Ciara Plunkett: Volunteering was one of the most interesting, rewarding, inspiring and emotionally exhausting experiences I’ve ever had

In our latest blog, Chief Financial Officer Ciara Plunkett shares her experience volunteering and sharing her professional skills with our grantee Working Chance. 

Ciara
Ciara Plunkett, Chief Financial Officer, Lloyds Bank Foundation

My experience of a corporate volunteering day is probably one familiar to many. A team of colleagues spending time at a day centre working to make an outside space more pleasant and accessible for service users – reclaiming overgrown areas and building raised flowerbeds for access by the less mobile. A valuable and satisfying day with a fair helping of team-building thrown into the mix.

My most recent volunteering day was a whole different kettle of fish.

Through my role at the Foundation, I met up with Jocelyn Hillman the Chief Executive of one of our grantees, Working Chance. This charity supports women ex-offenders and care leavers to become job ready and move into suitable work. I agreed to help out with an employability workshop with little knowledge of what that might entail, and a few weeks later found myself at a local venue – feeling slightly trepidatious if I’m honest.

That day turned out to be one of the most interesting, rewarding, inspiring and emotionally exhausting I have ever had.

There were around 20 of us taking part in the workshop and initially we sat around the room nursing cups of tea, quietly chatting and looking nervous. After introductions (during which we discovered half of us were candidates and half corporate volunteers) the room rapidly filled with laughter as we played a frankly raucous ice-breaker – two truths and a lie.

In our first session we learnt about a technique developed for disclosing convictions in preparation for real life interviews – breaking it down into factors leading to it, details of the conviction and finally, and most importantly, learnings, opportunities and where candidates are now.

Next, we were paired up to support the candidates to rehearse their disclosure.  This is obviously pretty emotional and difficult for some and I was struck by the remarkable determination of these women not to shy away from their past but to confront the issue head-on.

We volunteers then helped individual candidates hone their CVs. Most of us ended up sufficiently engrossed in the job that we had an impromptu working lunch as we worked through them! The entrepreneurial self-starter that I was working with had turned around a conviction that ended a long, successful career and flipped it on its head to embrace the opportunity of a change of direction.

The final session we did was speed interviews – again designed to give the women practice in disclosure and that extra boost in confidence when they came to the real thing.

I was so impressed by Telixia the facilitator and other lovely people from Working Chance. It was clear that the candidates had found the experience positive and I hope I was able to make a difference in helping them feel more confident in their abilities. But mostly I was touched by the resilience shown by a cohort of women who are on the road to the world of work.


Working Chance are an award winning charity. They are the UK’s only recruitment consultancy supporting women leaving the criminal justice and care systems into great jobs with mainstream employers. Creating a revolution in restorative recruitment, they help women to cross the social divide from lives of exclusion to lives of contribution.

 

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Samantha Fisher: Making Financial Abuse Everyone’s Business

TDAS
Samantha (back row, third from right) with the Trafford Domestic Abuse Services team

In this guest blog Samantha Fisher, CEO of Trafford Domestic Abuse Services shares some of the harsh realities of financial abuse and how charities are working with the banking sector to identify and address it, as well as her wishlist for the year ahead.

Christmas is a time when people are tightening their belts and looking at the many ways to survive the financial strain of the holiday season. It is also a time of year can put extra pressure on families who have suffered financial abuse.

Financial abuse is when a partner, family member or loved one controls someone’s access to money and their ability to support themselves financially.

Financial abuse is often an overlooked form of abuse. Despite this it is often one of the first forms of abuse a survivor may experience and, practically, one of the biggest barriers to a survivor leaving an abusive relationship.

Victims of financial abuse face many barriers to everyday things that we often take for granted, like opening a bank account, the ability to work, claiming benefits, obtaining credit and even providing essentials for their family.

For many of the survivors of financial abuse that we support, Christmas can be a terrifying time of year. The pressure of insecure finances, whether it debt that has been accumulated in their name or benefits to which they are entitled but denied access, adds additional strain on many victims and we often see an increase in abuse at his time of year.

What is on your Christmas wish list this year?

This Christmas we all need to be talking about domestic and financial abuse and the impact it has. We need to make sure that responsibility for financial abuse stops with the perpetrator and that the system doesn’t continue to be a barrier for survivors and instead can help provide support for those who need it.

We want to see government recognising the many ways that a perpetrator can be financially abusive. Survivors want the reassurance that they will be able to provide for their children after leaving an abusive relationship and they want to know that they won’t be left with debt which prevents them breaking free and moving on with their lives in the first place.

We also need interpreters to be available for those survivors where English is their second language to make sure nobody is excluded from the support they need to escape abuse and those survivors who have been able to continue working, should too be provided extra support so they do not have to give up their employment in order to move to a safe place.

What we’ve been doing

It’s a long list but luckily we’ve already been making some progress. TDAS have worked closely with Lloyds Bank Foundation to contribute to Lloyds Banking Group’s response to domestic abuse and how they help their staff and customers. Key areas explored included training for banking staff, the difficulties with joint accounts, signposting and flags for vulnerable customers.

The banking sector can play a key role in protecting victims of financial abuse and the new Financial Abuse Code of Practice to support victims is a positive step in the right direction.

The survivors we support finally feel they are being heard and next year we’ll be continuing this work in order to safeguard their future and break down the barriers they face.

We have the platform to protect survivors from domestic abuse, we have the commitment and understanding from the banking sector and the arena for survivors to have a voice. It is up to us to make it everybody’s business, so let us start 2019 with that very mission.

Adrian Masters: Why We All Need to Recognise the Uniqueness of Small Charities

Adrian Masters is a consultant for our Enhance Programme, where he helps our charities build their social impact and financial sustainability. He is also a trustee for our grantee BACA. In this blog he shares what’s on his 2019 wish list for small charities.  

Over the last 12 years I have supported numerous small to medium sized charities, developing business plans, funding strategies, helping with governance and financial sustainability. I constantly come across staff stretched to their limits and doing an incredible job with limited resources. What keeps them going? The difference they make to the clients. Those “thank you for being there” and “you saved my life” moments.

I count myself fortunate to have met and talked with people whose lives have been changed by small charities and their distinctive, highly personal approach.

The uniqueness of these small charities seems to be their ability to treat everyone as individuals, accept them whatever their current situation, and to put them first. They spend the time needed to build trust and relationships with hurting people, it’s not something you can rush. This creates an environment within which client’s confidence and self-respect can be rebuilt. I think  it is only from this that sustainable change can be made, a move away from substance abuse, coming to terms with being a survivor of sexual violence or the motivation to work hard at changing deep seated negative self-beliefs.

I count myself fortunate to have met and talked with people whose lives have been changed by small charities and their distinctive, highly personal approach. I’d love to see the sector enabled to do more, rather than having to battle to stay afloat.

The uniqueness of these small charities seems to be their ability to treat everyone as individuals, accept them whatever their current situation, and to put them first.

So on my Christmas list is more recognition of their value from government and funders, more funding, and more support to help them grow and develop whilst not losing the very distinctiveness of what makes their services so special.

A good starting point would be an influx of high-quality trustees who ‘get’ small charities and additional help in weaker skill areas; obviously this varies from charity to charity, after all they are all individuals just like those they support! However marketing and communications, fundraising (other than grants), HR, monitoring and evaluation are often areas where additional support would appear beneficial.

Finally I hope that all those working in small charities have a chance to relax this Christmas, and I wish them a successful 2019.

Carys Mair Thomas: What’s on My Wish List for Charities in 2019

Carys Mair Thomas is a consultant specialising in marketing and communications, who shares her expertise with many of our grantees through our Enhance Programme. In this blog she shares what’s on her wish list for the third sector in 2019. 

Carys Mair Thomas
Carys Mair Thomas

2018 has been a challenging and tumultuous year for the sector. In truth, it’s been that way for the past decade, if not longer, but certainly since the 2007-2008 global financial crisis. It’s obviously resulted in less money, but also extraordinary social disruption, including the rise in far-right politics, here in the UK, in Europe and across the world.

Unsurprisingly, Brexit – and all the uncertainty wrapped up in that particular gift – is something I would like to return to sender, unopened. Obviously, having not yet left the EU, we’re waiting to experience its full force, but in the past two and a half years we’ve contended with a plummeting pound and spikes in hate crime.

We need to start an honest conversation, and ask the communities we serve what works, and what doesn’t.

The outlook is pretty bleak. And more so when you consider that a recent Civil Society Futures inquiry report, published in November, suggests we’re failing, as a sector, to respond appropriately to these social changes and are often disconnected from the communities we’re supposed to be serving. The Charity Commission also announced earlier this year that public trust in charities is now at its lowest ever.

So, first on my Christmas list is for all of us to resist falling into a pit of anxiety, reconnect with our grassroots, and find our fearlessness. I want my clients, mostly small charities in Wales and Ireland, to believe passionately in the advocacy and services they deliver, and to be as bold as they dare in the scrutiny of their own work.

But my greatest wish is for the sector to start speaking its mind. Too many of us tiptoe around issues affecting our beneficiaries, because we don’t want to be perceived as biting the hand that feeds us.

We need to start an honest conversation, and ask the communities we serve what works, and what doesn’t. This is not about sustaining the sector for its own sake, but for maintaining and hopefully growing the vital contributions it makes every day, so that we may ultimately persuade the public that we are worth their time and investment.

Finding our innate curiosity for the new and innovative is also on my Christmas list. For example, the sector’s funding is almost certainly going to be slashed, and it’s crucial we explore new ways of complementary income. Whether it’s cryptocurrencies like bitcoin, impact investment or crowdfunding, we need to explore them, if only to reject them.

We need to find our voice again, and the authentic voice of our communities. That would be the ultimate gift this Christmas.

But my greatest wish is for the sector to start speaking its mind. Too many of us tiptoe around issues affecting our beneficiaries, because we don’t want to be perceived as biting the hand that feeds us. Or we turn up for media opportunities, and allow beneficiaries’ stories to be devalued in the name of ‘balance’. I think it’s time we stop doing this to ourselves.

In short, we need to find our voice again, and the authentic voice of our communities. That would be the ultimate gift this Christmas.

How can you keep it local?

Keep it Local 2

To celebrate Local Charities Day Nick Plumb from Locality shares his Christmas wish list for 2019, why he’s hopeful that the future is bright for local charities, and how charities can encourage commissioners to Keep it Local.

As the festive period rolls in, at Locality, we’re putting the final decorations on our Keep it Local Christmas Tree. Horrendous metaphors aside, we’re working on a number of things in December in preparation for the next stage of our Keep it Local campaign in the new year. This is the campaign we’re working on alongside Lloyds Bank Foundation, which aims to turn the tide on large scale outsourcing. For services that transform lives.

Throughout 2018, through the Keep it Local Network we’ve been meeting councillors, commissioners and community organisations. We’ve heard about new and innovative approaches to commissioning which work collaboratively with the community and community organisations. And we’ve used these sessions to co-design and hone the principles which underpin a Keep it Local approach to public services.

These measures would ensure vital community organisations are able to play a much greater role in the public service landscape. They would enable these organisations to provide transformative services for the communities in which they operate, while reducing long-term pressure on the public sector and investing and reinvesting in the local economy.

The engagement we’ve done in 2018 has provided us with a sense that the tide is beginning to turn. There is a growing movement of local authorities who recognise the importance of doing things differently, who want to take a Keep it Local approach. We’ve seen it through examples like Leeds’s community based mental health service; Newcastle Council’s transparent approach to social value and Calderdale’s wide-ranging support for its community sector.

In the new year, we’ll be asking councils which want to Keep it Local to work with us to make it a reality. Top of our Christmas list this year is a hope that 2019 is the year councils decide to Keep it Local. That this growing coalition of councils inspire others to harness the power in their communities.

Join the Keep it Local Network here

In 2019, look to small charities

Small Charities Coalition Blog - Team pic (2)What’s on your Christmas wish list this year? Tessa Tyler-Todd from the Small Charities Coalition shares her hopes for small charities in 2019, and why policy organisations should keep small charities in mind when sharing their work.

Tessa Tyler Todd pic
Tessa Tyler-Todd

Small charities play a vital role in supporting communities across the UK and have an in-depth knowledge and understanding of beneficiaries’ needs. At the Small Charities Coalition, we represent over 9,000 small charities and provide them with support and also representation.

Although 97% of the sector are small charities, this is rarely reflected in conversations about the sector. We regularly see events, policies, processes and documents that are inaccessible for small charities. A priority for us in the year ahead, is to produce more policy documents specifically aimed at, and accessible for those small charities who are so often overlooked.

But for now we’d like to shine a light on the organisations who have designed materials specifically for small charities. All of these were well received by our members, showing the appetite out there for digestible policy-related content:

  • Lloyds Bank Foundation’s, Value of Small report – it was great to see a page of quick facts, stats and stories tailored for small charities following on from the research report on their value and distinctiveness.
  • The Charity Digital Code – we worked with Zoe Amar to design a number of small charity resources from the code. Zoe produced a quick video and Lightful designed a great infographic.
  • Cyber Security, Small Charity Guide – The National Cyber Security Centre produced a fantastic infographic explaining how small charities can protect themselves from cyber-attacks.

At the Small Charities Coalition, we understand what makes small charities tick. As shown in our Christmas Advert small charities work across a wide variety of issues and locations. We know that 91% of small charities are run by volunteers who, as well as keeping communities going, are trying to maintain their backroom operations and fundraising functions.

Small charities don’t always have time to read long policy documents or work out how and why a policy issue affects them. It’s our job, as a membership organisation to help make their lives easier and if we gather their opinions and present policy in an accessible way, small charities can focus on doing what they do best. Being part of the Small Charities Coalition gives them a louder voice so they can focus on the work that matters most to them.

If you’re a small charity and interested in becoming a member, you can join here.

Delivering for small charities – meet Kelly, our Programme Coordinator

In our latest blog, Programme Coordinator Kelly Parra-Alba talks about her role in the Service Delivery Team and shines a light on the engine that keeps our grantmaking running.

Kelly Parra Alba
Kelly Parra-Alba – Programme Co-ordinator

Whether it’s by phone or email the Service Delivery Team are the first interaction many people have with the Foundation and as a Programme Coordinator, there’s a good chance your first inquiry will come through to me. My role is a varied one which puts me on the front line dealing with initial inquiries from prospective grantees and Lloyds Banking Group colleagues. It gives me an opportunity to speak with charities everyday about the work they do, what their needs are and how we could support them through core cost funding or development support.

Everyday tasks range from approving Matched Giving claims for Bank colleagues raising money for great causes, commissioning development support for our grantees, completing initial assessments for grant applications and, just this week, the important task of decorating the office Christmas tree got thrown into the mix too.

hearing from charities who are working on the ground to helping people in need of support really brings it home how important our funding can be

Some of the best bits of the role are getting out there with our Grant Managers and visiting the charities we partner with. So far, the standout visit for me has been to an amazing London charity called Kalayaan, who support migrant domestic workers – some of which have been exploited, abused or even trafficked to the UK for domestic servitude. Meeting and hearing from charities who are working on the ground helping people in need of support really brings it home how important our funding can be but more significantly how indispensable small and local charities are.

Since I joined the Foundation at the start of the year – the Programme Coordinator role has changed and developed, much like the Foundation itself. Our new strategy Reaching Further re-states our role as a partner of the small and local charities we fund, standing with them as they help tackle complex social issues. There are now 11 issues that we fund and each of the Programme Coordinators has been designated two or three of them to take a lead on alongside our Grant Manager team. This means us having a more in-depth engagement with charities we fund under each issue to really understand how, as a Foundation, we can help them reach the people who need their support the most.  This will hopefully lead to shared learning internally and externally, help us to build on our partnerships with charities and feed into our National Policy work.

This year has been an exciting one for me at the Foundation, and with plenty more to do in the new year and Grant Manager shadowing, charity visits and internal and external discussions about how we can do more already planned, it looks like 2019 will be too.