Across the country, people are organising into informal groups of volunteers in response to the COVID-19 outbreak in order to help and support people in their local area.
These groups are often called ‘mutual aid groups’, but can be called anything, and if you are interested in joining or setting up one of these groups, or are part of one of these groups and want some advice and support, then please see below.
Remember to always follow government and NHS advice relating to the outbreak:
UK Government response to coronavirus here
NHS information on coronavirus here
What are mutual aid groups?
A mutual aid group is a group of local people who organise informally to support one another and the needs of their local community.
A mutual aid group is independent from any organisation or official body, and it is led by local people who volunteer their time.
The groups often organise online either through Facebook or WhatsApp.
How are these groups helping during the COVID-19 outbreak?
These groups are organising a number of different activities in order to help people during the COVID-19 outbreak. Activities are often focused upon helping the most vulnerable and isolated people in their local area.
Activities that have been organised by mutual aid groups in Manchester include calling isolated individuals to check in on them, and picking up and delivering shopping for local NHS workers.
I am part of a mutual aid group, what support is on offer to me?
If you are part of a mutual aid group, or are wanting to set a group up, then a range of support is available to you. For example we can help you find funding, create policies and procedures, or connect you with other local groups and organisations.
This support offer is a partnership between Macc, buzz Health and Wellbeing Service and Health Development Coordinators (Central Manchester only). Please see the information below on what support Macc, buzz and Health Development Coordinators can offer you, and how to contact each service:
Manchester Community Central (Macc) Any mutual aid group in Manchester can receive free ongoing advice and support from Macc. Examples of support we offer include: offering funding advice and helping groups create policies, procedures and resources. If groups are considering developing into a more formal organisation we can offer support in partnership with the Macc Capacity Building Team.
Get in touch with Tom Waring: [email protected], his working hours are Monday-Friday, 9.30-16.00.
buzz Health and Wellbeing Service have a team of Neighbourhood health workers (NHWs) who can support local people to help turn ideas, ambitions and conversations into new projects or help existing projects who need support to continue, adapt or grow. We can support Mutual Aid Groups to:
● connect with local or citywide organisations/networks;
● share local neighbourhood knowledge and contact information;
● offer small financial grants to support development of projects;
● help to promote groups through neighbourhood networks;
● provide health promotion information and research for funding bids;
● support engagement with residents in a community setting, or online, to listen to their ideas for new projects.
Contact buzz and find your local NHW here: https://buzzmanchester.co.uk/
Health Development Coordinators (HDCs) support people to improve their wellbeing, through breaking down the barriers
together that get in the way of building stronger, healthier communities. They do this by taking a Community Development approach and working in partnership with a range of organisations and services across the health, social care and the voluntary, community and social enterprise sectors.
Central HDCs can support community groups and organisations to:
● network and learn from each other;
● take any concerns to strategic partners;
● promote a greater understanding of Community Development and its role in reducing health inequalities.
Find the contact details for your local HDC here: https://tinyurl.com/HDCcontacts
This support offer is a partnership between Macc, buzz Health and Wellbeing Service and Health Development Coordinators (Central Manchester only). To find out more about this support offer just click here.
How can I join one of these groups?
Click here to find maps of all the Manchester mutual aid groups. If you click the name of a group you will be taken to their Facebook page where you can request to join.
Please DO NOT meet others if you are currently in an at-risk group, at high risk of infection or experiencing symptoms yourself. Follow NHS guidance on when to self-isolate here.
How can I set up my own?
Firstly we recommend checking the following map and joining a group in your local area. However if your local area is not covered by a mutual aid group then why not set up your own!
Below we have outlined some basic advice on how to set up a mutual aid group. For more information please contact [email protected] and visit the Covid-19 Mutual Aid UK website, where they are helping to coordinate the ever growing movement of mutual aid groups across the UK.
We also recommend joining the Covid-19 Mutual Aid UK Facebook group for those organising mutual aid groups, where you can connect with others organising mutual aid in the UK.
Basic steps to setting up a mutual aid group:
- Firstly, always consider the safety of yourself, your group members and everyone your group is trying to help. There are resources below which outline how to keep people safe, and remember to always follow the most up to date government advice relating to the outbreak here.
- Think about where you want your group to focus on. A local group that covers your street could be more effective than a larger group. In addition, the smaller and more local the group the easier it is to manage
- Find a way to organise your group. We recommend doing this online either through Facebook or WhatsApp. You can then communicate and share information quickly and without meeting. (How to create a Facebook group and How to create a WhatsApp group)
- Make sure you consider an additional way for those in need of support to contact you, whether that is an email address or a phone number. You could set up a specific group email/number if you do not want to share personal details.
Safety, advice and resources
Always consider the safety of yourself, your group members and everyone your group is trying to help when setting up or volunteering as part of a mutual aid group.
Remember that if you are delivering mutual aid in your community you must practice social distancing and follow official guidance. If you are assisting someone who is self-isolated, please follow the necessary social distancing precautions.Volunteers who are shopping for others are advised to phone the inhabitant rather than knocking on the door, and to leave shopping at a safe distance from the door.
We recommend you follow these links below before you set up, they provide information on how to keep individuals and their data safe when organising a group:
- Government advice on how to help others safely in easy read format here
- Safeguarding Training for Mutual Aid Networks – provided by the National Food Service here
- Advice from Action Together in Rochdale on how to keep people and people’s data safe (sections 5-8) here
We are also creating our own easy to read resources for those involved with mutual aid/community response groups. Feel free to download and share these resources:
- Guide to shopping for others safely here
If you wish to speak to somebody about mutual aid groups in Manchester then please contact Tom Waring from Macc on: [email protected]
Click on the images below to download PDFs of the maps, then click on the name of the group to be taken to their web page.