One of the organisers of the first Covid-19 mutual aid group in the UK has said community spirit is alive and well in the wake of the pandemic.  

Lewisham Covid-19 Mutual Aid group was set up two weeks ago as a way to coordinate help for vulnerable people.  

Since its inception, 3,000 groups have been launched with nearly three million members.  

They serve as a forum where people can share information, volunteer help, or ask for it if they are in need.   

The groups are about neighbours and community members looking out for each other to help contain the spread of the virus and support those most at risk.   

Help can include offering essential items, picking up groceries, running errands, making calls, or just offering a friendly voice on the phone if people are lonely.   

Library assistant Rees Arnott, member and an organiser of LCMA said: “Originally it was an idea that a few of us had to help people on our street, and then we thought it would be good if we could encourage other people to do it in the borough.  

“Before we knew it we had friends in Hackney, Lambeth, Southwark and Battersea interested in doing the same thing.  

“Then we set up a national website and Facebook page so that we could help share resources and experience, and give people a way of more easily finding help in their local area.” 

“I was just a library assistant from Lewisham two weeks ago,” Rees added.   

The 31-year-old said he set up the group because he didn’t trust the Government to care for the people most in need.  

“Whether it’s the murderous benefits regime, the systemic underfunding of the NHS, the lack of teachers, or the failure to adequately resource the social care system, we know we can’t trust them to look after us.  

“So we did what working-class people have always done in a crisis: look after each other,” he said.  

Rees said the scheme has been received “incredibly well”,  

“The way it’s taken off so quickly just goes to show how much it was needed.  

“There are a few teething problems here and there, but the great thing about it is each street, each ward, each borough can decide for themselves how they want to be organised.  

“This has meant that every group has been able to respond quickly to the particular needs of their neighbours and their neighbourhood, and from what I can tell the vast majority of people have found it an absolute blessing and a lifeline,” he said. 

He also praised the response from the community in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis.  

“I think there’s this ridiculous idea that people can’t be trusted, that there’s no such thing as community spirit any more, and that you should only look out for yourself.  

“These mutual aid groups haven’t been about that, and the fact they’re so successful goes to show that most people don’t think that way.  

“Given the chance, I think we’d all like to help each other, and make sure that we get through the pandemic stronger and more united, able to look back on what happened and know that you did the right thing at the time,” he said.  

Rees said the importance of the community groups is two-fold.  

“Firstly, there are people out there who won’t get through this unless the rest of us step up, agree to socially distance, and make sure they get food, medicine, and emotional support whenever they need it.  

“Secondly, it shows that we can build another kind of world, based on mutual aid and solidarity, where people’s lives matter more than profit,” he said.  

To find a mutual aid group go here.