Dorset Charity

New report reveals impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on our village halls

New research sheds light on the extent to which village halls and community buildings have been affected by three successive national lockdowns.

Much has changed since England’s 10,000+ village halls were surveyed at the beginning of 2020 by national charity, Action with Communities in Rural England (ACRE).

Whilst 3 in 20 halls supported Covid-19 relief efforts, the majority stayed closed and will need ongoing support and funding to recover.  15% of halls contacted said they had played an active role in supporting their community during the pandemic, including many Dorset village halls and community centres who provided a valuable community service despite the challenges presented by Covid-19 lock downs.

Herston Village Hall for example acted as a base during the pandemic for the Friendly Food Club to make ‘food bags’ to be delivered locally to families in need, and other community centres such as Littlemoor, Weymouth provided foodbank services.  Dorset Community Action’s centre in Wimborne continued to host organisations like Reach and Innovate, who provided a limited number of ‘essential services’ to support vulnerable members of their community, including drug and alcohol support services.  The community centre in Fontmell Magna has been working to develop a community cut flower garden in partnership with the Blackmore Vale Partnership social prescribing team to promote the health and wellbeing of local residents.

However, aside from these inspiring examples of the community coming together, many halls expressed concern that they would find it hard to attract volunteers and users back once they reopen, particularly older generations who may be less inclined to meet in person.

Dr Tom Archer, of Sheffield Hallam University who authored the report said, “Halls face major challenges in reopening and re-establishing services. The pandemic has had a significant impact on their volunteers and staff, as well as their users, and the future remains very much uncertain.”

Deborah Clarke, ACRE’s Rural Evidence & Village Halls Manager said, “The research demonstrates a clear and urgent need for continued funding support to be made available to village halls during this period of uncertainty, particularly those facing financial difficulty. This should involve bridging funds and continued relief from business rates.”

Through its membership of ACRE, Dorset Community Action is here to help local community centres and village halls to reopen.   Please contact Jo Keats if you would like support  joanna.keats@dorsetcommunityaction.org.uk

or go to our website for further information https://www.dorsetcommunityaction.org.uk/covid-19-latest-guidance/

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