Lockdown 2.0
Published on November 29, 2020 by Felix Levay

The days are getting shorter, and the second wave is taking its toll. Oxford Mutual Aid is still going strong, though, and we wanted to update you on how things have been going. 

As predicted, demand for help is increasing very quickly. There are a lot of people in Oxford who need help to keep themselves and their families safe and healthy and are unable to access help anywhere else. 

We are now operating at maximum capacity in terms of providing regular support. Following Oxford City Council’s decision to stop providing emergency food support in September, lockdown 2.0 has seen a considerable increase in both self-referrals as well as referrals from social workers, housing officers and other agencies that provide support to at-risk adults. 

While we want to help as many people as possible, we are a volunteer organisation and there is a hard limit on what we can do logistically and what we can reasonably ask of volunteers. However, we are still trying to process requests for emergency food support. 

We want to thank you all for your donations. This is a stressful time, but together we are keeping hundreds and hundreds of our friends and neighbours safe at a time when they need us most.

What Have We Been Doing?

Key figures at the time of writing are:

  • We provide regular weekly food and supply support to 182 households, supplying a total of 314 adults, 159 children, and 25 babies.
  • We provide an additional 98 emergency food parcels a month.
  • Our Kitchen Collective programme, run in partnership with Lady Margaret Hall, the King’s Centre, and Cherwell Boathouse delivers reheatable meals to 150 households.
  • In addition, in partnership with St Edward’s Oxford and the Garden Cafe at Restore, we distribute an extra 115 meals to various other groups including the Rose Hill Junior Youth Club and Botley Larder .
  • We support 38 households with expectant and new mothers through our Sunday Baby programme.
  • During October half-term, when the government declined to provide free school meals, we distributed an additional 500 meals.

How Are We Spending Donations?

Spending for October was £30.71 over budget, which we are relatively happy with. In particular, a huge surge in demand meant we needed to pay more for van/driver hire. Most deliveries are made by volunteers, but where there is not enough time to organize this, we do budget for van/driver hire. 

We are also now paying rent for the Richard Benson Hall, and we have begun paying for regular bulk deliveries of food from SOFEA.

We anticipate that spending will be higher during the colder months. We are trying not to turn down requests for emergency parcels, and to source food and supplies for free, but we are at the hard limit of what is logistically possible. 

Planning For the Future

As we said in our last update, we are aiming to get to a point where monthly pledged donations are enough to meet our monthly budget. We want to say a huge thank you to all the people who joined as monthly donors since we shared that update. We are not quite there yet, but we have made big steps in the right direction. 

We also want to say a massive thank you to the #NoChildLeftBehind, a student run initiative supported by Oxford Student Union and RAG. They are aiming to raise £10,000 for us, and we are incredibly grateful for their efforts and to all the students who are chipping in.

Currently, our monthly budget is £3,500, though this may change in the future, particularly over the winter months. At the time of writing, our monthly pledged donations come to £2,488.50, which means a lot of people have joined since our last update. 

Oxford Mutual Aid has become a very large, very complex operation. While we do have money in our account, it is important that we continue to increase pledged monthly donations. Our policy is to ensure we have around three months’ running costs as cash-on-hand at any given time, so that we are still able to provide support if there is a reduction in donations. We are now supporting so many families that we also need to think about additional costs, like purchasing our own van.

It is incredible that we have managed to grow so large, so quickly, and it would not be possible without support from the community. Your donations keep us going, and we will work hard to keep you informed about how we are spending money. 

Final Thoughts

We always knew that the winter was going to be tough. There is a lot of hard work ahead, but we will get through it one day at a time. Again, we want to thank both our regular donors and those who have contributed to the #NoChildLeftBehind fundraiser – together, we are going to get through this.