COVID-19 has highlighted many challenges in our communities across the North of England over the last two months. It has been frightening, threatened us, hurt many people and families, and destabilised us. However, it has also drawn us back to the things that we trust and shown us what really matters. Our families, a safe home, enough money to feed ourselves and pay the bills. Keeping well, protecting those we know are vulnerable and reaching out to neighbours and strangers has strengthened our sense of community and we have rediscovered our identify in the places we live.
The People’s Powerhouse has always drawn people together, people who want a different set of values to be at the heart of decisioning making. The People’s Powerhouse Charter, created by 100s of people across the North sets out six foundations for transformation change and they have never been more relevant than now. They should be used to influence what will come in the next few months.
The Charter says:
We needed a louder voice to shout beyond our front doors as we thank our key workers; as it wasn’t loud enough to get the message across that our workers were in peril because of a late lockdown and inadequate PPE, with devastating consequences.
The diversity of our frontline key workers puts them in harm’s way in unacceptable numbers and then suddenly, their heritage and identity was being ‘celebrated’ by those who had sought earlier to see them gone from our country. It is these voices that must be heard in the conversations about COVID-19 recovery both at a national and local level, to ensure a greater genuine diversity in decisions and ideas.
There was a need for a centralised identity as the virus took hold and for clear and strong messages to keep us safe, but where is the respect for local identity now as we see Local Authorities and other national states having to go it alone to protect their communities? All places need to be respected and considered equally over the coming weeks and months. No community should be sacrificed for another, local needs and differences need to be considered, heard and local leaders’ opinions trusted as part of national decision making.
We saw the NHS sweep in staggeringly effective changes to working practices as they sought meaningful change, driven by the fear of being overwhelmed. Yet the government has not devolved the test and trace service to frontline GPs and public health systems and continue to hand out major private sector contracts.
We have seen the people living in the care sector treated without any real fairness or decency.
The staff were forgotten, the residents subjected to sick people re-joining their communities without any consultation. Yet the community and voluntary sectors rose brilliantly the challenge, small and large businesses diversified and mucked in overnight, even when there is so much uncertainty about their future.
The last charter foundation is more trust, so just how do we build trust between power and people, and try to learn from what just happened, as we look to rebuild our communities and #BuildBackBetter?
Our futures are still uncertain, but we have seen what community power and local action can achieve. Our local authorities need to feel that the relentless centralised machine will now recognise what they have done and how much it has cost.
And the people themselves, well no more than completely amazing and now is the time to capture that sense of togetherness, by providing a clear and genuine role for citizens in the re-building of our beloved region. At the People’s Powerhouse we are bringing together a coalition of organisations from across the North, who together will gather public opinion, listen to people’s experiences and ideas, and amplify those voices who are currently outside of the conversation. If you would like to hear some more about this work and join in, please get in touch firstname.lastname@example.org
Edna Robinson, Chairman of the People’s Powerhouse
For more information about the People’s Powerhouse, you can register for its newsletter, event updates and offer support at www.peoplespowerhouse.org.uk