A report from Croydon’s director of public health celebrates how Croydon united to support each other throughout Covid-19, while highlighting how the pandemic has exacerbated inequalities in the borough.
In her first annual report since the Covid-19 outbreak, Rachel Flowers praises Croydon residents, communities, schools and businesses for their continued strength and determination, while making a number of recommendations for Croydon to bounce back as a fairer place.
The report is presented in a video available to watch here. It includes testimonies from local people revealing the stark realities of their experiences when the pandemic struck in early 2020. The video includes British Sign Language for accessibility. The accompanying data document sets out recommendations to support us on an individual and system-wide level to recover as a fairer and more connected borough.
The challenges faced in Croydon include the significant job losses during the pandemic that have led to many now relying on state-funded benefits to support themselves.
A proportion of residents were at increased risk of infection due to not being able to socially distance in their place of employment, like those in front-line jobs in care homes, hospitals and other key roles.
The financial difficulties at this time also led to an increase in children receiving free school meals, with more than a quarter of primary and secondary school pupils now eligible.
Markieu Hayde – Head teacher at Norbury High School for Girls, who features in the video, said: “There was a big increase in the number of students who now qualified for free school meals. We reached out to charities to get free laptops. There were some parents that were choosing to self-isolate their children due to medical conditions because they couldn’t access the services they needed at the hospital.”
Some communities faced additional barriers during the pandemic. More than 3,000 people are visually or hearing impaired in the borough and elements of the lockdown exacerbated the challenges some already face accessing services and information.
Jotti Shala, a Croydon resident from the Deaf community, said: “Lots of Deaf people didn’t know what was going on with Covid. How are we expected to get more information, and where would we get it from?”
However, the report highlights how Croydon’s multi-agency partnerships engaged with a wide range of stakeholders to support people in the borough and protect them from the virus.
Croydon Council distributed more than 2,500 devices, such as laptops and tablets, to help pupils continue their learning from home. They also provided financial support to 4,144 households with food vouchers, emergency amenities, help to move home and other support.
Croydon’s voluntary sector and faith groups greatly contributed to the community action during the pandemic. This included managing the network of food banks and food distribution outlets, providing online support services, reaching out to communities and individuals who became isolated and fearful during the lockdown.
They have also worked together to promote messages on infection prevention and control,
Covid-19 misinformation, vaccine equity and access, while also offering health and wellbeing and spiritual care in innovative ways.
Rachel Flowers added this about the findings in her video report: “Croydon you are and were magnificent. My report aims to document the challenge that the start of a global pandemic brought, as well as showcasing how communities came together in difficult and fast emerging circumstances.
“The pandemic is not yet over, and it continues to impact our lives. In my report, I make recommendations on the simple, effective things we can all do to help ourselves and others. This includes continuing to adhere to Covid-19 measures to regularly wash your hands, wear a face covering, and keep your distance from others.
“It is also important for our health and wellbeing to practice the five ways to wellbeing by thinking of how we can connect with others, be more active, take notice of what is around us, keep learning and give generously.”