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Saturday, 23 October 2021
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New UK charity for all those affected by COVID-19 launches

covid:aid, the new national charity for all those affected by COVID-19 in the UK, launches this week. It will build a community in order to support and give a voice to individuals whose lives have been turned upside down by the pandemic.

covid:aid is the UK’s new national charity for all those affected by COVID-19. It launches to link together and build a community of millions while working collaboratively to boost other organisations already providing support.

Founder and Chief Executive Michael MacLennan said:

“The public and social sectors, charities, community groups, and other organisations have all been doing amazing work over the past year – and refocusing existing services.

“However, it’s clear that there will be a need for dedicated and continuing support for those millions whose lives have been turned upside down by COVID-19. We are moving from a crisis to a chronic phase as the pandemic becomes endemic, and the long-term effects will be felt by millions for years to come – as the nation looks to recover from collective trauma.

“covid:aid exists to provide hope to those struggling to recover. As a charity, we want to build a community that can support each other – and which thrives in the process. As our community grows, we will work collaboratively to identify unmet needs and launch new services.”

Looking to expand its offering as it grows, covid:aid will be community-led and informed by experts. Initially, the charity is focusing on three groups – those with Long COVID, those traumatised from having COVID-19, and those families and loved ones grieving those lost in the midst of the pandemic – however, the charity is aiming to support all those affected by COVID-19 in the UK.

Michael said:

“Our vision is that every single adult, young person, and child in the UK should be able to easily find and access the vital support they require to deal with the traumatic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

covid:aid appeared on the Independent SAGE briefing (which aims to provide advice to the United Kingdom government regarding the COVID-19 pandemic), gaining the support of several renowned U.K. experts.

Dr Zubaida Haque, Former Interim Director at The Runnymede Trust, said:

“I think it’s a fantastic idea,” adding that she hoped the government would help with funding: “We still don’t know what the long-term social, economic, mental and physical health consequences of COVID will be.”

Dr Susan Michie, professor of Health Psychology, director of The Centre for Behaviour Change and head of The Health Psychology Research Group, all at University College London, also welcomed the launch of the charity and expressed her hope that the charity goes beyond helping individuals.

She said:

“In the future, a key thing is going to be learning the lessons of under-resourcing and under-investment in key parts of our society, especially the NHS. We have seen a huge and accumulating backlog of people on waiting lists and the public health infrastructure, which has been diminished over the past decade – and we are unfortunately reaping the results of that. The other big issue is the increasing inequalities as a result of the pandemic.

“There are going to be some of these broader structural issues which are going to be really important in terms of helping people in the short term and the long term – and in ensuring that come the next pandemic… putting the whole society into a more resilient position. That requires individuals working with community networks and organisations, and putting pressure on those with the power and influence to change some of these more fundamental issues.”

Dr Tolullah Oni, an urban epidemiologist at the Medical Research Council Epidemiology Unit and a Public Health Physician-Scientist at the University of Cambridge, said:

“I applaud the initiative. The really critical thing we’ve learned is that the middle of an emergency is perhaps not the best time to start initiating engagement or trying to build trust. Whilst we have had to do that in the middle of this emergency, it is important that initiatives like yours are really looking forward to sustaining this engagement and try and build trust as part of community participation.”

covid:aid is launching a digital hub that intends to become the go-to destination for all those affected by COVID-19. Ways in which it will initially provide support include:

  • Signposting to ensure people can find the support they require, wherever they are (and that they can alert covid:aid if there is a gap)
  • Hosting online community spaces for people to share their own stories, experiences, and advice
  • Telling the stories of those affected and ensuring the voices of those affected aren’t forgotten
  • Launching podcast series COVID Matters, which will feature conversations with experts around central issues concerning COVID-19 and which will provide expert-led advice and guidance
  • Highlighting issues of concern to the media and governmental bodies and looking to positively influence the shape of public policy
  • Developing new services through speaking to those affected to identify current gaps – and working together to build solutions

Michael said:

“We have set up to be flexible, meaning we can swiftly react to community need. From this solid foundation, we can develop and launch any required additional services, employing a collaborative approach with our community as well as existing organisations. We want to connect people together so that we can lift each other up.”

covid:aid will not be there just for the emergency: its mission shall extend for as long as people require assistance. The charity will also look to promote conversations about what a post-pandemic future should look like, how we can build preparedness for the next pandemic, and through its engagement with experts will provide a basis for showing how the nation can move forward.

Michael added:

The charity’s growth will, of course, depend on building its community and attracting income. There is a tremendous amount that we can do for those affected by COVID-19, and we’re only getting started. covid:aid needs support today to be able to flourish – and ultimately to help those millions in the UK in the months and years to come.”

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