Note: this advice was written in 2020 during the first UK lockdown. Information may no longer be up to date.
Across the country, we’ve seen a huge outpouring of kindness during the covid-19 pandemic. In many communities, neighbours have organised themselves into mutual aid groups to support each other through lockdown.
Each mutual aid group is different – some cover a wide area with a central phoneline you can call to offer or ask for help, others are a WhatsApp or Facebook group for people who live on the same street.
What they have in common is being by local people and for local people. Action Together is here to help if you need us, but you don’t need to register with us if you want to set up or get involved in mutual aid.
Everyone has something to offer to mutual aid, whether that’s delivering food parcels in your neighbourhood or making phone calls from home. Whatever way you decide to get involved, make sure you stay safe when volunteering during Covid-19.
Each group is different, but some of the ways people have been supporting each other include:
- Leafletting to reach people who are isolated and to raise awareness of the group
- Doing a shift answering a phone line for people to contact for support
- Getting more of your neighbours involved in the group
- Helping people when they are self-isolating or shielding – for example running errands, food shopping, collecting prescriptions or dog walking
- Phoning people who live on their own or are self-isolating and need a bit of company or a friendly chat
The most up-to-date map and list is on the Covid Mutual Aid website, where you can also register a new group if you set one up - https://covidmutualaid.org/local-groups
If there isn’t a group in your area, you can always set one up!
Start by thinking what area you want to cover – generally the groups that are smaller and more local have found it easiest to get started and manage the admin and logistics of running a group. A good place to start might be setting up a Facebook or WhatsApp group and inviting your neighbours to join.
More information and support for group admins is on the Covid Mutual Aid site: https://covidmutualaid.org/resources/#setting-up
The quickest and safest way to get organised is to do it online, for example through Facebook or WhatsApp groups. That way you can communicate and share information quickly without needing to meet in person.
Facebook have a guide on how to create a Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/help/167970719931213
WhatsApp have a guide on how to create a WhatsApp group: https://faq.whatsapp.com/en/android/26000123/?category=5245251
Not all volunteers will be able or willing to use these platforms, so you might want to think about some other options, such as a central email address or phone number. Setting up a specific email address for this purpose means multiple people can access it and you will not be sharing a personal email address.
If you are collecting any information about group members, be careful that people know where their data is going to be stored and why, and that any data is password protected. People should be able to request their data is removed if needed. As few people as possible should have access to the data. More information on safeguarding and data protection is further down this page.
Mutual aid groups are for everyone, but people in self-isolation may not find out about your group if they don’t have access to the internet or feel comfortable on social media.
A good way to reach everyone is by making leaflets with a bit of information about who you are (people will trust this most if you make it personal i.e. Hello from Paul at no.36!), what the group is for, and how to contact you.
Make your leaflets as accessible as possible, explaining:
- What your group is
- The area you cover
- How to contact you
- A positive message that you are here to help
Do not include any medical or care advice. People should be directed to government and NHS guidance for the latest information.
There are a number of print-at-home cards online that you can post to your neighbours to offer support. Find one version here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1L_8GoI1zQ572fBZtElFfQZI9vNEwK7Rf/view
If you are leafleting remember this can also pass on the virus. We advise:
- Do not leaflet in large groups
- Do not share one stack of leaflets, and separate leaflet stacks between different people
- Use hand sanitizer regularly
- Wash your hands before and after leafletting
It’s important to keep yourself and your community safe while doing mutual aid. Continue to follow guidance including wearing masks, washing hands regularly and social distancing. Use your judgment while running errands or in interactions with self-isolated people.
The government have produced guidance on How To Help Safely: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-how-to-help-safel...
The Food Standards Agency have produced guidance and food safety information if you are preparing meals to share in your community: www.food.gov.uk/safety-hygiene/food-safety-for-community-cooking-and-food-banks
An online training document is available on safeguarding for mutual aid groups: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1rCRSecht8EBVJ407prSmIjNkNv6wv0k56TOt...
If you are registering volunteers using a form or survey, you may want to use our data protection statement as a basis for your own statement:
Stay up to date with and only share the latest government and NHS advice through your mutual aid group.
- UK Government response to coronavirus https://www.gov.uk/government/topical-events/coronavirus-covid-19-uk-gov...
- NHS information: coronavirus https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/
- Covid-19 Mutual Aid UK https://covidmutualaid.org/
- How To Help Safely: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-how-to-help-safel...
- How to create a Google Form https://support.google.com/docs/answer/6281888?co=GENIE.Platform%3DDeskt...
- How to create a Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/help/167970719931213
- How to create a WhatsApp group https://faq.whatsapp.com/en/android/26000123/?category=5245251
- Preparing documents for people with visual impairment https://www.macularsociety.org/preparing-documents-visually-impaired-peo...
- Safeguarding and data protection for mutual aid groups https://docs.google.com/document/d/1rCRSecht8EBVJ407prSmIjNkNv6wv0k56TOt...
- #ViralKindness mutual aid flyer https://drive.google.com/file/d/1L_8GoI1zQ572fBZtElFfQZI9vNEwK7Rf/view