• Andy

The exciting possible futures of Gateshead Mutual Aid




We’ve been big proponents of the Mutual Aid groups and the work they’ve done across the country to support local communities through the pandemic. Last week, we helped host a meeting of Mutual Aid volunteers across Gateshead in which we invited people to share their ideas about what they’d like the groups to do next to help strengthen local communities.

We were thrilled to have 30 people join us on Zoom on a Wednesday evening – and even more thrilled by the levels of energy and enthusiasm we heard from all the people on the call. Not one person was saying there was no longer a need for Mutual Aid. In fact, one Mutual Aid member, Alex, said “This whole experience has been a real eye-opener, seeing the levels of isolation and loneliness in our local communities. People are feeling anxious about the support ending now the lockdown has lifted.”

Another Mutual Aid member, Charley, said, “People want us to ‘stay in touch’ with them. Just knowing we’re there helps. People have come to rely on us, and we can’t just walk away because many of these people don’t have anyone else.”

Ian Wolstenholme, CEO of Age UK Gateshead, shared some statistics from the Age UK system about the support provided over the past 100 days which would not have been possible without the Mutual Aid groups:

· 5,800 shops were carried out · 1,800 prescriptions were collected · 104 pensions were collected · 37 safeguarding issues were raised · 71 suicide interventions were undertaken · 10,7000 welfare calls were made

From the conversation, we were able to identify four potential areas of future Mutual Aid activity in Gateshead:

1. Tackling social isolation and loneliness – Many volunteers noticed that loneliness was a serious issue for many of the people for whom they’d provided shopping, especially for elderly and vulnerable people. Having a chat on the doorstep was clearly as important to these people as receiving the shopping. Mutual Aid could create new ways to maintain ongoing community connections for these people to reduce their social isolation and loneliness – and create opportunities for these people to help others

2. Engaging young people – There is a lack of activities for young people to do, particularly following the removal of the youth service. Mutual Aid could work with young people to understand their interests, help them feel proud of where they live, and support them to take greater ownership of their local community.

3. Revitalising disused land – There are many areas in Gateshead lying derelict or unused. Mutual Aid could help to smarten up rundown areas through activities like litter picking and developing communal gardens where vegetables etc are grown.

4. Communal activities – In order to further deepen the relationships within local communities, people wanted there to be more activities anyone could join in with. Suggestions included community walks or run – with safe social distancing practices. Mutual Aid could organise more communal activities in local areas.

If you’d like to get involved in developing and rolling out any of these ideas, please email gateshead.mutualaid@gmail.com

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