Community and co-operative responses urgently need to be unleashed now ahead of any second wave – Joe Fortune

The Westminster Government doesn’t have the answers or wherewithal to prepare us for a possible second wave. Outside of somehow escaping a recurrence or having a vaccine, our hopes lie with ourselves and our ability for co-operation.

Despite the pain and disruption Coronavirus has caused, communities across the UK responded to this crisis not with division, but with co-operation. We befriended neighbours, joined mutual aid groups, donated to foodbanks and more. We came together in solidarity.

Co-operatives, as businesses rooted in their communities, contributed heavily to that effort. They were at the forefront of a national effort to feed the country during the current crisis. They were the first to announce that no child should go hungry because schools were closed. They were the first to back food banks struggling because of panic buying.

Two thirds of people want to keep the renewed sense of community found during the crisis. So as we emerge from this first wave of the virus, we must ask ourselves how we will maintain this co-operation and community spirit, and indeed what it says about the kind of nation we want to be post-lockdown.

The Government now has growing charge sheet in terms of its own decision-making abilities and it is clear that the British people don’t trust this Prime Minister’s judgement in relation to Covid-19. We don’t have faith that the Government has all the answers – and in absence of other solutions, communities must be immediately incentivised, organised and guided to work together like at no other time in our history. This isn’t just about dealing with the aftermath of lockdown, but preparing ourselves for a potential second wave – which the Government is patently failing to do.

Of course, it won’t be easy or straight forward – but it is necessary. A powerful recent piece co-authored by Kirsty McNeil of Save the Children powerfully put across the need for a volunteer army to catch-up children’s educations post-lockdown. It also pointed to the view of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Social Integration that the three-quarters of a million people who signed up as NHS Responders risk being turned off volunteering altogether as a result of the handling and lack of success of the scheme.

However, there are fantastic examples of more organic and co-operative spirited activity right across the country. From fantastic new platforms like the Co-op Group’s Co-operate website to 3DCrowd, which has 8000 volunteers knocking out over 150,000 facemasks. So many communities already stepped up where the Government failed: when the lack of PPE endangered lives and rendered Government decisions redundant or counter-productive, the Harrogate Scrubbers stepped in to raise money for and make large quantities of PPE for their local hospital. These are among so many more examples to be chosen from.

So whether it be a volunteer army helping with education or a large-scale community push towards generating the vital protective kit like masks and PPE, we know our communities are ready to serve. We know the solution lies in co-operation.  What the Government could help with is the guiding, the incentivising and the opening of doors and minds to make it happen – then we might be better prepared for any second wave that may


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