Speaking exclusively to the Yorkshire Post, Minister for Civil Society Baroness Diana Barran said she hoped the “human connections” formed during the pandemic, as neighbours come together to support isolated members of their communities and 750,000 people volunteer to work with the NHS, would continue long after the virus subsedes.
She said the Government was looking to learn from the “extraordinarily important” actions of volunteers and “thinking actively” about how they could harness that sense of community for the future.
“We will probably only know quite how important it is in the months and years to come,” Baroness Barran said. “This crisis has brought into very stark relief just how valuable human connections are, so I very much hope that they continue. I think we have to be realistic in that some people will be facing massive challenges and problems coming out of this.”
Across the region, from small street-by-street WhatsApp groups, to organised council-led relief efforts, people are coming together to ensure those who are isolated are kept fed and know they are not alone, while those under financial pressure have found support.
Join our new coronavirus Facebook group for the latest confirmed news and advice as soon as we get it www.facebook.com/groups/yorkshirecoronavirusThe Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu, praised the “tremendous sacrificial work” being done by volunteers across Yorkshire “putting others before self”.
He told The Yorkshire Post: “In the midst of this very challenging and stressful time for everyone, it makes my heart sing for joy to witness and hear about the tremendous sacrificial work being done by so many volunteers.
“When Jesus of Nazareth described what God’s kingdom of justice and love looked like, he said it was full of love and mercy, putting others before self. Just what we’re seeing. Thank you. You are fantastic.”
While the Government and business had played a “critical role” in making some support efforts happen, for example food deliveries, Baronnes Barran said the striking way in which communities had responded in “helpfulness and with small acts of kindness” had been much better organised in a “local, spontaneous way”.
“As a government, we should share some of the examples that have been successful and in overcoming the practical problems that may have arised,” she added.
Community campaigner Kim Leadbeater, sister of murdered Batley MP Jo Cox, said the response to the coronavirus showed that “most people are inherently good people who want to help each other”.
“This is the whole philosophy that Jo spoke of when she talked about having more in common,” Ms Leadbeater said. “It’s not about agreeing on everything, it's not about pretending that we’re all the same, it's about when it comes down to it, and we’re all vulnerable, the thing we have in common is connecting on a human level. That power of connection has never been more important.”
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