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‘We’re still needed’: Hampstead and Highgate volunteers call on government to work with them to plan for future spike in Covid-19 cases

PUBLISHED: 20:30 05 August 2020

Members of the Hampstead Volunteer Corps with food for local people in need during lockdown. Picture: Ruth Corney

Members of the Hampstead Volunteer Corps with food for local people in need during lockdown. Picture: Ruth Corney

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Food poverty continues to be a real issue across Hampstead and Highgate according to the volunteers who helped thousands during the pandemic – while there’s a real need for a ”joined-up plan” with local and national goverment for any possible winter spike in Covid-19 cases.

The Hampstead Volunteer Corps are now combining their food poverty work with JW3's own scheme in Finchley RoadThe Hampstead Volunteer Corps are now combining their food poverty work with JW3's own scheme in Finchley Road

Looking back, Kate Guy, one of the founders of the Hampstead Volunteer Corps, told the Ham&High HVC’s work had “continued at such a fast clip” for longer than expected, but it had now settled, with the networks of support and friendship developed since March now able to look after people in need quite naturally. She said: “It’s people that are still the system that still need help.”

READ MORE: ‘Very, very few’ Covid-19 patients in Camden’s hospitals, while councils watch closely for signs of ‘second wave’

With the HVC’s food bank work now merging with that of JW3 in Finchley Road, who are “in it for the long haul” and dealing with rising demand, Kate added that, in case of a second wave of Covid-19 cases, the key would be for the council, central government to work with groups like the HVC to “figure out what needs to be in place”.

She said HVC planned to rapidly leaflet again and would be able to re-activate relationships built since March, but authoriies needed to do more.

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Claire Norton, who helped found the Highgate N6 group told the Ham&High she felt we were now in “a very strange time” and added: “Demand for food banks and the like is going up and up all the time. I am still checking WhatsApp continually. We’re still needed.”

READ MORE: Government ends Covid-19 shielding, but vulnerable people ‘confused and cautious’

JW3’s Jacob Forman, who manages the Finchley Road community centre’s social action work said: “Demand for food hasn’t slowed down at all. It’s growing because the more we do, the more people who need help find out about it. We are taking on more referrals, and operating throughout the north of Camden.

“We are getting more and more food parcels – even though shielding is ending, more people are being made redundant, and there are no other jobs.”

Naomi Russell, who runs Food Bank Aid from her Highgate garage told this newspaper: “The difference now is that the people being affected are not just at the bottom. I think when the furloughing ends we will see things really get bad.”

Camden, Barnet and Haringey councils have all pledged to continue to support vulnerable groups still suffering from the pandemic, for more details, see inside.


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