Hello to all our neighbours in Nunhead, Peckham and Queen’s Road who have become part of the hugely impressive and tenaciously organised Nunhead Knocks. We are Sophie, Becky and David, admins of the SE15 Community Fund, and we originally met through your neighbouring mutual aid group for Rye Lane.
The network of local mutual aid groups that sprung up at the beginning of lockdown was a phenomenal community-led response to the threat of COVID-19. Many of us were concerned about the need to help our neighbours who were shielding and needed grocery shopping, to have prescriptions collected or who may have felt lonely whilst isolated and in need of a chat.
And now we’re 13 weeks in and, though we’re not out of lockdown yet, it feels as though the winds are changing. In many cases, those who needed support because of the virus have developed relationships and are being taken care of, and the demand that was there a few months ago is starting to subside.
We’ve been reflecting with neighbours from Nunhead Knocks and from mutual aid groups across SE15 about how this new community infrastructure can be used to respond to the problems that were already there before COVID-19, and will continue to be long after it’s gone. We suspect all of us who want to continue to help are asking ourselves: how can we help now, and for the long term?
For Rye Lane mutual aid group, we’ve been increasingly receiving calls from those in our community in tough financial situations. Whilst Southwark Council released some emergency funding through their ‘Hardship Fund’, this was limited and restricted to one grant per household.
With unemployment on the rise, many more in our community will be experiencing the anxiety of delayed universal credit payments and the stress of financial hardship. Many mutual aid groups have been reimbursing volunteers who do grocery shops for those who cannot pay, but this small gesture does not cover the cash flow issues that so many are experiencing, and will continue to experience during the coming economic downturn.
Since we’ve acted so quickly to protect our neighbours from the threat of coronavirus, we ask, how can we act to protect our neighbours from a financial struggle that is just as deadly? Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity, for example, found that people living in areas with the highest levels of deprivation in our neighbouring Lambeth are diagnosed with multiple long-term conditions 10-12 years earlier than their more affluent neighbours. What is our responsibility for our neighbours’ wellbeing beyond COVID-19?
Inspired by our neighbours in Goose Green who started a fund for SE22, the SE15 Community Fund is our community response. The fund is hosted on Open Collective, a platform that allows us to do what many might only have dreamt of at the start of the Internet Age. Neighbours are able to donate and claim directly from the fund. All transactions are transparently displayed on the site - no middle-men. The platform facilitates the fund being run in the spirit of solidarity, not charity; of giving what you can, and taking what you need.
As admins, our job is simply to approve applications. To begin with, following the lead of the Goose Green Solidarity Fund, our aim is to give out £50 a month per application, but to increase the size and frequency of grants in line with the donations we receive. You can read about our aims in our constitution here.
It’s been a week since we launched, and the Fund has had 15 backers give their support, and we’ve been able to distribute £100 to neighbours in tough situations.
We hope that all our neighbours in SE15 will feel able to take ownership of the fund, and this will become something that truly belongs to the community, so that it is self-sustaining, and able to help as many neighbours as possible in their time of need.
That’s why we’re asking you to become backers of the fund. A regular donation, no matter how big or small, will ensure that this Community Fund is able to help as many of our neighbours as possible as much as possible.
Please do share the fund with your neighbours and raise awareness of its existence with those who may be able to donate. Though the goal for now is to increase the size of the pot, soon we'll be asking mutual aid groups to direct neighbours who may need grants to us, and raising awareness more widely in the community.
Thank you so much to those who have donated so far, and those who will do so in the future. Please get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any feedback, ideas about how to make this a sustainable initiative that is truly owned by the SE15 community, or anything you feel we should know about the barriers some individuals may face in accessing the fund. Contributors can also give their feedback in this short survey here about your thoughts on the fund and how we might encourage others to donate.
Thank you to everyone at Nunhead Knocks, and we look forward to working alongside you!
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