Covid-19 has prompted Reading residents to band together and form Reading Mutual Care, a major aid group across the town with a number of Labour Party members helping this drive to support their local communities. The group has now been in operation for several weeks.
Reading Mutual Care has quickly grown in size with a widespread network of co-ordinators and volunteers helping people with vital tasks including shopping and collecting prescriptions. By April 13, 550 volunteers had been registered helping answer 305 requests for assistance and the group has launched a Go Fund Me crowd funding bid.
The mutual aid network builds on a grassroots initiative originating from Bristol and has gained strength in Reading since the beginning of the year. The Covid-19 pandemic prompted additional urgent action with the formation of a sister group, Reading Mutual Care.
“This is about people supporting one another at a time of unprecedented need,” said one Reading Labour Party member. “It’s important at his point that we also recall the fact that many of the glaring inequalities existent in British society – underfunding the NHS, reliance on food banks, exploitative wages – have helped worsen this crisis. In the meantime mutual aid groups are demonstrating that genuine people power is key.”
An active member of the group also added that it has had to raise funds to cover emergency essential shopping for some users living in dire need as well as sourcing money for protective equipment. 50,000 flyers so far have been distributed to residents across Reading.
The mutual aid group has been providing key support for vulnerable people and has been described by a person involved in the process as “stepping into a breach where more official agencies were unable to fulfil the increased demand, particularly at the start of the crisis when Reading Mutual Care was quick to get up and running. We are now working with other groups including the council and, indeed, taking referrals from them. NHS employees have also been providing details of the service to shielded vulnerable people.”
Additional groups across Reading have also been formed to assist communities deal with the pandemic including the council-directed Community Hub and Reading Voluntary Action. There are also a number of groups in local areas, including Wokingham and Bracknell.
Mutual aid groups were commended by Jeremy Corbyn in parliament and shielded patients have received texts from the NHS which include contact details for mutual aid to find local groups in their area. Trade unions, including the GMB, have also been praised for centralising key information for members and the public as well as leading the ongoing call for personal protective equipment for frontline staff.