Pandemic equalises ‘power relationship’ between councils and charities, says report

Covid-19 has levelled out the power dynamics in relationships between councils and charities involved in community work, a report is suggesting.

The report by community organisation network Locality looked at how the pandemic had impacted on charities and community organisations across Europe.

This found that in the UK the charity and community Covid-19 response “was up and running” before councils became involved. This meant that when local authorities linked up with charities the “power relationship had been equalised”.

The report found that “successful local authorities have not sought to create or control, but to develop and shape what’s already there”.

Improving relationships during the crisis between councils and charities was a key theme to emerge from latest findings from the NCVO backed Respond, Recover and Reset project.

Charities reported that councils have become more responsive to their needs amid the health crisis. But this is skewed towards larger charities, with smaller organisations often missing out, this report found.

Mental health

Among common experiences across Europe highlighted in the Locality report was “unfortunately a story of increasing mental health challenges and anxiety for communities”.

This includes “staff and volunteers involved with the frontline of support”, found the report.

It added that “the crisis has shown how staff and volunteers in community organisations are create and resourceful, ready to adapt and respond flexibly to the needs of their communities.

“But the ongoing crisis has been a huge strain for many community leaders, who often faced their own experiences of grief and loss.”

The research also looked at the experience of community organisations during the pandemic in Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, Italy, France, Finland and Sweden.

Food poverty, digital exclusion and social isolation were among common issues groups across Europe have been tackling. A need to combat “fake news” and ensure accurate public health messaging has also been key for charities involved in pandemic response and support across Europe.

“This new research documents the incredible community response to the pandemic across eight European countries,” said Sophie Michelena, European project coordinator for global community organisations network the International Federation of Settlements and Neighbourhood Centers (IFS),

“It shows how community organisations have been supporting their neighbourhoods through the hardest of times.

“Despite the huge economic and social threats we are facing in the wake of the virus, we heard about the determination and faith in the power of community to support healthier, happier and more resilient places through the recovery and beyond.”

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