Written by Frankie Dewar, 27.
For the past few months, the UK, and many countries around the world have been in varying degrees of lockdown. For some this has meant being restricted to travelling within a kilometre of their homes, for others this has meant working from home, endless zoom meetings, or being furloughed. It seems like everyone is in the same boat, and have been pulling together to get through, but is that really the reality?
When we think about the past months a shared experience we overwrite the nuances of people’s lives
Mainstream news articles seem to portray images of spending time with family, slowing down, and refocusing on ethics. One article shared that searches for “bird songs”, “identifying trees” and “growing plants” reached double what they did a year ago. Another article shows images from the Historic England photo collection, depicting home haircuts, families spending time in their gardens, and people creating ways to work out at home. No one can deny the reports of growth in connection via the internet, whether that’s via Tiktok, Zoom calls, Facetime or Netflix. All these paint a picture of families of four enjoying lockdown together, spending time in their gardens, and using their daily exercise to reconnect with nature.
Whilst this might have been the reality for some, it doesn’t show the whole picture. When we think about the past months a shared experience we overwrite the nuances of people’s lives. Is someone living with their family having the same shared experience as someone living alone, or someone who isn’t in contact with their family at all? It is easy to see why some key workers may have shared experiences, but harder to see how these are the same experiences as those who have been furloughed or working from home. We are continuing to call lock down a shared experience, whilst those of different backgrounds, socio-economic class, and race experience it very differently. To understand a different perspective on the disparities we need to take a deeper look at some statistics relating to one shared element of lock down: people’s homes.
Rather than just images of children playing together outside, we should show those that are unable to access the outdoors
One in eight British households have no garden. Already, with that one statistic lockdown is a very different experience for 12% of British homes. Images from the Historic England photo collection of mowing lawns, haircuts in the sun, and shared workouts in the garden are completely irrelevant to the experiences of thousands. Rather than just images of children playing together outside, we should show those that are unable to access the outdoors. Many of the people without a garden relied on other communal areas, which became increasingly challenging where parks and shared spaces became overcrowded.
What has been a challenging time for anyone without a garden over the last few months must have been unbearable for anyone without a home at all. The Government promised £3.2 million in funding to help house the homeless, making it appear for many that this was a problem already resolved, but the reality was far different. The effort to house people saw some provided hotel accommodation, and others nothing. One homeless person shared a story of their friend being taken to a hotel, whilst they were left without support. Facilities closed making day to day aspects of life impossible, and as of the 6th April an estimated 1000 people were still sleeping rough, unable to stay home, and unable to shield from the virus.
An estimated 500,000 people live in flats with unsafe flammable cladding. At a time when a clear message from government is to stay home and stay safe, people’s lives within these buildings are undeniably at risk. This is a situation that brings increasing frustration as the third anniversary of the Grenfell Disaster was commemorated on the 14th June. This doesn’t only pose a physical threat: research by the UK Cladding Action Group has shown that concern over this risk poses a significant threat to the inhabitant’s mental health, with 14.5% of leaseholders experiencing suicidal thoughts.
The more closely you unpick the shared experience that lockdown has been suggested to be, the more it seems that it was never shared at all
Asylum seekers have also been particularly affected throughout lockdown, with reports over three hundred asylum seekers in Glasgow being made to leave their flats to move to city centre hotels where social distancing was impossible. Similar stories have been shared across the UK with asylum seekers in London being made to share rooms, and sometimes even share beds with strangers. Asylum seekers have reported increasing occurrences of new people moving into their shared rooms, meaning it is impossible for them to isolate and increasing their fear of catching the virus. All stories that are worlds apart from the shared experience of googling bird song and making sourdough.
The more closely you unpick the shared experience that lockdown has been suggested to be, the more it seems that it was never shared at all. The suggestions here only show a snapshot without even covering the impact that the last few months has had on those with mental health conditions, physical disabilities, single parents, key workers, sufferers of domestic abuse, or the hundreds of people in detention centres: the list could go on indefinitely. It suggests that rather than bringing us closer together, the last few months has disrupted, disadvantaged and distanced. News reports have covered these topics throughout the past few months, but articles are often buried among the expanse of mainstream news.
Whilst a lockdown was unavoidable to protect people’s health and stop the spread of the virus, the lack of support and awareness for the most vulnerable has caused a ripple of disproportionately affecting people across the country. Covid-19 and the lockdown period have been a shared experience in as much as everyone is aware of them, and has been impacted in some way, but the extent of those impacts, hasn’t really been shared at all.