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Community responses to the coronavirus pandemic: how mutual aid can help

Benton, Eleanor and Power, Anne (2021) Community responses to the coronavirus pandemic: how mutual aid can help. LSE Public Policy Review, 1 (3). ISSN 2633-4046

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Identification Number: 10.31389/lseppr.21


The beginnings of the COVID-19 pandemic caused panic over job losses, food and toiletry shortages, and social isolation, over and above the health impacts of the virus. People wanted to help on a mass scale and there was a huge community response. The pandemic brought energy into neighbourhoods and communities, leading to the rapid formation of mutual aid groups in many different forms all over the country. At the same time, existing community groups and many service enterprises – particularly food outlets – redirected their activities to helping the NHS, families that were struggling, and vulnerable people. Since March 2020, LSE Housing has been researching a sample of these mutual aid groups. In this paper, findings will be presented on the makeup of volunteer groups, the contributions of volunteers, the people they helped, and how; also, what potential longer-term benefits there may be. Exploring social problems that the groups address shows that more than mutual aid is needed to remedy the deep-set inequalities that the pandemic has highlighted. The need for community and a sense of belonging is a message that comes out most strongly from this research, reinforced by financial need and social isolation. Mutual aid can bind communities and neighbourhoods together and create a sense of belonging to a degree, but there is also a need for stronger and wider social infrastructure, of which the NHS is maybe the most shining example. Schools have a big role to play as part of this social infrastructure, but more housing, training, and jobs in new sustainable fields are needed in order to under-pin basic social infrastructure. Mutual aid on its own is not enough.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2021 The Authors
Divisions: LSE Housing & Communities
Social Policy
Subjects: R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare. Criminology
Date Deposited: 08 Mar 2021 10:21
Last Modified: 15 Sep 2023 16:44

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