We must regain empathy for disadvantaged people

It’s vital that we don’t let layers of management that make modern solutions possible get in the way of our ability to empathise, writes our CEO Paul Streets

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This blog was originally posted in Third Sector on 9th April 2018.

Professor Ian Bruce, founder and president of the Centre for Charity Effectiveness at the Cass Business School, recently reflected on changes in charities over the past 25 years and called for the sector to lead a “resurgence of empathy for disadvantaged people”.

A day in the foundation’s grant-making panel meetings would corroborate this need for even the most sceptical of observers. A catalogue of requests from small charities all tackling complex social problems illustrates just how many people are disadvantaged and would be overlooked if it wasn’t for their local small charities.

I agree with Ian that the third sector can and must do more for the people who need it most. To do this we need to shine a much brighter light on the sector’s tremendous capacity to address issues that affect fewer of us.

Helping people on the margins is where a good deal of charitable work began – including the Lloyds Bank Foundation, founded by the Reverend Henry Duncan in the 1800s – and it’s important not to lose sight of this drive for social responsibility in its earliest form. Long before charities employed paid staff, or society was thinking up CSR initiatives, people were reaching individually with compassion to those in need around them, and the third sector grew up to formalise that.

Sadly, some of the issues haven’t changed much, but as centuries have passed charities have become more sophisticated in their ability to address them, which is both a blessing and a curse. We now have the muscle to invest heavily in solving social issues, applying modern solutions – creating strategies that are well-evidenced and combining tried-and-tested methods with innovation. Yet we must take care to ensure that the structures and layers of management that make modern solutions possible don’t obstruct the empathy that inspired the charity in the first place.

Where best to look for inspiration? For me it’s time to turn the voluntary sector narrative towards the small and local charities that dominate it. It’s time to remind the public of charity at its best – tackling the problems that so often appear in indignant news headlines but which less often prompt the public empathy or societal action they deserve.

This shift might also force us to address serious questions about why these vital services are increasingly so dependent on philanthropic largesse rather than public commitment as local and central government continuously cuts back services and funding to the needy and those who reach them.

Fortunately, I think we finally have a ministerial team led by Tracey Crouch and those in her civil service team who understand and support this ideal. We hope their work on the promised civil society strategy will look to lead government a little closer to providing a fairer system, in which the expertise of charities rooted in local communities enriches their policy-making. Let’s hope that they’ll even overhaul an unfair commissioning process, making sure that the charities doing the most thankless work with the most complex beneficiaries no longer go unnoticed or lose out on funding to their larger counterparts. Time will tell. But whatever happens, government opportunity stars rarely align for long, so we need to make the most of it when they do.

This requires third sector leaders to lead the resurgence of empathy for the disadvantaged.

To celebrate the hundreds of small charities most people haven’t even heard of, helping people with issues most people don’t know exist. Let’s move them from the margins into the spotlight. They deserve our immense support and admiration.

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Paul Streets: Post-Oxfam, the key is to improve on the ground

Small charities are often closer to their clients, which makes safeguarding issues clearer – but that doesn’t mean they should be complacent, writes our Chief Executive Paul Streets.

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This blog was originally posted in Third Sector on 22nd March 2018.

The main rubric of patient safety training for medical students is “first, do no harm”.

We would do well to apply this as we search our souls in the wake of the Oxfam furore. Any feelings of relief that it’s not us in the spotlight should be matched by rigour in re-examining our own practices.

The small and local charities we support work with vulnerable, marginalised and disadvantaged people facing tremendous challenges. Many are underappreciated hidden “healers”, picking up the aftermath of sexual and physical abuse, dealing with domestic violence, trafficking, rape victims, historic child sexual abuse in adulthood and sex workers. But this also exposes them to risk.

Effective small charities have built-in early warning systems and high levels of beneficiary engagement, often with peer support provided by others with lived experience. These “communities of shared experience” are often highly supportive and protective of each other.

In these small charities the short distance between trustees and clients means the spotlight is close and bright, so incidents can be more visible. And the fact that local people support local people means they’re not as vulnerable to the risk the Oxfam story exposes, where external development workers from “foreign” agencies are contracted in, operating with less local support and oversight.

These factors might reduce risk, but don’t eliminate it and we should not be complacent. This isn’t a “small is beautiful; big is bad” story – people-powered change by its very nature involves people and human fallibility, so safeguarding matters for all of us and should make us aware that how we change the world for the better is as important as what we achieve.

Sometimes small organisations that support vulnerable people concentrate the risks. We know from abuse incidents across wider society that collusion between abusers in tight-knit groups gives cover, and imbalances in power can facilitate abuse and ensure it’s concealed.

From a funder’s perspective, we need to respond at three levels. First, what does it mean for existing practice? Is our due diligence before awarding a grant sufficient? How should we respond to incidents reported during the life of a grant?

Second, how can we support and encourage good practice in those we fund? Many of them will be wondering where to start in the blizzard of advice coming from funders, the Charity Commission and sector bodies. Third, how can we support our umbrella body the Association of Charitable Foundations in its wish to develop good practice standards?

Whatever steps we take, we need to balance action with proportionality, ensuring that above all else we help improve real practice on the ground. The worst thing that could happen is that regulators, umbrella bodies and funders impose multiple and competing requirements, chastisements to action and significant costs on charities in order to cover our own backs.

So “first, do no harm” seems a good place to start. In the meantime, those who want to cast the first stone at the poor can cancel their direct debits to Oxfam. I’ve increased mine. For decades it has reached millions and I trust that its leadership will learn from this, act and reach millions more.

Setting the standards: As a male survivor of sexual abuse I deserve quality support too

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Last week we brought together participants in our Transform programme to share their work. Duncan Craig, CEO of Survivors Manchester, shared his work on promoting professional, specialised support for male survivors of sexual abuse.

In this guest blog, Duncan tells us why the launch of the Quality Standards for Services Supporting Male Victims/Survivors of Sexual Violence will improve support for men and boys.

On 31 January 2018, an historic event occurred in the House of Lords that many people may not be aware of.

It might not have been significant for some but is for others it was, one person in particular… me! This is the day that I stood in a small meeting room in grandiose Palace of Westminster, in front of an invited audience that included; sexual abuse charity leaders; decision makers and policy leads from across government; representatives from many of the Police and Crime Commissioners and the NHS; and some male survivors of sexual violence; and I told them a story. My story from just over 12 years ago about being sat in Manchester desperately scrabbling around for any kind of support, ethical or unethical, that would help me deal with the disclosure I’d just made – that I was a survivor of childhood sexual abuse.

I was speaking at the launch of the Male Service Standards. A new set of quality standards for organisations delivering services to male victims and survivors of sexual violence.

Funded through Lloyds Bank Foundation’s Transform programme, these new standards were developed by working with my colleagues Neil and Martyn from Male Survivors Partnership; all those male survivors and service providers that participated in our research; and LimeCulture CIC. They provide all of us working in this area a real chance to ensure that boys and men looking for support after experiencing sexual abuse, can go somewhere that he will understand their trauma and recognise them as male survivor. That younger Duncan would have given anything for that back then.

At present, support for male survivors of sexual abuse is mixed.

There are approximately 100 organisations across the UK delivering amazing services for women yet only around six specifically supporting men. Of course, there are others that support both men and women, but they often do so with varying degrees of equality. If a service is supporting men, then it shouldn’t be as an after-thought.

Don’t our husbands, fathers, sons, grandfathers, uncles, brothers, fiancées, boyfriends, colleagues, or best friends deserve to have a quality service that is designed to meet his needs? A service developed with him in mind?

It shouldn’t come as any surprise that men and women have different needs when it comes to support. Women and girls need women only spaces to explore their issues in a safe and supportive environment. Men and boys need their own safe spaces too. Spaces that give them the freedom to explore their experiences of vulnerability, how that impacts on their own masculinity, and the shame and guilt they carry as male survivors. Those spaces have to be designed with an understanding of the male psychology.

Healing from trauma needs to be facilitated by people that know what they are doing, people with the knowledge and expertise to help.

That doesn’t mean that a brew and a chat isn’t important because it absolutely is, but therapy needs to be trauma informed, otherwise reliving their experience can do more harm than good.

Last week, LimeCulture announced the names of the 10 organisations that they would be moving forward with as part of the Wave 1 accreditation of these new standards . These are organisations that will go through the accreditation process, testing it to make sure it works and paving the way for more services to make sure they are meeting the needs of boys and men effectively. Over 30 organisations applied, which goes to show in some way, just how important this is.

Maybe this time next year I can stand up and talk about how amazing it is that there are now 10 accredited organisations supporting male survivors and a further 10 about to start their accreditation process.

We know this is only the start but hopefully it means one day, the standard of support offered to all male survivors will be the same wherever or whoever they go for help.

Now, how amazing would that be!

On International Women’s Day, we need to protect the services that support our most vulnerable women

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Liverpool-based charity Merseyside Refugee & Asylum Seekers Pre & Post Natal Support Group (MRANG) works with female asylum seekers and refugees to improve their quality of life.

Our Policy and National Programmes Manager Caroline Howe says we need to celebrate the advances of women but also support those helping women still left behind.

When working in a sector focused on finding solutions to social problems and helping those most in need, International Women’s Day offers a chance to pause and celebrate the achievements and advances of women.

There’s a lot to celebrate. In the last year we’ve seen women take centre stage in driving gender equality. Donald Trump’s inauguration prompted women across the world to come together in one of the largest single-day protests in history, while the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements have seen women around the world speak out and call for an end to sexual assault and harassment in unprecedented numbers.

In the UK, we’re marking 100 years since the first women got the vote. We have a female Prime Minister and more women sitting in parliament;  a clear sign that progress is being made. And today, we’re delighted to see that the government has announced its Domestic Abuse Bill consultation, which recognises the prevalence of domestic abuse and the need to do more to tackle it.

Over the next few weeks we’ll be actively feeding into the government consultation and encouraging and supporting those we fund to the same. We know we need a strong legal framework but we also need action to ensure the right quality services are there for women whenever and wherever they need it. For this to be a reality, we’ve long argued that government needs to reform commissioning and take action to help reduce abuse at source by doing more to challenge and change perpetrators.

Helping the women left behind

One in four women experience domestic abuse or violence in their lifetime, while young people aged 16-25 the most at risk. Two women a week are murdered by their partners with countless more fearing for their lives.”

So while we can celebrate the advances, we must acknowledge that many women are still at a disadvantage; overlooked and unable to get their voices heard. Across the UK, women are often the most vulnerable in society with one in four  experiencing domestic abuse in their lifetime, while young people aged 16-25 the most at risk. Two women a week are murdered by their partners with countless more fearing for their lives. Others find themselves victims of trafficking or forced into sex work with no clear way out.

As a funder of small and local charities, Lloyds Bank Foundation knows the difference they make to peoples lives, offering help and guidance to those in need. And yet many women still struggle to access support, which is why women’s organisations are so important. They provide a safe-space and specialist support to help to rebuild their lives.

women’s organisations are so important. They provide a safe-space and specialist support to help to rebuild their lives.”

At the Foundation we currently support nearly 150 charities working on women’s issues with grants worth £8.5 million. This includes over £6 million funding projects directly addressing domestic and sexual abuse and £2.5 million of grants tackling women’s issues in employment, the criminal justice system, homelessness, mental health, exploitation and refugees.

Despite their importance all too often it is women’s services that are the first to suffer as funding cuts bite.”

These include organisations like Brighton Women’s Centre which provides a weekly-drop in service supporting women who are homeless or at risk of ending up on the street, as well as their regular counselling and therapy sessions. Most homeless services attract, and are tailored to their, predominantly male users, which can be a barrier for women who have experienced abuse seeking the support from them they need. Given that women who sleep rough die on average at just 43 years old, it’s clear that support like this, the only one of its kind in Sussex, is so important.

Another example is Shama Women’s Centre which has provided a place for women of different cultures and backgrounds to find support and be part of a community for over 30 years. With our support they run a much needed project to help more women from minority communities into jobs. The programme provides training to support women who have difficulty finding work, particularly those from disadvantaged areas and who also face cultural and language barriers helping them gain confidence and independence.

Supporting women’s services

Despite their importance all too often it is women’s services that are the first to suffer as funding cuts bite. According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, local authorities across England have cut their spending on domestic violence refuges by nearly a quarter since 2010. Those dealing providing specialist care, support for BAME women and those with complex needs are often first to go. Research by Women’s Aid found 17% of these specialist women’s refuges were forced to close between 2010 and 2014.

That’s why we’ve invested over £3m to help support the domestic abuse sector: from funding innovation and new approaches through our Transform programme to supporting women’s organisations to challenge commissioning practices and helping small charities to successfully secure funding to deliver specialist services. These programmes are designed to help these women’s organisations to thrive, not simply just survive.

As funders, we need to recognise the importance these organisations make both to the women that use them but also to the wider communities they work in. We need to make sure they have the funds, resources and support to continue to deliver the much-needed services they provide and be able to raise their voices and speak up for those they work with.

International Women’s Day is a day to recognise the achievements of women and celebrate the progress we’ve made. It’s also a day to think about those women and organisations in our communities working with vulnerable women in ever more difficult circumstances. It is a chance to speak out in support of their work and to give them the recognition and backing they need to help those women still left behind.

Join in the conversation on Twitter at #IWD2018 and share what you’re doing to #PressforProgress.

 

Giving women ex-offenders the second chance they deserve

lloyds_awards_working_chance_carouselTo mark International Women’s Day we spoke to Jocelyn Hillman, Founder and Director of Working Chance. Working Chance is one of the 146 charities we fund with grants worth a total of £8.5m that are helping women.

Jocelyn tells us why giving women ex-offenders a second chance is important, stressing that women ex-offenders usually have families to support and are the main breadwinners, yet they are often the most overlooked group in society.

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Jocelyn Hillman

I’m often asked why I set up Working Chance and why we only work with women.  It was a chance visit to HMP Holloway, a women’s prison, some years ago, which propelled me into action.

Having heard that female prisoners lack basic clothes for court appearances and job interviews, I had decided to donate some formal work wear.

Meeting women prisoners for the first time and talking about their fears and aspirations was a revelation. Many told me that they had given up all hope of ever getting a job on release.

Condemning these women, and their children, to a life of benefits and social exclusion made no sense – for them, society or the economy.  I will never forget one woman prisoner who told me, “The real punishment starts when you leave prison and no one will give you a job.”

I was shocked into action and set up Working Chance in 2009. We are the UK’s only recruitment consultancy supporting women leaving the criminal justice and care systems into jobs with mainstream employers. Our aim is to educate more employers, change their hiring practices and help them create social value.

Anyone can end up in prison.  We are all, as the governor of HMP Holloway used to say, just three bad decisions away from being in prison.

We challenge stereotypes by showing that our candidates make successful and valued members of staff at some of the UK’s biggest public and private sector companies. We have offices in London, Manchester and HMP Downview, Surrey.

Our candidates tell us that their children do better at school once they have a job.  Employers tell us that staff morale improves when they hire our candidates.   Supporting women with convictions and young women care leavers into paid work is good for the whole of society.

When people ask me about the background of a stereotypical women offender, they are often dismayed. Some of the women ex-offenders we work with were once successful lawyers, HR administrators, and even bankers. Recently we had a young woman with a maths degree from a leading red brick university. We also work with women who are illiterate yet are incredibly bright and enterprising.

Anyone can end up in prison.  We are all, as the governor of HMP Holloway used to say, just three bad decisions away from being in prison.

Appreciating that women ex-offenders need the help of experienced recruitment consultants to help them overcome the barriers to employment seems a difficult leap for many people, which is why the Foundation’s support is so important to us.

Women ex-offenders and their children are one of the most isolated and overlooked groups in society. Government policies and funding focus on getting men into work. But there is little thought to getting women ex-offenders into employment, despite the fact that most of our candidates have families to support and are the main breadwinners.

This outdated way of thinking means that charities like Working Chance get no government funding. We are entirely dependent on donations, grants and the generosity of our supporters such as Lloyds Bank Foundation.

Appreciating that women ex-offenders need the help of experienced recruitment consultants to help them overcome the barriers to employment seems a difficult leap for many people, which is why the Foundation’s support is so important to us.  Not just the financial backing, but to have such a prominent organisation openly acknowledge the need for women to work.

Working Chance is turning to the corporate world not just for financial support but to help us transform the lives and jobs of women.  We believe that it is only in partnership with corporates that we can jointly solve the deep societal issues confronting us.

At Working Chance we’re able to help give smart and passionate women the second chance they need

An example of how we turn lives around is Celia, who had been in and out of care since she was 7 years of age and served a prison sentence for dealing drugs. Celia told us that she was glad she found us when she did, as she had been planning on committing another crime so that she could go back to prison where she felt safe.  Often people who have been in care have been let down so often that it takes a long time to gain their trust, so the first months were spent earning Celia’s trust.

We also ascertained how bright she is and that she wanted to be a documentary filmmaker. We had a contact in the creative industries who told us of a company starting an apprenticeship programme. We worked on her employability skills, confidence and presentation skills and got her an interview with them. She got the job and has been there for more than a year. Celia still has her good and bad days but tells us that she knows that she can always come to us if she needs support or help of any kind.

On International Women’s Day we recognise the achievements of women and the advances we’ve made towards greater gender equality. As we do that it’s important to remember to recognise the achievements of all women. At Working Chance we’re able to help give smart and passionate women the second chance they need and today of all days we’re proud of what they have achieved.

Join in the conversation on Twitter at #IWD2018 and share what you’re doing to #PressforProgress.

What’s In A Name? Are you Campaigning Without Realising It?

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Our Policy and National Programmes Manager Caroline Howe writes on how small charities are doing great work campaigning and influencing in their communities.

If we asked you what campaigning work you do, we’d guess that many small charities would answer: ‘we don’t’.

Too often campaigning is only seen through a narrow lens – limited to lobbying in Westminster, or big public-facing campaigns. Campaigning as we understand it at the Foundation is about much broader influencing.

You might not all be marching on Whitehall, but many charities like yours are chipping away at systems that affect you and your clients, changing processes and opinions.

In short, small charities are campaigning every day; they just might not call it that.

We know this because many of you reference the amazing things you’re doing to make a difference in your monitoring reports. Here are five examples of great campaigning and influencing we’ve heard about from small charities we fund:

  1. One of our grant-holders flagged at their Local Authority’s Homeless Strategy meeting that young people would be badly affected by changes to housing benefits. Following this, several new developments have been planned in the area including some small shared accommodation units to help young people.
  2. Another grant-holder benefit understand is working with a local Citizen’s Advice Bureau to educate staff in local assessment organisations about learning disabilities to help ensure clients receive the right level of benefits.
  3. Some are taking advantage of the growing interest in their cause. Political and media interest in modern slavery means more people are willing to listen. One of our grant-holders is using their knowledge and experience to influence academic research and to build relationships with Government to help shape their plans to tackle modern slavery. Responding to consultations has been one way to share their ideas.
  4. Others are building stronger links with their local authority as a way of responding to growing demand for their services. They’re working with the local authority on the frontline and strategically to raise issues and look for solutions.
  5. A number of grant holders are helping local councillors and MPs to understand how they support local people and communities too. They’re sharing impact assessments and inviting them to events to raise awareness and build relationships – because you never know when you might need to call on their support.

There are many more examples at different levels and they’re all important. At the Foundation we’re committed to helping charities raise their voice in campaigning and influencing. We want to be by your side and say things you can’t. But we also want to support you to say things you can and change things outside of your organisation because we know you have the answers. And because we know that tackling multiple disadvantage needs the actions of more than individual organisations, no matter how good they are.

We really want to hear from charities about how you’ve influenced others – be that referral pathways, other services, commissioners, local authorities or regional or national government for example.

We want to use your experiences to shape how we can support you and others to do more. How did you bring about change? What did you learn? And what would help you do more of this work and better?

If you’ve got a story to share, please do take a few minutes to answer some short questions. It might help others to influence too and grow the change we need.

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Paul Streets: I need to tell you about “John”

Despite increasing demand and complexity, and the effects of cuts, he remains relentlessly positive and innovative, writes our Chief Executive Paul Streets

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This was originally posted in Third Sector on 22nd February 2018.

John’s world is a microcosm of what’s happening to small charities across England and Wales. He runs a charity in a county town – let’s call the charity “LocalSave” – which he set up more than 20 years ago. It works with families and deals with a range of issues, including addiction and domestic abuse. He worked as a volunteer for three years, before receiving his first grants from the Tudor Trust and the Lloyds Bank Foundation, which got the charity going.

It now has nine staff and about 35 volunteers, including trainee counsellors, from a local university. It supports about 300 parents whose drug, alcohol and associated problems put them at risk of losing their children into care. He’s determined the service should be one-stop and holistic. So, alongside practical support and counselling, it provides a range of services, including acupuncture. It is increasingly targeting dads and has initiated work with the perpetrators of domestic violence in response to the growing number of women who’ve faced abuse from partners.

Over recent years, John tells me, he’s seen an increase in demand and an increase in complexity, which he puts down to austerity.

In his words the “just about managing are coming to us now”.

The charity is finding it hard to stem the tide of referrals from social services, from which it receives no income.

The local university has conservatively calculated that keeping a child in care costs £119,000 a year. This ignores the post-care costs, as evidenced by care leavers, who are massively over-represented in our prisons and sex work. If John was paid the equivalent of the care costs for just three children, he’d cover his annual running costs.

When John was starting out, his first grants led to grants and contracts from statutory services. About eight years ago this was all subsumed in a county-wide contract that went to a large national charity. He refused to subcontract because he didn’t like the larger charity’s model. This proved to be a wise choice, because the larger charity did not deliver on the contact and was replaced by another large charity that undercut its competitors to win the bid.

This time, John did subcontract. Three years in, the health agency squeezed the contract and the large national charity found itself facing a cut of about 16 per cent, part of which it passed on in an unnegotiated 40 per cent cut to LocalSave’s subcontract, reducing the latter’s overall income by a fifth. It nearly broke the organisation.

In spite of this, John remains relentlessly positive and upbeat about what he does, the people he works with and the women and men he reaches.

He talks warmly of the young woman we met volunteering in the “Caff”, a young mum with a full-time job in a pub and “no more contact with social services” after coming to LocalSave with a drug habit fed by money from sex work. “She alone makes it all worth it,” John tells me.

John is also fiercely collaborative and networked. He works with other local charities to think about how they can connect with local businesses and people. And he’s in contact with an informal set of peers around the UK, whom he met through a course the Lloyds Bank Foundation funded at the School for Social Entrepreneurs. These include POW, which works with sex workers in Nottingham, and My Sister’s Place, which tackles domestic abuse in Middlesbrough.

John is innovative too. Even after 20-plus years, he’s buzzing with new ideas he wants to try and things the charity has just set up, such as the perpetrator and dads programmes.

As I travel back I’m met from the train by the ubiquitous large cancer charity chuggers. “We raise three times what we cost,” they tell me. Perhaps.

But I wonder what John could do with that three times if only we knew about him, and thousands like him across the UK. Our unsung but much-loved local charity heroes.