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Small Charity Week: Life in lockdown

15/06/2020

Small Charity Week (15 to 20 June 2020) shines a light on the essential work of the UK’s small charity sector and its invaluable contribution to the lives of millions of individuals, communities and causes across the UK.

Small charities

Around 90 per cent of UK-based charities are categorised as ‘small charities’ – those with an income of up to £500,000 a year. Most of these charities have particularly small cash reserves, and rely heavily on financial donations and fundraising, which have almost completely dried-up since Coronavirus lockdown in March.

Recent estimates suggest that two in five of small charities are being forced to draw on their financial reserves. Sadly, for many, the Coronavirus pandemic has seen even more people turning to their local charities for support, help, company and basic food supplies, meaning their support has never been needed more.

To mark this year’s Small Charity Week, we spoke to two local independent charities, both beneficiaries of our Lodders Charitable Foundation (LCF), to find out how Coronavirus has affected their work.

Lifespace

Stratford upon Avon based mentoring charity Lifespace Trust works with children and young people aged between nine and 19 across South Warwickshire. The charity’s Andrea Gardner explains:

“Since Lifespace began in 2004, it has always worked with children and young people on a face-to-face basis in primary and secondary schools, helping them to reduce distress, build resilience and achieve more. We have never operated in any other way. Obviously, all of this had to change from the first week of lockdown, as we moved to offer students we were already working with, phone or email contact – a particular challenge for us as we didn’t have any phones or appropriate email addresses so needed to do a lot and quickly.

“So, you can imagine we were incredibly grateful when, in the midst of trying to source phones and other technical solutions, we received a completely unexpected, and timely £4000 gift from Lodders Charitable Foundation, which enabled to get the equipment we needed to continue to support our students.

“We are delighted by how well phone and email mentoring have worked for individual students, including those with additional needs.

“Our mentors have maintained contact with their young people throughout lockdown, in particular to remind them to go to sleep and of the breathing techniques that will help them do so; giving them a reason to get up and helping them to plan their days; encouraging them to reach out to friends; exploring ways they can share their feelings with family; signposting them to other specialist services and being there while they contact them; listening to their fears about the future and suggesting ways to manage them, as well as their anger and frustration at not being able to see family and friends; and being there while they cry, just so that they can.

“Our mentors’ commitment and enthusiasm and how they have embraced the new ways of working, even when they didn’t know how well they would work, has been fantastic. Everyone at Lifespace has been inspired by the leadership and pastoral teams at our partner schools. We are incredibly proud to work with them to support their students.

“It has been heart-warming to hear a Deputy Head at a local secondary school say ‘Lifespace mentors have been absolutely invaluable, a focus for those young people when need it most’, and another say that ‘Lifespace is integral; their mentors are part of our team’.

Cheltenham Open Door

Cheltenham Open Door is dedicated to providing support to the town’s most vulnerable, disadvantaged, and lonely people. As its name suggests, the hub for and foundation of its support is its premises, but with lockdown, the charity had to adapt very quickly to continue to deliver its services, as the charity’s Rosie Radford explains:

“We love having guests with us at Grosvenor Street and a lot of our positive impact comes from the sense of belonging our guests get from us all being together. We have quizzes, chat and laugh, celebrate birthdays and achievements, offer advice and signpost to other support. But when COVID hit, we moved to takeaway meals with social distancing.

“Our guests have found it difficult not to gather and so we changed to delivering food parcels to protect them. It’s been tricky not to support them in the same ways, so we’ve had to be creative: we know our guests well and so tailor the food parcels to fit their needs, preferences and facilities. We try to make sure the parcels will make people feel cared-for, as well as meet their nutritional needs. We also talk to our guests on the phone and check up on them when delivering.

“For all our staff, life is different. Instead of regular opening hours, we work to our guests’ requests or to fit those with items to donate. Between us we’ve driven more than 600 miles in the last eight weeks and delivered 610 food parcels! We’ve had to use our initiative and keep making changes to suit this changing world. Innovating has brought us closer together as a team, but we are so looking forward to having our guests back!

“We have had many people contact us who have never needed our help before. Our aim is to ‘relieve poverty, hardship and distress’, and many more people are in difficult positions since lockdown began: we have helped people with crippling anxiety, have lost freezer stocks, lost jobs and income, found the benefits systems difficult to navigate or been told to ‘shield’. We’ve taken them supplies of food, toiletries, and cleaning products, reassured their families and let them know we’re there as long as they need us.

“In April, the government implemented a system to offer accommodation to everyone without a home. One of the functions we added was to support those who were temporarily housed and there are more than 50 temporarily housed people in Cheltenham, so we’ve had to do a lot of shopping to top up our stocks and shopping bills have risen as a result. But people have really stepped up, bringing us bags of noodles and fruit on their daily exercise walks. Many new people have realised how important it is to support the many people thrown into financial and emotional hardship by the pandemic.

What next?

“We urgently need to make our resources and one-to-one and group work mentoring support, available online,” says Lifespace’s Andrea. “We also need to recruit more male volunteers – this an ongoing challenge but we know that even more boys and young men will need our help this year.”

Cheltenham Open Door’s Rosie explains: “We really have no idea what the future holds in terms of support. Like so many charities, we fear a drop in future donations because so many people’s financial situations, businesses and livelihoods have been affected by Coronavirus.”

Lodders Charitable Foundation

Lodders created its charitable foundation in 2016 with the aim of raising vital financial support and providing help to local charities where it can make a genuine difference. Last month (May 2020) it donated £4,000 to The Shakespeare Hospice, Lifespace Trust, and the Cheltenham Open Door charity, in a bid to ease growing financial pressure and unprecedented calls for their support as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic.

To date, the Foundation has donated over £60,000 to local independent charities.

Foundation Chairman David Lodder, says: “We are acutely aware that these are difficult times for many, in particular for charities that have seen a dip in donations and fundraising, alongside a growing need for their services and support from people and communities struggling more than ever in these unprecedented times.

“Lodders’ ethos of supporting the people and charities in its local communities is embedded across the firm. The last 18 months have been a busy and successful fundraising period for the Charitable Foundation, and it has been a great privilege to raise funds and now be able to distribute these amongst three worthwhile charities in our region and the firm’s local communities.”

More information:

Lifespace Trust is an independent charity that mentors young people aged between 9 and 19, to help them build resilience and achieve more. www.lifespace.org.uk

Cheltenham Open Door is committed to providing support to relieve poverty, hardship and distress for its local communities. www.cheltenhamopendoor.org.uk/

Small Charity Week runs from 15 to 20 June 2020 – find out more and how to get involved at https://smallcharityweek.com/

If you are a charity and need legal advice, contact Mark Lewis, and read his update on the Charity Commission’s latest guidance about how charities can work through financial difficulties caused by coronavirus (COVID-19) published by The Gazette.

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For more information on the topics covered in the article, and how Lodders’ charity experts can help you, please contact Mark Lewis on 01789 206135, or via email.