Coronavirus has had a huge impact on Hackney, causing the deaths of hundreds of residents, leaving hundreds more recovering from its effects and many families mourning the loss of loved ones.
Many residents and businesses have also suffered from the economic impact of coronavirus – whether losing their jobs, being put on furlough or having to adapt how their business worked.
The Council’s response has prioritised those who need help most – whether providing thousands of emergency food parcels and essential supplies to shielding households, putting unprecedented financial support for struggling families and small businesses, or simply keeping essential services running in immensely challenging circumstances.
The impact of additional spending to deliver essential and new services, coupled with a loss of income from closed services and properties, means the Council faces a £68million budget shortfall in 2019/20 alone – equal to half of the entire Government cuts to its budget since 2010 in just one year. Although the Government has provided some funding and arrangements to help with this, it will not be enough.
Despite these challenges, as we enter a new phase of managing coronavirus, the Council’s mission is to rebuild a better Hackney – fighting for communities who continue to need support, using its powers to create a fairer economy and ensuring Hackney’s recovery is a green recovery.
The Council has made a series of commitments to residents about its work during this next phase, and has also called for further funding and powers from the Government to support local decision-making.
Between March and July 2020, 225 Hackney residents died with coronavirus, and while the confirmed number of cases stands higher, earlier difficulties in accessing testing mean this figure is likely to be much higher as we expand local testing in our communities.
Factors like age, sex, ethnicity, deprivation and occupation have an impact on the risk of contracting and dying from coronavirus. In particular, the risk of infection for South Asian and Black adults is significantly higher compared to their White counterparts. The odds of infection for South Asian and Black adults are significantly higher compared to White adults.
According to NHS data, 7,760 residents in Hackney and the City of London were identified on the shielded patients list, meaning they were at a higher risk from coronavirus and are clinically vulnerable.
In addition, nearly 2,000 households registered with the Council to receive emergency food supplies. 70% of the people who approached the Council for help said they were struggling to pay for food, and a large majority receive housing benefit and/or council tax support and live in social housing.
By June, 34,000 workers had been furloughed from businesses registered in Hackney through the Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, and the Council’s Housing Needs team saw an increase in requests for advice.
The number of new rough sleepers has increased tenfold, while thousands of applications for Universal Credit, emergency financial help, and fruit and veg vouchers have been made. Domestic abuse referrals have also increased.
Impact on business
The enforced shutdown of many businesses and social distancing rules had a significant effect on Hackney’s local economy and the ability of businesses to operate.
The Council’s surveys of businesses in mid-2020 found that:
77% had been closed
95% had lost income
25% had staff who were self-isolating and unable to work
24% had made staff redundant
7.5% had staff who were scared to work because of infection risk
79% had furloughed staff
3 in 4 faced a loss of more than three-quarters of their income
more than half cannot sustain further losses in income
Only around 2,500 businesses in Hackney received the Government’s 100% business rate relief applied in response to coronavirus, and around 5,000 were eligible for the Government’s grants programmes, leaving thousands of businesses in Hackney who are in premises and pay business rates but could not access this support.
An additional £3.4m in Government grants was not enough to provide support to most of these businesses.
1 in 10 jobs in Hackney is in the creative industries. The majority of cultural organisations that responded to a Council survey said they have suffered a loss in income, expect to be moderately or severely affected by coronavirus, and to date have not been able to apply for Government funding packages.
The Council’s response
The Council has worked hard to respond to the coronavirus pandemic and ensure that residents and businesses who need support get it.
From March to July 2020:
600 volunteers deployed
800,000 items of PPE issued to staff and external providers (including individual items, ie each glove)
14,000 emergency food parcels delivered
7,300 calls made to vulnerable tenants and leaseholders
170 rough sleepers in off the streets
£62.5million in government grants paid to nearly 4,300 businesses
7 pavements widened/6 roads closed to aid social distancing
over 1,500 laptops sent to students that need them
£62,000 in council rent relief for voluntary and community organisations
We placed over 170 people in emergency accommodation including those with ‘no recourse to public funds’, to make sure those sleeping rough – or at risk of sleeping rough – during the coronavirus crisis had a safe place to live.
In partnership with Volunteer Centre Hackney and Hackney CVS, around 600 local volunteers were recruited to support vulnerable residents – whether helping to do shopping or pick up essentials or simply regularly checking in with isolated or lonely people.
We set up an emergency food distribution centre in Hackney Wick – an entirely new service – to deliver essential food and supplies to residents who needed support. This service has delivered more than 14,000 parcels since March, with a dedicated helpline taking thousands of calls from people asking for different forms of assistance. It also acted as a PPE hub and distribution centre for Hackney Foodbank.
Other dedicated teams worked directly with the Orthodox Jewish community to provide tailored help and support, contacted vulnerable Council tenants and leaseholders simply for a chat, and kept Ridley Road Market open to provide fresh fruit and veg.
Nearly all frontline services continued – including the Council’s Adult Social Care service, who were provided quickly with PPE to continue vital work. Free school meal vouchers were distributed by schools.
£150 off council tax for 20,000 families and single people on low incomes
£720,000 into emergency schemes to help with family emergencies, rent and migrants unable to access the welfare system
a three-month no-quibbles rent deferral for all 300 commercial tenants
cancellation of business rates for 2020/21 for eligible businesses
£62.5million in Government business grants paid out
suspension of fees, charges and quick payment terms for services procured by the Council
Children and young people
kept schools open for vulnerable students and children of key workers
provided online learning materials for pupils, and distributed 1,500 laptops to children
ran an online Easter activity programme and continued youth hub work online
hosted videocalls for young people to share their experiences, anxieties and concerns about lockdown
Culture and faith
ran an online Hackney Carnival and Windrush Generations Festival programme
announced new public artworks to honour the Windrush Generation
held regular faith forums and supported communities celebrating Easter, Passover, Ramadan and Eid
Social distancing and transport
produced social distancing signage across the borough, and supported businesses with free posters and information packs
kept parks open with strict guidance on social distancing, and enforcement teams to tackle anti-social behaviour from a minority
closed roads, widened footpaths and pavements, suspended parking and put in place ways to make it easier to walk and cycle
Supporting our communities
This crisis has exposed the inequalities – whether racial, health, financial or other – that our society continues to suffer from. People are right to be angry about this, and it has always been our mission to change it.
We also know that the unequal impact of coronavirus will spread beyond the disease itself, with the economic fallout that is now emerging affecting jobs, opportunities and income for thousands of people, up and down the country and here in Hackney.
As we move into the next phase of our response, we’ll continue to support residents who need extra help, and embrace the opportunity to find long-term solutions to systemic problems like rough sleeping or the digital divide.
support the recommendations from the Hackney Young Futures Commission
Implement changes learned from our Young Black Men programme
set out our clear commitment to anti-racism and tackling structural inequality and systemic racism
use this historic opportunity to end rough sleeping, with no rough sleepers asked to leave their emergency accommodation – including those with no recourse to public funds
boost our work to tackle the digital divide, including smart device and free or low-cost internet access and bringing connectivity to key community assets and temporary accommodation
launch a new partnership with the voluntary sector to support vulnerable residents who need extra help, as direct food deliveries come to an end
run a dedicated summer programme for young people through our Young Hackney service and partners, recognising the anxiety lockdown has caused them
use the information we have learned about residents accessing support to improve our services for them
develop new resident engagement and explore partnering with an academic institution to consider new ways we can tackle inequality given the impact of coronavirus
publish and deliver a strategy to reduce poverty in the borough, ensuring that no one goes hungry in Hackney
through our Talk to Us campaign, make it easy for residents to tell us if they are struggling to pay council tax, rent or other bills and to reach out to residents who may not have had to access Council services previously
further promote and develop volunteering opportunities, helping bring communities and generations together
learn from the benefits of the hyperlocal approach embedded by mutual aid and explore ways this could be used to address wider needs in the local community
recognise that our response must reflect the disproportionate impact coronavirus has had on certain residents and communities in the borough
as social distancing continues, take steps to ensure we are addressing loneliness and isolation, including through our befriending and intergenerational volunteering programmes
ensure that the drive to deliver services remotely in order to support social distancing does not impact on residents access to vital services, particularly health and the NHS
consult residents and partner organisations on our new Ageing Well Strategy, reflecting on how coronavirus has affected older residents, which will support the lives of our citizens as they grow older
We need the Government to play its part in making this happen. We ask it to:
establish a coronavirus public inquiry that includes the disparity in outcomes for Black and other communities in its terms of reference
campaign for the Government to implement the full recommendations of Public Health England’s Fenton review into the disparities in risk and outcomes from coronavirus
bring an end to the inhumane ‘no recourse to public funds’ classification that leaves family, neighbours and friends unable to access vital support; and as an interim measure exemptions for those sleeping rough or fleeing domestic abuse
deliver meaningful investment in prevention, outreach and move-on pathways for rough sleepers, recognising that it is as much a health issue as a housing one
keep local housing allowance rates at their current level (30 per cent of local rents) and consider further raising them to their former level of 50 per cent
end the benefit cap, which penalises large families and areas with high rents, and restore the principles of a benefits system based on need
give us the freedom to spend our right to buy receipts, helping us deliver the social housing our residents need faster
bring an end to Section 21 evictions
invest in our young people, giving schools the resources they need to help children catch-up on missed learning and development
deliver on a truly integrated health and social care service, with funding that reflects the role of adult social care as part of our frontline health services
finally agree on a means of putting funding for adult social care on a sustainable footing, either through capping personal contributions or general taxation, ensuring everyone can receive high-quality care when they need it, regardless of ability to pay
deliver greater devolution of health and social care powers to local councils
commit to funding the mental health services people need, including through channelling more resources into local organisations better placed to meet the needs of specific communities
Rebuilding a fairer economy
As Government support starts to reduce in the coming months, it will be essential that we do everything we can to support those facing unemployment and underemployment, securing them the skills and training they need.
We must support the smaller businesses and social enterprises that are at the heart of our local economy as they face a challenging and uncertain future as the economy rebuilds.
Coronavirus has damaged our economy, it has put residents out of work at no fault of their own and put the borough’s small businesses at risk.
Even with all this happening around us there are opportunities to grasp. Now is the moment to say that as we return to work it won’t be to business as usual, and there is an opportunity to rebuild a fairer economy led by our social values that taps into the diversity and independent entrepreneurial spirit that makes Hackney’s economy a place of commerce that generates prosperity for the many in our borough.
This means finding new ways to help people find meaningful work and retraining, supporting our small businesses and social enterprises, and ensuring our town centres and public spaces are used for public good.
It means that we support businesses in our borough’s economy to be sustainable, competitive and digital, and that we focus on enhancing the growth potential and resilience of our local economy – for people and place, not just for private profit.
provide support to all those who lose their job in the coming weeks and months, offering skills training and support to find new employment
track the long-term impact of coronavirus on residents’ life chances – the impact time out of school or work has on career progression – and continue to identify actions we can take to address this
act to address and mitigate against the systemic discrimination that sees those from minority ethnic communities over represented in more manual occupations and underrepresented in senior or managerial roles
continue to move more services in house and work with partners to ensure those delivering essential services in Hackney have good pay and employment conditions
map the needs of residents who find themselves out of work or unable to progress in their career as a result of coronavirus and focus our Adult Learning Service on delivering the skills and training needed to address these
use our Hackney Works service to provide dedicated employment support, apprenticeships and work placements for those whose employment has been affected
campaign for the devolution of adult skills services and equal funding for further education so that we can shape services
create a hub for all businesses in the borough through relaunching the Hackney Business Network website, bringing together information, support and networking opportunities in the borough as businesses rebuild in the wake of coronavirus
enhance the town centre based business forum network ensuring that local communities of businesses can connect with the Council on local growth initiatives, address local town centre issues, connect with federations and associations and assist the Council to manage the public realm
map and respond to the changes in our local economy as a result of coronavirus, and we will identify and work with businesses and sectors that support our social values and objectives using our Hackney business toolkit as the basis for creating a social contract with our business community
work with the wider public sector to understand the impact of coronavirus on services and workers and what Government investment is needed to support good employment practices, especially those that have been disproportionately affected by coronavirus themselves
recognise and support residents who in response to coronavirus’ economic impact, want to start their own businesses or become self-employed
campaign for a real reform of business rates, local high street and town centre regeneration powers and funding, rather than by Government-led top-down planning and regeneration policy imposed on our local communities
build, fund and support affordable workspace in our town centres for micro and smaller businesses, providing a supply of space that is affordable and connected at risk of eviction from redevelopment, rising rent or lost income
work with our business and voluntary sector tenants struggling to pay rents supporting them through this period, ensuring that our buildings are home to a thriving and resilient community contributing to our community and the values we hold
accelerate our work on supporting the delivery of an inclusive, digital economy – a digital transformation enabling commerce to thrive, connecting people and places and enhancing public service delivery
we will continue to pay the London Living Wage and provide apprenticeships and training opportunities for local people, and ask others to do the same, recognising now more than ever the importance of good jobs, fair pay and the opportunity to develop new skills
we will work with charities, social enterprises and voluntary organisations in the borough to support them through the different challenges they face, from demand for services to loss of income, as a result of coronavirus
We need the Government to play its part in making this happen.
We ask it to:
invest in the arts and culture sector to ensure the future of vital community venues
implement a further extension of the furlough scheme and a package of financial support for those businesses which remain unable to fully open
give us greater control and use of the apprenticeship levy, so we can create more opportunities for Hackney residents, including care leavers
devolve apprenticeship, adult skills and employment support services – including job centres – to local authorities who can support residents best
We’re passionate about reclaiming our roads and streets for people, reducing carbon emissions and improving our borough’s air quality to respond to the climate emergency.
We’re already London’s leading borough for this environmental work, but the traffic-free streets and improved air during the early part of the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown has made everyone stop to think about what the future could look like. We responded quickly to widen pavements in social distancing hotspots and put parking exemptions in place for key workers.
To help maintain social distancing, make it easier for people to walk and cycle while public transport capacity is reduced and make it easier for key workers to get around, we’re publishing an emergency transport plan which builds on some of the measures we’ve taken so far.
We’ve committed to creating 40 new School Streets, ensuring that when children return to school in September, School Streets are the norm not the exception. We will also build on our record of creating more low-traffic neighbourhoods, filtering and closing more roads to through traffic.
We can’t afford to go back to the car-dominated streets of the past, and we want to use this opportunity to consider who our streets are for. That’s why we’ll listen to how residents feel about the changes we’re making through new methods of engagement and explore together how with our other work we can make this a greener, cleaner recovery.
publish an emergency transport plan to support the ‘new normal’, consulting residents about what changes could be made permanent in the future
continue to close roads to through motor traffic, improve key cycling routes and widen pavements where needed to respond to unprecedented travel restrictions
specifically, we’ll close a further 20 roads to through-traffic and introduce 40 new School Streets in September
hold a Citizens Assembly to discuss the Council’s climate emergency in the context of coronavirus
enforce against anti-social behaviour in our parks and green spaces to ensure they can be used by everyone – not just an entitled few
continue the programme to plant 35,000 new trees by 2022, including 5,000 new street trees
work with residents groups to explore new areas for community growing
launch t2 new rooftop solar power sites generating energy locally
We need the Government to play its part in making this happen.
We ask it to:
fund a Green Council Homes programme to retrofit council stock, so no home falls below an EPC rating of C by 2030
Commit to reach the World Health Organisation’s air quality goal of 10 micrograms of particulate matter per cubic metre by 2030, fund local councils to help achieve this and set new legal limits on pollution levels that give Councils greater powers to intervene when they are breached
address residential waste enforcement legislation to enable councils to make compulsory recycling more easily enforceable
introduce a legal duty on supermarkets to create packaging-free aisles
introduce a ‘producer pays’ principle – taxing the producers of packaging and waste to help fund council recycling services
include a legally-binding water efficiency commitment in the upcoming Environment Bill, namely reduce water consumption by 30% and half water leakages by 2040