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Original research
How did communities in North West England respond to the COVID-19 lockdown? Findings from a diary study
  1. Fiona Ward,
  2. Emma Halliday,
  3. Vivien Holt,
  4. Koser Khan,
  5. Gill Sadler,
  6. Paula Wheeler,
  7. Joanna Goldthorpe
  1. Applied Research Collaboration North West Coast, Division of Health Research, Lancaster University, Lancaster, Lancashire, UK
  1. Correspondence to Joanna Goldthorpe; j.goldthorpe{at}lancaster.ac.uk

Abstract

Objectives During the COVID-19 pandemic, the UK government and public health leaders advocated for community level responses to support vulnerable people. This activity could be planned and co-ordinated, however much was informal and developed organically. The effects on the individuals who were involved in providing and receiving informal support and implications for their communities have not been widely explored. The aim of this study was therefore to document and explore the nature, potential effects and longevity of community responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Participants We asked 15 individuals in North West England to keep a diary during the first UK COVID-19 lockdown. Over 8 weeks, diaries were completed and supported with weekly calls with researchers. A community capacity building framework was used to explore reported community responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Results Diarists described community characteristics that enabled and hindered helpful responses in the lockdown context. Diarists frequently described informal approaches with residents acting alone or with near neighbours, although there were examples of community networks and residents recommencing formal volunteering activities. Diarists reported communities providing practical help and social support to vulnerable people. Participants perceived a greater sense of community, increased contact between residents and new networks during the period covered.

Conclusion The diaries provided valuable insights and the framework was a useful tool to explore the COVID-19 lockdown context. The findings indicate that organic capacity building took place, primarily via individual agency, highlighting the risk of communities being ‘left behind’ if there were not individuals or community networks available with resources to plug gaps in organisational support. Recommendations to sustain helpful responses to the pandemic include further consideration of ongoing community mobilisation, empowerment and community control within the capacity building framework.

  • COVID-19
  • public health
  • qualitative research

Data availability statement

Data are available upon reasonable request. Data available on request due to privacy/ethical restrictions The data that support the findings of this study are available on request from the corresponding author (JG). The data are not publicly available due to their containing information that could compromise the privacy of research participants.

https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

This is an open access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 Unported (CC BY 4.0) license, which permits others to copy, redistribute, remix, transform and build upon this work for any purpose, provided the original work is properly cited, a link to the licence is given, and indication of whether changes were made. See: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.

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Data availability statement

Data are available upon reasonable request. Data available on request due to privacy/ethical restrictions The data that support the findings of this study are available on request from the corresponding author (JG). The data are not publicly available due to their containing information that could compromise the privacy of research participants.

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Footnotes

  • Twitter @JoannaGoCarroll

  • Contributors FW (guarantor) designed the study, developed the protocol, co-ordinated the data collection, analysed the data and wrote the manuscript; EH designed the study, collected and analysed the data and reviewed the manuscript. VH collected the data and reviewed the manuscript; KK collected the data and reviewed the manuscript; GS collected the data; PW collected the data and reviewed the manuscript; JG wrote the manuscript and provided methodological and analytical support.

  • Funding This research was funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Applied Research Collaboration North West Coast (ARC-NWC).

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient and public involvement Patients and/or the public were involved in the design, or conduct, or reporting or dissemination plans of this research. Refer to the Methods section for further details.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.