The Red Cross report, The Longest Year: Life under local restrictions, explores the experiences of people living and working in areas under tighter local restrictions across the UK.

It identifies better ways people can be supported to cope and recover from the Covid-19 crisis, and the steps needed to ensure no one is left behind.

Nearly one year on from the UK’s first national lockdown, for many of us, this has felt like ‘the longest year’. But the pandemic hasn’t affected us all equally – it has shone a spotlight on inequalities and made them worse. Our health, income, caring responsibilities, support networks and even where we live have mattered more than ever.

Read the report in full

Key recommendations

The Red Cross is calling on government (local and national) to fully meet the humanitarian needs of the individuals and communities most vulnerable to hardship during Covid-19 restrictions. In recovery, government should work with the voluntary and community sector and other industries.

As in any emergency, everyone living under Covid-19 lockdowns should have access to clear and accessible information, financial support, shelter, emergency food, psychosocial support and connections.

To achieve this, governments and their partners should:

  • Ensure everyone can afford basic essentials, such as food, toiletries, warm clothes, data and heating under Covid-19 restrictions – local or national. This should be achieved by investing in and promoting discretionary emergency support, such as local welfare assistance schemes and, where possible, using a cash-first approach.
  • Prioritise reaching people in the most vulnerable situations so they can access the support they need. Active outreach should be undertaken by practitioners who provide practical and emotional support, with a focus on reaching individuals not currently in receipt of help, when additional restrictions are put in place in local areas.
  • Ensure those with the greatest mental health and emotional needs can access the support they need to cope and recover from Covid-19. This should include targeting support towards those living alone, the clinically vulnerable and clinically extremely vulnerable, as well as their carers and households. 
  • Tackle digital exclusion and proactively enable people to connect with others either in-person or virtually. Government should continue to work with local government, the telecommunications industry, the voluntary and community sector and communities themselves to rapidly address digital isolation. At the same time, policies that allow people to meet outdoors and that allow people from single person households to form support bubbles should continue as long as it is safe to do so.
  • Establish effective early warning systems for local emergency response partners in areas that are about to enter into local restrictions. Include local authorities, health bodies, the voluntary and community sector - and specifically the Voluntary and Community Sector Emergencies Partnership (VCSEP). This should better enable an effective and well-planned human-centred response. 
  • Provide accessible, clear, and consistent information about local restrictions at a local and national level. Government guidance on the rules and restrictions during coronavirus should be provided in multiple languages, as standard.

Alongside their UK-wide report, they have also produced briefings which set out the context and recommendations for the devolved nations.

Northern Ireland Briefing