Our response to Covid-19

The Belong team have been reflecting on the impact of the coronavirus epidemic on social connections and integration.


There has been an outpouring of kindness and community building across our country. A recent survey by the New Local Government Network has found that levels of trust and community cohesion have never been higher.

At the same time opportunities for social mixing, one of the most powerful forms of reducing prejudice and promoting empathy between different identity groups, has been severely curtailed with restrictions likely to continue for some time. Social connection has moved online as neighbours, local areas, friends and family connect via the internet and social media to ensure that the most vulnerable and socially isolated are supported. Every sector of society has been involved in that support from businesses adapting production lines to provide vital equipment to the NHS, to schools donating protective equipment, to local volunteers organising deliveries for neighbours. 

We are learning as the full impact of the pandemic unfolds that it is impacting different places, groups and communities differently. There is now abundant evidence of the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on black and minority ethnic communities, and on the elderly and the more vulnerable, particularly those in care homes. 

And as the economic impact bites there are people who are being hard hit financially. Applications for universal credit have rocketed as have requests to food banks which have been struggling to cope with demand. Many of the groups in our society who are already socially isolated and marginalised will be at greatest risk and we need to better understand how the pandemic is affecting them. As part of their work with the All Party Parliamentary Group on Social Integration British Future have conducted some initial research and their findings are published here, Social Connection in the COVID-19 Crisis.

Belong’s response to the Coronavirus is threefold

We want to learn from the current situation. There is also a growing realisation that local and area based activity is central to the unfolding societal response to the pandemic. The unique characteristics of place, the cultural and social makeup of its inhabitants, their shared history, levels of economic and health inequalities, and relationship to other parts of the country are all likely to have a significant impact on rates of recovery.

Specifically we want to understand how intergroup relations and integration, at regional, local and hyperlocal levels are being improved and / or hindered by this crisis? And what can we learn for the future?

Belong has launched a research project, Beyond ‘us’ and ‘them’: societal cohesion in the context of Covid-19, that seeks to investigate the impact of Covid-19 on social cohesion in communities across the UK. The project has been developed in partnership with Professor Dominic Abrams, director of the internationally renowned centre for social psychology, the Centre for the Study of Group Processes  based at the University of Kent, and is supported by the Nuffield Foundation

We are delighted to be working with local authorities: Bradford; Blackburn with Darwen; Calderdale; Walsall and Waltham Forest, and civil society organisations: Volunteering Matters; Jo Cox Foundation; Spirit of 2012, Near Neighbors and Streetgames to ensure the reach and geographical spread of the research. A more detailed project outline can be viewed here.

Providing inspiring, engaging and informative content for our members as well as the wider community.

Coming up in the next few months….

Living Room 4: Understanding the lasting impact of Covid-19

Our Webinars in the Living Room continue in July with three fantastic panelists joining us to explore the impact of Covid-19 and the lockdown on our communities.

  • Session 1: The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on young people aged 13-24 in the UK – featuring Dr Liat Levita, University of Sheffield – Wednesday 15th July 1300 – 1400
  • Session 2: ‘Beyond Us and Them’ Research Project – The impact of Covid-19 on social cohesion – featuring Dr Fanny Lalot, University of Kent – Wednesday 22nd July 1300 – 1400
  • Session 3: What next for the Covid generation? The wellbeing challenge ahead – featuring Amanda Vernalls, Head of Research & Insight at Youth Sport Trust – Wednesday 29th July 1300 – 1400

Tickets for Living Room 4: Understanding the lasting impact of Covid-19 are available on Eventbrite until July 14th.

The launch of our Sport and Integration Toolkit

We will soon be launching our Sport and Integration Toolkit via webinar. Supported by Spirit of 2012, we have worked with the Good Faith Partnership to develop an easy to use accessible evaluation toolkit for all those commissioning and providing sports and integration programmes in local areas. During the webinar we will share the research, the theory of change and the indicators that have been developed with input from our steering group that featured representatives from Youth Sport Trust, Sporting Equals, EFL Trust, Spirit of 2012, Streetgames, and London Sport. At this time when mass gatherings of people may be on hold for some time, local sports programmes will offer a powerful way to facilitate connection in local communities and this toolkit has the potential to support this. 

We are profiling the inspiring work of our members who are marshalling their resources to provide support to their communities and stakeholders.

Our local authority members have been organising to ensure that those in their communities who are vulnerable and shielding have been getting the support they need:

Calderdale Council have published a number of health and wellbeing resources for families that brings together trustworthy information and resources to help support families in Calderdale during Covid-19.

Hull City Council have a dedicated Coronavirus community support and advice page that includes both written and video content that is available in a variety of languages, to ensure its accessibility to the Hull community. 

Walsall Council are providing Covid-19 information in accessible formats on their website to ensure that everyone in the community is kept up to date with the latest guidance and advice.

Manchester City Council has launched several initiatives to help vulnerable residents and organisations during the current crisis. For example, they’ve created a new freephone helpline to support the most vulnerable during these times.

Barking and Dagenham Council have been hosting regular free Cocoon Together interactive sessions via Zoom that feature singing, phonics and stories aimed at families with children under 4 years. 

Bradford Council have provided their community with detailed information around Covid-19, and published a being a good neighbour guide that offer tips and advice for helping those close to you. 

Civil society and business members are also taking actions to support their stakeholders and workers:

The Jo Cox Foundation has set up The Connection Coalition. Brought together in the first month of the pandemic this network of organisations, charities, companies and groups are united in the belief that we can build a better future for everyone by building strong relationships and connected communities. Their regular newsletter shares information, resources and material to combat loneliness and social isolation exacerbated by Covid-19. Jo Cox Foundation are also organising the annual Great Get Together which is taking place over June 19th-21st to show that together we have more in common. 

Protection Approaches have developed resources including teacher-driven recommendations that calls upon the Government to ensure that teachers and school leadership teams are able to dedicate time and resources to prioritise students’ social and emotional learning and building media literacy skills.

The Linking Network supports schools and communities by helping students to explore their identity, celebrate diversity, champion equality and develop dialogue. They regularly publish resources for the community, such as this guide to helping students respond while staying at home due to Covid-19.

Streetgames harnesses the power of sport to create positive change in the lives of disadvantaged young people right across the UK. In response to Covid-19 Streetgames launched The 2.6 Challenge fundraising campaign on the day the 40th London Marathon, the world’s biggest one day annual fundraising event, was due to take place. 

Youth Sport Trust is a children’s charity working to ensure every child enjoys the life-changing benefits that come from play and sport. They have detailed information and resources from across the sector in supporting a return to sport.

The Beaverbrooks Charitable Trust was established to enable the employees of Beaverbrooks The Jewellers Ltd. to support their local charities. The Trust have donated £25,000 to the NHS Charities Together Covid-19 Urgent Appeal. 

Humanists UK is a charitable organisation which promotes secular humanism. They are launching their first ever podcast, What I Believe, where they will be speaking to humanists in the public eye.

The Peace Foundation supports survivors of terrorism, and provides programmes to promote peace in schools and communities. They will be offering health and well-being support services to victims of the Northern Ireland Troubles domiciled in Great Britain.

Manchester University is working together and with partners from across society to understand Covid-19 and its wide-ranging impacts on our lives.

Savannah Wisdom is an independent foundation committed to social change for a better world. They have donated £100,000 to the We Love MCR Covid-19 Community Response Fund, aimed at addressing food poverty and to support vulnerable women and children through the Covid-19 crisis.

If you have stories relating to your response to the coronavirus epidemic, or resources that you would like to share on our digital platform, please contact us on admin@belongnetwork.co.uk.

Other useful resources and research

The Princes Trust has created a Coronavirus Support Hub on their website for young people, that will help them build their skills and confidence, with new resources being added regularly.

NCVO have been publishing guidance and resources to support charities, voluntary organisations and volunteers during the Covid-19 pandemic on their website. NCVO champions the voluntary sector and volunteering because they’re essential for a better society.

ACEVO, the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations, have hosted a series of webinars on coping with Covid-19. ACEVO regularly publishes reports, briefings, podcasts and blogs that focus on board governance, well-being, finance and career development. This content is only available to ACEVO members. 

NPC helps to support charities, philanthropists, funders and social enterprises maximise their social impact. They have published an interactive Covid-19 dashboard that provides charities and funders with data on areas that have been most affected by Covid-19, and those that have underlying factors which may put them at risk.

NAVCA has a dedicated resource page that provides Covid-19 focused operational and remote working resources, guidance on working with different sectors of the community, funding and fundraising, governance, safeguarding and legislation.