We focus on four complex health issues more prevalent in urban areas
With the Social Progress Imperative, we've developed the first neighbourhood level, health-focused social progress index of its kind.
With Wellcome Trust
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Research and development
At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, we set up an emergency fund to support essential community services with equitable funding. We hear from these organisations how the funding helped them support the health of local residents.
Across the UK, the pandemic widened health inequalities immeasurably, particularly for people living in cities. It also brought into sharp focus the social and economic factors that influence our health – healthy food, safe homes and good and stable work. In cities like London, people living in crowded housing, forced to use public transport and unable to work from home were more exposed to the virus.
There was a significant knock-on effect on community services like food banks, mental health services and domestic abuse support groups.
Whilst the demand for the services these organisations provide rapidly increased, their donations fell and they were finding it increasingly difficult to access funding quickly enough to cope with the scale of the emergency. There was an unprecedented strain on services’ resources at the time when people needed them most.
The community organisations most affected were those run by and supporting Black, Asian and other minoritised ethnicities, who were already underfunded and had the least amount of money in reserve. Stopping or reducing the services they provide would have had a devastating effect on residents who rely on them, often those who are not historically reached by health services.
There was an increase in people using food banks during the pandemic, particularly families with children. Organisations like Rastafari Movement UK, which provides support to vulnerable households with nutritious food, had to find ways to meet increased demand.
COVID-19 exacerbated fuel poverty, particularly among lower-income households. Having to choose between rationing food or heating homes has a severe effect on people’s health. Organisations like Repowering London had to focus their resource quickly on fuel poverty interventions.
Cases of domestic abuse increased throughout the pandemic, leading to an increase in referrals to Latin American Women’s Aid who provide refuge and support for women and children fleeing gender-based violence.
Parents were under immense pressure to educate their children at home. This was particularly difficult for families on lower incomes, where schools provided fewer online and after school activities. This put pressure on services like Loughborough Community Centre at Max Roach, which provides support to local children and residents living in poverty.
We created the COVID emergency fund in September 2020 to respond to the strain on local organisations. The £2.6 million fund was designed to enable community organisations to continue to provide essential health services across Lambeth and Southwark.
By listening to community representatives we knew many essential services needed support to survive. Ubele’s research found that above all organisations needed flexibility from funders so grants could be redirected from work that was no longer possible to other areas that had become essential.
The fund was designed to be as flexible and effective as possible. It was unique approach to funding because:
This flexible approach meant organisations could quickly address the needs of their service users, manage resources during the pandemic and didn’t have to exist in a state of constant crisis.
As we emerge from the pandemic, unrestricted funding can be a mechanism to help communities level up inequalities and improve people’s health.
If you're a funder interested in our experience of unrestricted funding, or an organisation that could benefit from our COVID emergency fund, please get in touch with our Portfolio Manager, Farid.
Research and development
As part of our COVID Emergency Fund, we supported organisations that provide services in the local community that impact health.
Can health research be more equitable, and enable local residents to lead the research agenda?
We're working on a major new project to distribute emergency funding to Black-led, LGBTQ+, women's-focused and disability-led organisations.
In this guest blog, community researcher Elaine talks about how her life and experiences have led her to becoming a researcher.