to be exacerbated during lockdown.
Becca Dove, who is a Family Worker in Camden shared the story of one woman family living in temporary accommodation, mum is pregnant, her child is anxious and the laundrette is shut, she had no way to clean the family clothes. Luckily they had the support of a small, local charity, The Winch who opened up their centre so that mum could do the washing, and then found a local resident who offered to do a weekly wash. It shows how important community is, the state recognised that support networks aren’t just made up of professionals but also the wider community.
Casey Armstrong is a 20 year-old care leaver who was in foster care, and is estranged from her family. She was on a zero-hour contract which has been terminated, and is struggling to get by on universal credit (at a reduced amount as she’s under 25). One of her biggest struggles is paying her phone and data bills, she wants to stay online to be connected. Casey shared that as a care leaver without the same support networks she was finding isolation hard. Charities are keeping her head above water. Leicestershire Cares are supporting her and other care leavers through online quizzes and mindfulness workshops. She knows staff are meant to be on leave, but are still there working to look after them.
Journalist Louise Tickle highlighted that children in the care system don’t have a public voice. She’s hearing that children in foster care are struggling to keep up the court-ordered contact with their birth families. Birth parents might not have the devices, internet resources, technical capabilities to keep contact remotely. This has been a huge issue for children in the care system during lockdown.
The ThinkIn ended with a word from sounddelivery’s Jude Habib who said that during this time vulnerable groups are often the ones who are supporting other vulnerable groups. There are amazing community champions keeping people going during this time.
Becca Dove “I’m really grateful to folk like sounddelivery that are not only curating the unheard stories of COVID but are opening up spaces for them to be heard. Excellent #thinkin this evening, gave me a lot to think about”
We want to give a platform to unheard stories, particularly at this time. If you’d like to blog for us about your experience, get in touch. Please do let us know your thoughts on the conversation, watch the full ThinkIn here:
And you can watch the first Thinkin on the Unheard Stories of the Coronavirus here.