“It’s an opportunity to rewrite the future”

We find out how Hammersmith & Fulham Council’s Covid-19 emergency response has relied on partnership working and the creativity of the third sector.

“I can remember when we saw the first deaths in a residential home. That was a particularly low moment. It was traumatic for everyone – a terrible tragedy,” says Linda Jackson, director of Covid-19 Response and Recovery for Hammersmith & Fulham Council. “Now everyone has been touched by this crisis, one way or another. It’s been really difficult, seeing the devastating impact on families and businesses.”

The crisis over the past year has brought together everyone living and working in the community like never before, Linda says. “There has been an extraordinary partnership response between the council, fire, police, NHS, businesses, community organisations, residents – with camaraderie at every level.”

Early days of the pandemic

After recording the very first case on 22 January 2020, the council could see what was coming on the horizon and knew it needed to act quickly, Linda says. By the beginning of March, a structure was put in place to get some control and respond quickly. The team has always tried to be intelligence-led in its response, she says, and closely monitored how the pandemic was progressing in Hammersmith, London, the UK and the world.

It became clear in March 2020 that hospitals were discharging residents into care homes without first testing them for Covid-19. With an absence of national guidance or support, the council team forged ahead, linking up closely with health partners to close the homes to new admissions and test everyone to bring the virus under control. And in November, Hammersmith & Fulham became the first borough in London to launch lateral flow testing initially at residential care homes and then at three fixed centres making tests much more widely available. The council has also been facilitating the NHS-run vaccination programme, helping to set up centres and supporting GPs with systems and process.

For organisations providing sheltered housing with high numbers of older people, the speedy roll-out of these programmes has been game-changing. “With both testing and vaccinations, I always felt that the council was doing its best to bring any single benefit to the community as quickly as it could,” says Victoria Hill, chief executive of Hammersmith United Charities, which provides almshouse accommodation for older people on lower incomes.

“When we started being able to test our staff on site in December, it was a really big deal. It became a huge part of our infection control process,” says Victoria. “Before that, we were constantly worried that we could be infectious without knowing it and bring the virus on site.”

“All of our over-80s were vaccinated before Christmas, followed by staff in January. Now nearly everyone is vaccinated. It is such an incredible relief. Every single health and social care worker in the world has been weighing this up, every day, for a year: am I going to bring coronavirus into work? Am I going to take it back home with me?”

Working with the third sector

The council and the NHS are pushing out vaccines and testing to every corner of the borough with the help of the voluntary sector, Linda acknowledges. These organisations have a unique ability to wrap quickly around the thousands of people in the borough whose lives have been turned upside down by coronavirus.

“There is a quite breath-taking amount of skills and abilities in the local third sector,” says Linda. “These organisations move silently within communities and activate community capacity a lot quicker and better than a council officer could.”

Over the past year, the council and grassroots organisations have worked together to provide support where it’s been needed most. Early on the Volunteer Community Aid Network (CAN), along with street-level mutual aid groups, galvanised hundreds of people to volunteer their time to help vulnerable people. There has also been a 150% growth in donations to the food bank in the borough to support the surge in families who now can’t afford to put food on the table. “Some of the people using food banks were looking forward to a holiday a few years ago. Now they have no income and no money,” says Linda.

In partnership with fundraising organisation United in Hammersmith & Fulham, the council set up the Covid Appeal in March 2020, and local businesses and residents have now donated over £144,000 to fund organisations supporting people affected by the pandemic.

Community organisations are powerful because they have an intimate, inside-out understanding of the borough, says Victoria. “Hammersmith United Charities also provides grants to local organisations, and when I look at the organisations we’ve funded throughout this crisis, I see a strong movement of charities run by people who live here. They know the people most in need personally and over the crisis have worked together at speed to provide whatever is needed – whether it’s food, laptops, phone data, toilet paper, or a cheering phone call.”

“Throughout the pandemic, community organisations have stepped up very quickly, without thought to their previous agenda or outside pressures like funders’ targets. They just changed what they usually did to meet the immediate need, because their first priority was getting their community through this crisis. I hope funders now have a better understanding that it’s crucial to trust community organisations and give them the flexibility to respond to needs as they see them changing.”

Green shoots

So what does recovery in Hammersmith and Fulham look like? “I can see the green shoots of spring,” says Linda. “We’ve launched our ‘Shop Local, Shop Safe’ campaign to help businesses open safely as lockdown is eased. And we’ve got to build on the connections we’ve made with the third sector. After 12 months of working really hard together, how do we keep the capacity we’ve gained? We want to develop the recovery plan in co-production with the third sector, so that it’s an integral part of what the council offers, rather than working around the outside.”

The pandemic has shifted health and social care priorities. “Before, the focus was on specific diseases, like diabetes and cancer. Now? It’s on basic needs like food, employment, housing,” says Linda. “Some say it’s a backwards step. I say it’s an opportunity to rewrite the future. But we absolutely need the community sector to write it with us.”


Find out more
  • Find out more about coronavirus, latest guidelines, testing and vaccinations in Hammersmith and Fulham on the council’s website
  • Read more about Hammersmith United Charities’s grants programme and other community projects
  • Find out about our sheltered housing in Hammersmith with beautiful award-winning gardens.
  • Linda and her team are reaching out to the community to understand why people may be hesitant to have the COVID-19 vaccine and put support measures in place to improve vaccine take up in the borough. If you would like to contribute your views please join their online meetings held on Tuesdays at 6pm – 7pm which can be accessed via Microsoft Teams using this link.
Linda Jackson, director of Covid-19 Response and Recovery for Hammersmith & Fulham Council

Hammersmith United Charities Response to Coronavirus (COVID-19)

In line with Government advice, Hammersmith United Charities has invoked our Business Continuity Plan and implemented a new operating model focussed on keeping the residents of our Almshouses, our team, contractors and partners safe and well during the Coronavirus pandemic. (more…)

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National Compost Week

15 - 21 March 2021

Composting is the recycling of plant and food waste material into decayed organic matter. This can then be used in various forms in the garden and when applied, enriches the soil and plant health.

This week a layer of garden compost has been added to the allotment plots at John Betts House garden, in preparation for the growing season ahead. This ties in with National Compost Week, a good opportunity to remind ourselves of the many benefits of using compost in our gardens. Please see some key tips below for reasons to compost in your garden:

  • The organic matter in compost is a source of food for the organisms in the soil.
  • The organic matter in compost opens up the soil, creating bigger gaps for air and water to move around – this is good for soil structure.
  • As the organic matter decomposes, it releases nutrients into the soil.
  • Adding a layer of mulch to beds, borders and allotments suppresses annual weeds and weakens perennial weeds.
  • Composting is an environmentally friendly process using organic materials.

Composting is recommended for most sized gardens, and can be done in a number of ways to accommodate the size of the garden. We highly recommend this gardening activity and have put together a list of websites that provide useful further information on how to compost:


Find out more about our sheltered housing

With award-winning communal gardens, our friendly and affordable sheltered housing helps residents live independently for as long as possible.

We have flats available now for older people from Hammersmith. Talk to us on 020 8600 0650 / 07733 842 574, email info@hamunitedcharities.com or read more here.

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Welcome to our latest newsletter

Welcome to the Spring edition of the Hammersmith United Charities newsletter - read on for some good stories from the heart of Hammersmith.

You’ll find out about the extraordinary work being done by the community organisations we’re funding; meet the people who live in our almshouses; and learn about the action we’re taking to create change in our community.

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Fundraising for our community

How you can support campaigns for local people in need, from our fundraising partner United in Hammersmith & Fulham

Tech4Kids in H&F: Finding laptops for 1,500 children

1,500 pupils in our borough have been identified as being in urgent need of computers or internet connectivity at home. United in Hammersmith & Fulham has partnered with Hammersmith & Fulham Council and local group Ready Tech Go to launch an ambitious appeal to get every one of them connected.

Whilst the coronavirus crisis has highlighted that many children and young people have been unable to participate in online schooling during periods of lockdown or isolation, they are also less likely to be able to catch up with missed lessons or to complete homework in ordinary times. It also means they are highly unlikely to develop the vital digital skills needed to prosper in later work and life.

We’re aiming to get 1,500 laptops and 500 data SIM card for internet access so all local children have a chance to thrive digitally. You or your organisation can give any amount today:

  • £1500 can ensure 10 of a school’s most disadvantaged pupils do not lose out on digital skills
  • £150 can get a quality laptop to a young person in need of catching up with classes and for homework
  • £20 can get an essential data sim card to a child struggling with internet access
Have any unused tech your organisation would like to donate?

We are also working with Ready Tech Go who collect, wipe, and share old laptops and tablet PCs to get them to Tech4Kids pupils that have been identified as in urgent need. If you are an individual or local company with spare quality digital devices, please contact team@unitedhf.org

Find out more about the laptop campaign

Pedal Back Cycling: Looking for referrals – free refurbished bikes available

The pandemic has made bikes more vital than ever. Many people can’t afford to reach places of employment or safely get to interviews. Or they might be finding it hard to motivate themselves to access outside spaces to boost their mental health and wellbeing. That is why we have partnered with Pedal Back Cycling, to offer professionally refurbished bikes to those in need.

If you are from a local community group working with those on low incomes, you can refer adults including but not limited to:

  • Key workers
  • Care staff
  • Refugees
  • Delivery cyclists
  • Those out of employment

We only accept referrals from non-profit groups working in the borough, and not from individuals.

Find out more about Pedal Back Cycling  

Winter Covid Appeal: Raising money to support the community

Many people still need support during the Covid-19 pandemic, including those going through mental health crises, suffering from loneliness and isolation, and at-risk children in need of educational support.

United in Hammersmith in Fulham has launched the H&F Winter Covid Appeal, in partnership with Hammersmith & Fulham Council, to continue to enable local individuals, businesses and foundations across the borough to support those most in need. 100% of funds raised will be donated to groups working with local people who face risk because of coronavirus this winter.

Donate to the Winter Covid Appeal

(more…)

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January 2021 grants

We gave £120,000 to 18 local organisations in January 2021.

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