Research

Community COVID. How can community assets address health inequities?

Mughal R., Thomson, L.J., Chatterjee, H.J et al. (2021) Community COVID: How can community assets address health inequities? London: University College London. Published December 2021

This report is the culmination of Community COVID, an eighteen-month project which sought to understand how individuals engaged with creative, cultural and community assets during the pandemic. The report conducted a series of interviews, focus groups, surveys and art workshops with members of the community and third sector professionals. Throughout, the report uses the participant voice to illustrate the results. This report outlines key findings, which were themed as follows:

1. Barriers to participation

There are barriers to participation in creative, cultural and community activities – this was consistently shown across our data. There were significant barriers to participation within vulnerable populations even prior to the pandemic, however COVID related changes appeared to exacerbate barriers to participation. Barriers were systemic, psychological, logistical and related to socioeconomic status (SES).

2. Tangible benefits and evaluation

Both subjectively and objectively there are tangible benefits to creative, community and cultural activities. Participants ‘feel’ the benefits and their friends and family can see positive change. But for third sector organisations, formally evaluating these benefits is often a challenge.

3. Evolving health service

The role of statutory workers became dynamic, responding to the changing needs of the health service. Link workers for example wore several different ‘hats’ – one day acting as a stand in social worker, the next day a carer, the next being asked to help with the vaccine effort.

4. Adaptation

We all adjusted to considerably different ways of living and working, whether it was homeschooling, working from home, furlough, a change in benefits, or applying for Universal Credit for the first time. For some third sector organisations the pandemic paved the way for new and more flexible ways of working. Adaptability and agile working ensured that community organisations did not fold, whilst adaptability to change ensured that some individuals maintained resilience throughout the pandemic.

5. The fragility of the community ecosystem.

Whilst there was a quick response from the arts, cultural and voluntary community sector, third sector organisations continue to operate on considerable cuts to their budgets. Data suggests that over a third of the sector is made up of freelance or self-employed individuals , many of whom have left the sector. Some organisations have folded whilst others are in danger.

6. Surge in activity

Surveys showed that over 80 per cent of respondents took part in activities more often during COVD restrictions compared with before, and over 75 per cent of respondents participated in more offline than online activities. More offline activities were carried out alone whereas more online activities were carried out with other people although frequency of participation was not affected by how respondents took part.

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Read the full report

This Report is available in its entirety as a downloadable PDF document.

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