Statement re winding down Westminster Mutual Aid as a central coordinating organisation
Thank you and looking back
Between March 2020 and February 2021, Westminster Mutual Aid managed over 300 referrals, helping hundreds of people across Westminster. Occasionally we provided one off emergency support but more often than not often supported households for many months. When we started there were gaps in provision as the Council, charities and supermarkets all struggled to deal with the sudden change of circumstances and need. We would like to send a massive thank you to everyone who has helped or offered to help at any point in the last 11 months.
Over time, largely because of other support now being made available, requests to our group have slowed down. When we have received requests more recently, often we've been able to connect people to other services. Organisations who were at one time referring people to us because of capacity (such as Age UK) are now asking us to refer people back.
As time has gone on, when requests have come in, it has also become harder and slower to find volunteers available to help. This is a pattern reflected in other mutual aid groups too, as volunteers become tired after giving so much, often alongside other commitments. Many people are also now actively volunteering with other organisations and charities.
In the latest lockdown, we did not experience a significant increase in requests for assistance or new volunteers coming forward.
Winding down Westminster Mutual Aid
With above in mind we have taken the decision to wind down Westminster Mutual Aid as a central coordinating function / organisation.
This Westminster Mutual Aid group website will no longer have request help or volunteer sign up forms. The website will instead have information on where people can now access assistance or sign up to volunteer locally.
On a ward by ward level each group is deciding what they want to do next and if they want to repurpose their ward groups to be used in a different way.
It's important to state that there is nothing stopping people from continuing to coordinate mutual aid on a local level. For now we will leave the information for volunteers up on the WMA website in case any of the tips and guidance can be helpful.
Westminster Mutual Aid did not invent mutual aid in the area and was just a temporary method of coordination during an unprecedented time. The group helped to bring together people who were already doing great things and will no doubt continue to for many months and years to come.
An example of extraordinary ongoing mutual aid in the borough, is Ebury Food Surplus on the Ebury Bridge estate, coordinated by Mike Smith. Ebury Food Surplus has been a vital resource for us and others, getting food to people who can't access or don't qualify for other support.
We are also very grateful to the Amersi Foundation, who helped Westminster Mutual Aid to support some of the most vulnerable residents in Westminster. Their financial support helped us to provide much needed food and other essential items to many families and people experiencing homelessness in the borough. We would also like to acknowledge the support of MCKS Charitable Foundation who assisted us with getting food to people in urgent need.
Thank you again to everyone who has volunteered or supported our group.