Co-op Group launches platform to support community response to Covid-19

'I’m confident we’ll come through this and the experience will serve to remind us of the power and importance of communities working together'

An online platform has been set up by the Co-op Group in a bid to reduce the damaging impact of coronavirus measures on people’s mental health and wellbeing.

As well as being a response to the pandemic and lockdown, the platform ties in with the Group’s ongoing campaign on loneliness and social isolation, which has seen it work with organisations such as the Red Cross, Mind, SAMH and Inspire in Northern Ireland.

Before the current crisis, research by the Co-op showed that 9 million UK residents suffer from loneliness on a regular basis and the current lockdown could send that number soaring in the months ahead.

in response, the Group has launched Co-operate – an online community centre which connects vulnerable people to local and national support initiatives, and to volunteers willing to run virtual events such as exercise classes, music groups, or arts and crafts classes for others, across the country.

Volunteers are asked to list skills they can share and those wanting help are asked if there’s anything they would like to do. The Group hopes this could offer thousands of people find new ways to support others during the pandemic, find unique ways to connect with others or learn a new skill.

The platform will also highlight the work of the Group’s Member Pioneers – colleagues who work with causes and concerns within their local communities. They will be concentrating all their efforts into helping others throughout the crisis.

The Group is asking all of its 4.6m members and its 70,000 colleagues to be among the first to use the new website, but anyone can visit and get involved. Chief executive Steve Murrells said: “Because of our high-profile campaigning over recent years, we are fully aware of the impact this lockdown could have on people’s mental wellbeing.

“That is why we are launching this important new platform now, as a great example of how technology can be harnessed to bring people together in order to co-operate.

“In the past, many people have been reluctant to volunteer because they hadn’t got the time and they feared committing to something they would be unable to maintain.

“The coronavirus pandemic has fundamentally changed this in the short term, as people have excess time to help and they’re clear that the commitment is short term and time-bound.

“I’m confident we’ll come through this and the experience will serve to remind us of the power and importance of communities working together. The acts of co-operation and self-sacrifice being made now by so many are really heartening and we hope, through initiatives like Co-operate, they will last way beyond the pandemic and into the long term.”

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