London Community Response Survey
As COVID-19 struck, there was a need to understand the impact of the crisis on diverse communities to ensure resources could be mobilised to respond effectively. Organisations working on the frontline are often the first to see patterns of need. However, without a collective mechanism to share what they are seeing that pattern can be difficult to map or evidence. Working with the City Intelligence Unit and the Funders, Communities and Voluntary Sector subgroup of the Strategic Coordination Group, the London Community Response survey was developed as a simple way for organisations to share their experiences and inform our collective response to the crisis.
The weekly COVID-19 Community Response Survey asks civil society organisations who work in London, a small number of questions to understand the impact of COVID-19 and associated policy measures, such as social distancing, on their beneficiaries.
The data from the survey is published on the London DataStore, as well as being shared directly with the cohort who take part in the survey each week. In addition to the regional and local stakeholders supporting the pan London response to COVID-19, civil society and the cohort taking part was a primary audience for the results to support internal and local decision-making.
Every week we have had on average 110 organisations take the time to respond to the questions, to share their experiences and articulate the complex and challenging issues they are dealing with on a day to day basis in the context of COVID-19. We want to reiterate our thanks to the cohort for contributing to London’s understanding of the impact of COVID-19 on Londoners and civil society, whilst continuing to work to support Londoners in an uncertain time.
“The loosening of shut in, coupled with fear of virus, loss of income, rise in food prices and bills starting to come in, is almost a perfect storm of disaster for many families who were financially independent. People are finding it upsetting and incomprehensible that they are in this situation. It is damaging people physically and mentally.” Quote from survey participant.
Throughout the weeks we have had a number of standing quantitative questions. These questions have enabled us to track demand on services and the changing challenges both organisations and beneficiaries have been facing week to week.
In week 2 of the survey, 46 organisations reported an increase in the number of people seeking support, organisation that worked with BAME groups, young people or socially excluded Londoners were more likely to have reported a ‘much higher’ increase than other orgs. It wasn’t until week 7 that there was a marked decline in organisations reporting increases in the number of people seeking support.
The survey also asked organisations about the specific issues that people were seeking support for. In the first 2 months organisations consistently reported high demand for support with mental health, social isolation and digital connectivity. More recently the pattern has shifted slightly to an increase in the proportion of organisation citing issues around employment, debt, access to benefits and discrimination.
A series of qualitative questions are included in the survey, which are adapted week to week. One of the consistent questions asks groups about groups whose needs are not being met or growing issues.
The week 8 survey asked respondents about positive changes and factors that hindered their work. Participants reported that increasing and improving the use of tech and digital for service delivery and a willingness to collaborate and work in partnership as the top two positive changes to come out of the crisis.
“We recognise that online opportunities can act as one tool in increasing their opportunities to participate and also to access services. We will keep developing our digital offers where we can see the benefits, while finding solutions to digital exclusion.” Quote from survey participant.
In direct contrast, it was the digital barriers, both for organisations and beneficiaries which was the main reported hinderance to working effectively.
“It has been difficult to reach the most vulnerable members of our community who are perhaps digitally excluded. It has been frustrating that most advice or access to services has been provided online, which is inaccessible to those without the internet.” Quote from survey participant.
As the survey moves into its fourth month and its bi-monthly cycle, they survey will include questions on what organisations and communities need as lockdown is lifted and we move into recovery.
The results have supported a collective understanding of the issues faced by civil society and Londoners, to support all partners to shape their response. As of the beginning of July, there have been just over 1,800 views of the results on the London Datastore page.
Uses have included civil society groups checking the experiences of their beneficiaries against the regional picture, funders ensuring they remained sensitive to a rapidly changing context and Civil Society Support organisations ensuring they were designing support based on the needs of the sector. The quote below highlights how one regional organisation used the data:
“Insights from the survey have been used as part of an active monitoring framework we have developed as part of PHE London’s population health surveillance activities. The granularity of the information in this survey has been useful to understand the experiences of Londoners who are often less heard and underrepresented in surveys. The survey results are also close to real time so can inform action for Thrive Ldn activities and wider system partners. e.g. Findings from week 2 of the survey onwards highlighted digital connectivity as a specific issue for beneficiaries, which informed Thrive Ldn non-digital engagement activities. Phase 1 of this work has now taken place producing and disseminating 96,000 wellbeing card packs to London households to support those with limited or no internet access through emergency food and medical parcels.”
Having run the survey weekly for three months and receiving almost 1200 responses from a cohort of 300 organisations, the survey has proved to be an incredibly valuable source of insight and an opportunity to hear directly from organisations working on the frontline.
We are now running the survey bi-monthly for the next month, after which we will carry out another review. As mentioned above, we have already introduced a number of recovery focused questions to ensure civil society groups can feed directly into the regional recovery conversation. We are also working with London Plus to deliver a series of workshops responding to the needs raised by Civil Society in the survey.
We hope to continue to work with this cohort and others to ensure the needs of Londoners and civil society actively feed into the recovery process.