New Onward Research note: COVID-19 and community

2020-03-30T08:48:07+00:00 March 30th, 2020|Blog, Onward, Repairing our Social Fabric, Research|

On Monday 30th March, Onward launches its latest research note: COVID-19 and community

Read the research note 

This note outlines the results of some new Onward polling analysis on the state of community in the UK during the COVID-19 crisis. This research note is a part of Onward’s new research programme Repairing our Social Fabric.

The poll, conducted by J.L. Partners, finds that 88% of people are worried or very worried about the health of their wider community, compared to just 9% who are not worried. This is similar to the proportion worried about the health of their immediate family (88%) but far exceeds the number worried about their own physical (77% worried, 21% not worried) and mental (56% worried, 41% not) health. 7 in 10 people (71%) are worried about the work of local charities and community groups, with 20% unconcerned. 

Public-spiritedness is also visible when people think about the economic impact. More people are concerned about the jobs and incomes of the wider community (84%) than the jobs and incomes of their immediate family (74%) or their own jobs (52%), This is true of every age group, every social class and every region. Three times as many people unconcerned about their own job (39%) as jobs and incomes locally (12%). A quarter of people (24%) say they are “not at all concerned” about their own job or income, but this falls to 12% among those under the age of 45 years old.  

The poll reveals the latent potential to harness volunteering to respond to the crisis at community level:

  • Three fifths (61%) of people would check on elderly or frail neighbours, including a quarter (26%) who say they are very likely to do this. Just 16% say they are not likely to do this. 
  • Nearly 1 in 2 people (48%) say they would deliver supplies to people who are self isolating, with 20% saying they are very likely to this. 29% say they are unlikely to deliver supplies. 
  • Two fifths (42%) of people say they would talk to socially isolated members of the community by phone or video link, with 17% of people saying they would be very likely to do this. 
  • Only 18% of people would provide childcare for people who need to work or are involved in the Covid-19 response, with 61% of people saying they would be unlikely to do this. People are also reluctant to undertake medical roles: just 18% would volunteer at a hospital and only 20% would administer testing on people who may be infected. 

The poll reveals strong support for the Government taking steps to harness the power of civic society and community groups to respond to the crisis. 

  • Nearly 8 in 10 people (79%) support the creation of a national volunteer force to deliver supplies, food and tests, with 3% against. The fact 670,000 people have applied to become NHS Volunteer Responders is further testament to the popularity of this proposal. 
  • Two thirds of people (69%) support the idea of relaxing tax rules around donations to encourage more people to give to good causes during the crisis, compared to 4% opposed. 
  • 66% of people support the idea of taxpayers directly subsidising the wages of charity workers responding to COVID-19, compared to 8% against. 
  • 59% of people are in favour of charities and community groups being asked to administer coronavirus tests in the community, against 8% against. 
  • A majority of people (42%) favour using taxpayers money to take cafes and pubs that go bust during the next few months into community ownership

The poll also reveals the scale of disruption to people’s lives and their levels of support for the Government’s actions. 

More than two-thirds of people (68%) say their life has mostly changed as a result of the crisis, while a third of people (32%) say that they have “carried on life mostly as normal”. This is strongly driven by men, nearly two in five of whom (38%) have continued as normal, compared to 26% of women.

Meanwhile 87% of people agree that “’the priority for the Government should be to limit the spread of the disease, even if that means more businesses fail and people lose their jobs”. This compares to 13% of people who say “’the priority for the Government should be to protect jobs and the economy, even if that means the disease infects more people”. This sentiment is shared by respondents of all ages, social grades and regions. 

Will Tanner, Director of Onward, said:

The Government has acted quickly to announce an economic stimulus to safeguard jobs and businesses. It must now focus on the social stimulus to harness the power of communities to help people through the greatest challenge of a generation

For media inquiries please contact Will Tanner at [email protected]

The full tables can be found at