Hackney Mayor Philip Glanville has thanked and praised the borough’s residents for their response to the coronavirus crisis, and released more details of how his council’s volunteering hub will function.
The borough leader wrote to Hackney residents this evening to pay tribute to “everyone who has volunteered time and resources” to help their neighbours, and promised that his authority is “working hard” to coordinate the efforts already being made.
The Mayor revealed that the Town Hall will be setting up a website and phone line next week, both for people to register to volunteer and to make requests help, having worked with the Hackney Volunteer Centre to muster and organise the already trained and background-checked volunteers in the borough.
Mayor Glanville said: “At the end of a very challenging week, I wanted to write to Hackney residents to thank you all for the incredible way in which you have responded to these unprecedented circumstances.
“This has been such a tough few days, especially for our older people who are already self-isolating, and children and young people, whose school life and education has been disrupted in such an extreme way.
“Despite all the challenges, so many people in Hackney are thinking first and foremost about how they can help others.
“I am also very, very grateful to the existing voluntary and community sector in Hackney, one of the strongest in the UK. These groups are rising to this challenge, and we are doing everything we can to support them.”
The Town Hall has now also lifted any restrictions from voluntary organisations that receive council grants on how that money is spent, allowing groups to target the money where they feel it is necessary.
It is also understood to be developing the support in place for the borough’s Food Poverty Justice Alliance, to ensure that it is ready to support residents struggling with hunger in “the challenging weeks ahead”.
The Mayor spoke of the importance of “building something that will last” over many months, pointing to the local authority’s statutory responsibility to provide and coordinate humanitarian assistance by coordinating council services, the voluntary sector, and the community at large.
Mayor Glanville added: “This is just the beginning, and as things get more difficult over the coming weeks, more and more people will need help. Many of those will be people who have never needed to rely on assistance until now.”
The council has also released guidelines for local groups to follow in order that residents are not inadvertently put at risk by efforts to help (see below).
Glanville also hinted at other measures to be announced next week to support individuals worried about their jobs, their incomes and their families, as well as businesses concerned as to how they will survive, while promising the Town Hall’s support for children leaving school and “unsure of when they will return”.
The Town Hall’s announcements were welcomed by other political parties in the borough, who last week offered to mobilise their memberships to aid local aid efforts.
The Hackney Liberal Democrats welcomed the news, calling the announcements on next week’s volunteer hub “exactly what we need” for those needing help or those wanting to provide assistance.
Hackney Liberal Democrat vice chair Darren Martin said: “We appreciate setting this up is not easy especially at a time when the council is working under great pressure and doing the best they can for residents, but we hope it is an absolute priority and gets up and running as soon as possible.
“The Lib Dems will be contacting all our members and activists and urging them to sign up to volunteer as well as phone banking to reach out to potentially vulnerable residents and point them to the web portal or telephone number to ask for help if they need it.
“We will continue to offer the Mayor of Hackney and Hackney Council our full support during these difficult times.”
The Hackney Green Party also “broadly supported” the announcements, calling them a “good start”, but called on the the Town Hall to go further in shielding particularly vulnerable residents, including homeless people in the borough at risk from the pandemic’s impact.
Samir Jeraj of Hackney Green Party said: “We would welcome a move to suspend other court actions by the council, for instance those seeking to recover council tax arrears.
“Islington has taken some big steps in ensuring housing for rough sleepers so that they can self isolate, so it would be good to see that happen in Hackney.
“We also need to find ways to financially support community groups that are part of the response, as well as ensuring that vitally important social care services continue to operate as normal.”
A spokesperson for Hackney Women’s Equality Party (WEP) said: “The Hackney Women’s Equality Party is encouraged by the action Hackney Council has taken to help during the pandemic.
“Women will be disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 given we are usually the primary caregiver of children and dependent relatives, as well as often being self-employed. Given these factors women will be double if not triple hit with children and dependent family to care for at home and with no way to earn an income during this crisis.
“This is why WEP has launched a petition to support all workers, asking the government to extend the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme to those that are self-employed. We encourage Hackney Council to put pressure on the government to guarantee 80% of self-employed workers’ average income, up to £2,500, just as they have for PAYE employees.”
You can donate to the Hackney Foodbank here.
You can sign up to volunteer through the council here.
Safeguarding guidelines for those part of informal local social media groups self-organising to deliver aid and support can be found here.