NEWS: Community hubs have been a lifeline for the most vulnerable during the coronavirus crisis – we must invest in this social infrastructure as we plan for recovery

A study from national community charity, Groundwork, highlights the benefits brought to local areas by ‘community hubs’ – spaces that host a range of community activities and volunteering opportunities – and shares lessons aimed at putting more hubs at the heart of our recovery from the pandemic.

Despite having their activities disrupted by Covid, the community hubs continued to connect volunteers and support local people during lockdown. @TheGrange became one of 12 Corona Kindness Hubs in Blackpool, coordinating the delivery of vital food, supplies and support to vulnerable residents in the local area. The Green Patch, in Kettering, set up a donations tent so that local residents could access fresh produce, donated food and other goods during the crisis.

The charity is calling for central and local government to recognise the value of community hubs in helping to drive a green and fair recovery from the pandemic, and to build them into plans for combatting health inequalities, strengthening community cohesion and supporting people towards training and employment.

The report ‘Growing Spaces: community hubs and their role in recovery’ takes a deep dive into three hubs managed by Groundwork across the UK, to find out what benefits they bring to the local community and what the ingredients are for their long-term success.

The hubs were found to support the social infrastructure of communities including building relationships with neighbours, increasing skills and knowledge, as well as capitalising on green space to enable people to reap both the physical and mental health benefits of being outdoors.

The study found that while each of the community hubs was unique, the core success factors are replicable and could offer similar outcomes that support both positive social and environmental outcomes in communities up and down the UK.

Benefits highlighted include
  • Social – helping people to make friends and find a sense of local belonging and community cohesion.
  • Employment – supporting people by offering training and work experience opportunities, that can be added to a CV as well as building workplace confidence.
  • Health and wellbeing – improving the physical and mental wellbeing of volunteers, as well as tackling social isolation.
  • Environment – enhancing both the physical landscape of the area and introducing and encouraging a connection to nature through volunteering and horticultural skills. Hubs are also beginning to bring people together to identify community responses to climate change.

Graham Duxbury, Groundwork’s national chief executive, said:

“Amid the focus on how national governments will keep us safe from the virus and rebuild our economy, we need to recognise that a strong recovery also requires us to invest in our local social infrastructure.

“The pandemic has shown us how important our social connections and our ability to be active in green spaces are to our health and wellbeing. It has also unlocked a whole new appetite for local volunteering. Community hubs like those featured in our report can provide a focus for this voluntary action and a platform for delivering a much broader range of social, environmental and economic benefits in local areas.

“In order to realise these benefits, communities need investment and hubs need professional support. We would like to see the learning from these places used by local and national government as they develop their plans for a green recovery from Covid and address other national emergencies such as tackling health inequalities and climate change.”

Read a full version of the report 

Notes to Editors

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