Mutual Aid Kensington and Chelsea was set up in response to the first wave of the pandemic in March 2020 to provide a shopping service, medicine pick up and even dog walking. We now have:
a shopping service,
online advice hub,
Mutual Aid is an unfunded, non-political and un-constituted group of local residents looking out for fellow local residents. This also means we are non-hierarchical, non-bureaucratic and non-profit. Anyone can join the group, anyone can speak, and anyone can put their ideas forward. We are member led and member organised and thus entirely designed to prioritise cooperative decision making and shared leadership.
All volunteers are local residents who are freely giving their time and are receiving nothing in terms of financial or material support for this.
Our primary function is to act as a platform for neighbourliness. In a period of unprecedented and uncertain crisis, all residents - regardless of their background - are affected. With local and national government taking so long to form any kind of effective response, mutual aid has sprung up to make sure that our community’s most vulnerable are:
Kept well fed
Have the medicine they need
Don’t have to endanger their vulnerable loved ones by leaving the house
Don’t feel alone
Feel like there’s someone out there listening and looking out for them
Our Mutual Aid Core Principles
Mutual aid is mutual - it is solidarity not charity
Everyone is helping each other. We recognise privileges but make no assumptions, everyone is valid. We are not exceptional - those experiencing more oppression than others are used to mutual aid already. In North Kensington, the community is also very well organised because of Grenfell. Please also be mindful that this community has already suffered great challenges - listen and be respectful of their needs and pre-existing structures.
2. You don’t need permission to get involved
Admin capacity is limited - if someone needs signposting please do. Report something if it makes you uncomfortable. Admins will try to make decisions fairly using best practices from across mutual aid groups. We are all learning together!
3. We avoid hierarchies
We aren't able to be like a charity for all sorts of reasons - and that's ok! We won’t try and copy the structures charities - they are already doing that and need volunteers! We will pass details of those that want to volunteer with local charities on but we remain autonomous. You can volunteer with a charity and stay involved with organising in your community through Mutual Aid.
4. We don’t spam, promote, exploit or mislead, or get paid
No medical advice, promotions, or adverts. Genuinely thoughtful offers with steep discounts may be ok. Volunteers can accept refunds for shopping (safely!) but not pay for time (see pinned post on money for more information). Unless you are a medical professional, please don’t post medical advice.
5. We don’t work directly with charities or statutory bodies
If you speak to someone in a vulnerable category that you think should be referred to an organisation, you must have their consent before sharing their details. You can always signpost but please do not put anyone at risk and make sure you have done your background research before referring someone. Charities like St Mungos have been known to report to the Home Office.
6. We don’t work with the council directly
Insights and local knowledge from councillors are very welcome as resources or signposting. Mutual Aid is non-hierarchical and councillors engage with the group as individuals that have knowledge of the area and want to help. If a councillor tries to take charge of the group, you can message or tag an admin.
7. Everyone is struggling - take it seriously
This is a difficult time for everyone. if you are posting grave personal accounts please try and leave a trigger warning e.g TW: child illness. Similarly we all need some light relief but please keep jokes for people you already know.
8. We stay safe
Most people are out to help but some will be taking advantage. Please read the safeguarding guides and discuss best practices in groups before meeting someone you don’t already know. If you are receiving help from someone through the Mutual Aid network, try to let another person know.
9. Be very careful with data
We have now taken down the open-access volunteer database. We will only share the information you have given us with local charities and NGOs if you consent. Try not to share personal information such as numbers or addresses on the Facebook or WhatsApp groups and never share any sensitive information. If data is shared, keep it at the local level - the Information Commissioner’s Office said it is fine to share data on a street level group if careful but bigger groups may be investigated.
10. We can’t verify all crowdfunders
We aren't against raising money communally but can't verify all crowdfunders and will prioritise local efforts to raise money. If you have spare cash you can search crowdfunder sites or see the donation suggestions in pinned post.
Zero Tolerance Policy
Mutual Aid K&C enforces a zero tolerance policy towards any form of abuse against our volunteers and residents. To successfully provide support, a mutual respect between residents and volunteers is expected.
Unacceptable behaviour includes, but is not limited, to:
Offensive language, even in the form of jokes
Any form of verbal abuse such as shouting or insults
Breach of social distancing measures
Persistent or unrealistic demands, or abuse of the volunteer’s or Mutual Aid K&C’s goodwill
Other forms of abuse of our services, such as repeat instances of non-payment (unless otherwise agreed) or fraudulent expenses claims
An individual who is reported to have behaved in a violent, threatening, or abusive manner will no longer be served by Mutual Aid K&C, or be allowed to volunteer with Mutual Aid K&C.