National vision starts at a local level

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One year on from the launch of the Community Wealth Fund Alliance, Public Affairs Officer at Lloyds Bank Foundation, Rachel Cain, writes about the importance of putting communities at the heart of key decision-making on how money is spent locally. The idea is gaining traction across the third sector and is backed by 150 organisations. 


As Brexit looms there is a profound need for a positive vision for the future. A movement is building around the idea of a Community Wealth Fund – a national, long-term initiative which starts with communities at a local level.

The Brexit conversation has highlighted and intensified the divisions that exist within communities. The phrase ‘left-behind communities’ is thrown around without much interrogation into its meaning and how to change things for the better – further alienating and dividing communities in the process. We know that there are places which aren’t benefiting from economic growth. We know that there are areas where jobs are scarce and uncertain, and where transport links are lacking. We also know that many communities have lost important social infrastructure – the places to meet which are vital for building the bonds that hold people together. Where is the vision for change?

Small and local charities like the ones we fund are often created with, by and for the communities they exist to serve. They are distinct in how they build trust, act as a foundation for change and take a person-centred approach which allows people to determine what they need to move forward.

These issues play out first and foremost at a local level and this is where change must start. One of the biggest challenges people face is feeling a lack of choice and control to shape and be part of the communities they live in. Civil society has a vital role to play in this. Small and local charities like the ones we fund are often created with, by and for the communities they exist to serve. They are distinct in how they build trust, act as a foundation for change and take a person-centred approach which allows people to determine what they need to move forward. They bring new resources into the community and act as the ‘glue’ which brings people and services together.

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Public Affairs & Programmes Officer Rachel Cain

But even where this community infrastructure exists, it is underfunded and overstretched. Smaller charities in particular have lost up to 44% of their funding from public bodies at a time when demand is rising, leading to closure or reduced services. To realise a positive vision, there needs to be long-term strategic funding, targeted to the communities which need it most.

This is the vision of the Community Wealth Fund. An idea backed by an alliance of voluntary, public and private sector organisations. The campaign is calling for a new multi-billion-pound endowment, created from dormant assets, to invest in the communities where disadvantage is most acute. This fund will provide strategic funding focused on building capacity and infrastructure. The funding could come from the next wave of dormant assets from insurance and pension policies, bonds, stocks and shares, matched with investment from larger companies. Most importantly, local people will lead the way this fund is spent, reflecting  what positive change in their area should look like.

A year since its launch, the Community Wealth Fund Alliance has been backed by 150 organisations across sectors and regions, and the idea is gaining traction. The answer to a positive vision for the future lies with the people who know their community best – they just need the funding and opportunity to put it into action. Read more about the idea, the research behind it and how you can get involved by signing up to join the alliance.

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‘Decision makers must not turn their backs on local domestic abuse experts’

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Business Manager for HARV Amanda Elwen

Hyndburn and Ribble Valley (HARV) Domestic Violence Team is a charity that has been providing services to vulnerable children and families since 1998. Amanda Elwen, Business Manager for HARV, has written an open letter to officials, calling on them to turn their attention to the urgent need within domestic abuse services and to give a voice to specialists on Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG).

In response to the demand and strain upon domestic violence services, generic victims services were established. Amanda Elwen highlights the shortcomings of such services and the importance of supporting VAWG specialists. Read Amanda’s heartfelt open letter below:

Dear Commissioners, Policy Makers and Decision Makers,

Did I do something wrong? Did I speak too loud? Did I not behave appropriately? Do I not conform to your expectations?

You see, our relationship has deteriorated recently. For the last twenty-five years, I have dedicated my life to supporting thousands of women and children who have suffered abuse. My charities have delivered hundreds of contracts and independent evaluations suggest we have done a good job.

Recently, it seems that you think that you no longer need me and I have to say after 25 years, this hurts a little bit. You had a party the other evening and you didn’t even invite me, you invited lots of your new friends. I’m no longer invited around your table and you don’t even let me have the scraps anymore.

But you still expect me to keep doing what I have always done and sometimes when you need me for something, like an equality impact assessment, you promise me, one day it will get better.

I hang on your promises in the hope that things might change. I stay a little longer in the hope that I may get invited around your table once again. But you don’t call and you leave me with very little option. To survive or not to survive. Well surprise, surprise, we chose survive. You see, when you leave a woman with nothing, you leave them in very dangerous territory. But courage calls to courage everywhere. We survived by developing businesses that generate enough profit to enable us to continue to provide frontline services to women and children.

Let me say that again. In the 21st century, specialist VAWG services have to establish businesses to generate enough profit to then provide women and children with the services that are necessary for them to survive. How many women’s charities have we seen close this year alone? And at a time where demand for our services are greater than ever. Our sector is not valued, and we are being discarded and thrown to the margins. This is about respect. Respect at every level. You see, when women are respected, they do not need protection. If you need heart surgery, you go to a heart surgeon. If you need a tooth extracting, you go to a dentist. If you are raped, violated, coerced, harassed, assaulted, abused, humiliated, forced or exploited then who would you want to help you? If you have nowhere to live and have lost your children as a result of violence who would you want to help you? If it was your sister, mother or wife, who would you want to help them?

The answer is not a generic victims service. The answer is I want the very best, I want the expert, I want the people who understand the complexity of the situation and have the experience to know how to best support me and my family. I want the people who are available when I need them, the people who will fight for justice and stand by my side.

Women and children are still coming to us, the demand for our services haven’t changed and while women and children continue to line up for help, I urge you to find ways to get the VAWG specialists back around the table where key decisions are being made.

Paul Streets: Small charities moving the dial

It is the grass-roots organisations such as London Friends that often change attitudes, writes our CEO Paul Streets. Paul-Streets-018-20180123103542147

Our sector has always moved societal niche issues to societal norms. And as we celebrate Small Charity Week, it’s worth noting that this always begins in grass-roots organisations responding to unseen need, often through establishing small charities. My recent visit to London Friend near Kings Cross in London was a testament to this.

They achieve all this and very much more with just £400,000, with a staggering 100 volunteers supporting only 11 staff (seven of whom are part-time). This is a great example of the social value per pound that community-led small charities so often add.

It is probably the oldest LGBT charity in the UK. It was established in 1972, only five years after homosexuality was decriminalised. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, the community continued to experience significant prejudice, including violence.

Monty Moncrieff, chief executive of London Friend, recalls an era when its front window was frequently bricked. The “Friend” in its name is a reflection of the need it was founded to meet: Fellowship for the Relief of Individuals in Emotional DistressIn three years, it will share its 50th anniversary with Pride and Moncrieff is already planning how it will celebrate.

The charity’s London offices are pretty basic: old furniture, old IT kit and a large area of replastered wall at the back where the damp got in and it has not got round to repainting. But the real work happens in five sexual health and advice centres, where it provides an Antidote programme addressing the adverse consequences of drug dependency and, in particular, the rise of chemsex.

Moncrieff explains that – even more than 50 years after decriminalisation – part of the community still experiences hang-ups about sexual activity and many experience loneliness.

Social media has gone some way towards helping to relieve this by connecting people more easily, but it has also increased the amount of risky sex with strangers. And the rising use in the past decade of drugs such as crystal meth to help people overcome the anxiety often attached has brought with it catastrophic consequences.

This highly addictive and potent drug reduces sexual inhibition, but also has distressing physical and mental health withdrawal symptoms, including heart problems, paranoia, aggression and, in some cases, suicide.

The Antidote programme is one of London Friend’s several offers of support, encompassing psychosocial counselling, alongside one-to-one structured work through a six-week ChemCheck programme and SWAP (Structured Weekend Antidote Programme), an initiative designed to mirror a drug treatment day programme over four weekends, specifically targeting people affected by chemsex.

They achieve all this and very much more with just £400,000, with a staggering 100 volunteers supporting only 11 staff (seven of whom are part-time). This is a great example of the social value per pound that community-led small charities so often add.

As is the embeddedness of London Friend, a charity that has grown and evolved with its service users. This means that, like so many small charities, it is able to reach those whom others can’t, work in ways others don’t and stay engaged when others won’t.

Also, like the 97 per cent of small but vital charities being celebrated this week, it is addressing the issues that so often go unnoticed or unmentioned. It tackles some of the most difficult, complex and sometimes unpopular issues in society, challenging us all to acknowledge, understand and address issues we might prefer to ignore, but which, if left, have the potential to do untold harm to people on the edge of society.

At a time when it’s easy to be gloomy about the UK, London Friend, and tens of thousands of organisations like it, are a reminder of the unseen and valuable national assets in our voluntary sector.

Five things I’ve learnt this year as Head of Grants

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Oliver Williams, Head of Grants – South

Oliver Williams is the Head of Grants – South at Lloyds Bank Foundation. He joined the Foundation in July 2018 from Premiership Rugby, where he looked after the national education, health, social inclusion and capacity building community programmes delivered by England’s professional rugby union clubs.

He previously held roles in small charities and trade unions mainly focused on education, social mobility and youth leadership.


I’ve had an absolute whirlwind of a first year here at the Foundation and have learned plenty. Not only how the office hot water tap works and where Corby is, but also what life is really like for the organisations and people working on the frontline to address complex social issues across England and Wales. There’ve been plenty of lightbulbs switching on, pennies a-dropping and realisations a-dawning, but these are the ones that loom heavy on my mind.

  1. Small charities do the complex stuff that larger charities (and the state) won’t touch

We read all about it in the Value of Small research last year, but the charities we work with really are more impactful, resourceful and responsive than their larger counterparts. I’ve seen and heard this time and again, in lots of different ways, and it makes me very proud to work for a funder with such a strong belief in and commitment to this part of the sector. But it’s not just how small charities work that makes them special, it’s what they do as well. Many of the small charities I’ve seen have been doing extremely complex, long-term, fiddly, sometimes controversial work, with those facing disadvantage at its most acute, that larger charities, let alone the state, simply wouldn’t touch.

  1. The sector is stretched beyond belief

As highlighted in A Quiet Crisis, spend on disadvantage is actually decreasing nationally in spite of rising demand and cost. Most worrying of all, 97% of the reductions have come in the most deprived areas of the country, a fact that is well reflected in what charities in these areas are telling us. Demand is rising, funding is ever harder to secure and the operating environment ever more challenging.

  1. Mental health and wellbeing is something we’re going to need to address

It was on my third day that I first saw a charity CEO in tears, exhausted and overwhelmed with the scale of the need and the challenge of meeting it. It was around week four that I read about the charity who had a third of their team on long-term sick. It’s a worrying trend that we’re all seeing; a sharp increase in workplace stress, long-term sickness and mental health problems amongst both themselves and their teams. It’s a trend that I fear will define the sector over the next five years, which is why we’re already thinking hard about how we can help address this. We won’t be able to do this alone though, so I urge infrastructure organisations, larger charities and funders to join with us to do what we can to support those working on the front-line.

  1. Learning from each other

Yes it’s a cliché. Yes, you could spend your entire working life in the queue for coffee at conferences and seminars and events and roundtables, half-heartedly asking the person in front “and have you had far to come today?”, nodding knowingly as they describe the problems on the branch line from Nuneaton. But sharing our experiences, lessons and perspectives as a sector, being generous with our time, knowledge and skills, is what can truly set us apart from the daftly competitive private sector, or the terminally siloed state. Setting aside the time to learn from each other, should be just as important as core activities, and we as a Foundation are committed to making this as easy and engaging as possible through our Learning and Networks programme.

  1. We really can make things a bit better for small charities

All of this has put us to work thinking about what more we can do to make things easier for small and local charities. We’ve already started to overhaul our processes, making good on our commitment to reduce bureaucracy, and give applicants a much clearer idea of the likelihood of success. We’re also looking hard at Enhance – our funder plus programme designed to support charities to develop, ensuring that it has something to offer everyone, from a volunteer-led community group to a fast-growing refugee support charity.

This is a fascinating, challenging and privileged place to work. The team we’ve got is the best, the resources we have are significant, and the profile we’ve built is powerful. We’ve started to grapple with these themes already, but I’m raring to commit my Difficult Second Year to doing even more.

Lessons in influencing policy and practice

Rachel Cain, Public Affairs and National Programmes Officer, shares five top tips from Transform project leaders in influencing policy and practice in the domestic and sexual abuse sectors

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What does a good influencing project look like? It’s something we’re thinking about as we’re developing our new Criminal Justice National Programme, and as many Transform projects come to an end.

Transform was our first national programme aimed at influencing policy and practice and has enabled 16 organisations to bring about change in the domestic and sexual abuse sector.

Whether developing a training programme or campaigning for policy change, the impact of these projects have been wide-ranging. Recently, charity leaders from the Transform programme reflected on what they’d learnt, what made their projects a success and how they overcame challenges.

We’ve gathered together their top five tips to help anyone planning a similar project around influencing change:

  1. Be flexible in your approach

Opportunities or challenges in the policy environment, the media or the political sphere can quickly change the landscape in which you are working. Being able to respond and adapt can be crucial to success. For example, the Domestic Abuse Bill was brought to Parliament during the Transform programme and some projects used this opportunity to advocate for better provision for the groups they work with.

There may also be opportunities to capitalise on important media stories on a related topic, or finding ways to work around barriers such as Brexit dominating Parliament. It’s also important to adapt plans in response to feedback from target groups. Consider what has worked well so far and how you can build on this.

  1. Broaden your reach

Whether building a case to influence policy or strengthen your network, success depends on engaging the right people across a range of organisations beyond those you already work with. This can be difficult, particularly when trying to get buy-in from busy people working in charities, public services or government who have conflicting priorities.

Identifying those you haven’t yet reached is a crucial starting point in broadening your reach. It can be a real challenge, for example, to find or connect with people who are affected by an issue but who have never engaged with services before. Consider how you can break down these barriers, and ensure their voices are not otherwise lost in evidence or debates.

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  1. Take the lead from those who have been affected by the issue

Many of the Transform projects have been led by, informed or co-created with victims/survivors. While this can have a number of positives, you also need to tread with care and commitment.

Consider whether your organisation has the capacity to meaningfully engage people, remove barriers to participation, provide necessary support and create safe spaces for people to share and be involved. If not, how can you find the capacity?

Projects that the Foundation has funded under Transform highlighted the need for sensitivity around the issues of domestic and sexual abuse, regardless of who they were working with. In every situation there will be people with a range of different experiences, so these issues should always be approached with care and consideration.

  1. Think early about how to enable others to put your work in to action

Many people reflected on the value of having tools or resources that enable others to put work into action. Plan this as early as possible rather than waiting until the work is done. Ask yourself how you can follow through to ensure a campaign is implemented effectively. Perhaps you might provide briefings so that service users understand their rights and that service providers are held to account in delivering on this. Similarly, if your aim is to get practitioners in other organisations to improve services for a group of people, how could you take it further than a training course? Longer-term engagement and providing tools to help busy people embed a new approach into their organisation whilst managing existing work will lead to more sustainable change.

  1. Build capacity to deal with surprises

Staff turnover and capacity poses one of the biggest challenges to organisations and is often unpredictable and difficult to plan for. However, doing so successfully can have a big impact on progress. Some reported that project schedules slipped due to lengthy academic approval processes while other organisations experienced unanticipated levels of interest, appetite and engagement in their work which, while positive, can put additional demands on capacity.

In building capacity, consider that new aspects of a project will require more time for staff to get up to speed. If working in partnership, have you been clear about roles and responsibilities, and included time for developing and maintaining good working relationships? Tips included building extra flexibility into plans to allow for change and ensuring that your initial proposal accurately reflects the level of resources needed to make the project a success.

Whether you’re interested in our new criminal justice funding or looking to change policy or practice in another area, there are many ways to put this learning into practice when planning your next steps towards influencing change. We’re looking forward to sharing more success and learnings from out Transform programme in the coming months.

About Transform:

Transform is a one-off grants programme launched in 2016 that offered grants worth up to £100,000 over two years, aimed at stimulating innovation and improvements in the domestic and sexual abuse sectors.

 

Paul Streets: It’s Time We Looked Local

As a sector we need to stop looking always to Westminster and find ways to unite with like-minded and enlightened local authorities writes our CEO Paul Streets.

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This blog was originally published in Third Sector in March 2019.

I recently visited Manchester and West Yorkshire, where, as well as visiting Lloyds Bank Foundation funded charities, I joined a group of Local Authority leaders in Bradford City Hall, brought together by Locality  as part of the Keep It Local campaign, to understand more about how they can work better with local charities.

The Centre For Cities report was launched on the same day, highlighting the stark truth around how governmental restraint around spending has impacted the poorest people and places hardest, especially in the north. Its findings echo our own ‘Quiet Crisis’ report which shows how the cuts have hit preventive services hardest. It also revealed one welcome finding; the extent to which even cash challenged local authorities have tried to protect the most deprived communities from the worst of the funding cuts – within the confines of restricted budgets.

My conversations in Bradford challenged me to think afresh about how much time national organisations like Lloyds Bank Foundation, and sector leaders in general, spend looking up to Westminster rather than out to city and town halls up and down the country.

The group of Local Authority leaders I met genuinely understand that the sector can play an important role in preventive services. For example, in Bradford, the Local Authority and CCG have built up a good working relationship with The Cellar Trust – one of our grantees –  because they recognise the investment in community-based mental health services is the best way to get round expensive, out of city placements for people with acute mental health needs.

I left recalibrating where the sector should focus our attention. Westminster isn’t going to stop worrying about Brexit anytime soon.

Whether we go ‘hard’ or ‘soft’, the UK’s relationship with Europe is going to dominate years of politics, policy and public debate. Meanwhile everything else is side-lined. In major government departments, huge swathes of staff have been moved away from their policy areas to focus solely on Brexit. Yet there are still important national battles to fight – like what happens to the Shared Prosperity Fund that will replace the European Social Fund and The Dormant Assets fund – which between them could make a massive difference if invested in the local economic infrastructure that has been so denuded – as the devastation of our CVS’s shows.

And as our parliamentary Neros fiddle while Rome burns, Bradford, and its like, burn with the injustices Theresa May committed to quench on the steps of Downing Street. Local Authority leaders, along with tens of thousands of local charities, are beating back the flames, or being engulfed. They share common cause in caring deeply about the people and places where they live and work.  And unlike Whitehall departments, they are more likely to see services focused on people first, not departmental issue-based constructs. They can’t pause for a very deep long breath whilst Westminster waits to catch one or they’ll suffocate. This is as true for Tory East Sussex where I live, as it is for Labour Bradford.

As a sector we need to stop looking always to Westminster and find ways to unite with like-minded and enlightened local authorities to seek action to address the collateral damage delivered by austerity and the obsession with Europe.

It’s time we ‘looked local’, echoing and amplifying the message from local charities and authorities about what is happening to the poorest people on the ground in parliamentary constituencies across the UK.

How ‘Funder Plus’ Development Support can Enhance Your Charity

LloydsBankFoundationEvent28.03.19(©ElyseMarks)_011Since 2014, Lloyds Bank Foundation been working with a range of partners to develop capacity building support for small and local charities, to help them thrive long after their grant has finished. We’ve piloted, tested and expanded this support and commissioned independent evaluations to identify what works and where we can improve.  Our new report, Five years of Funder Plus: Five Things We Have Learned shares our learning.

As part of our report launch, Peter Cunnison, our Grant Manager for the West Midlands, recently sat down with Sonia Roberts, CEO of Landau to chat about how this type of support has changed her organisation.


Peter: Sonia, what do you remember about that initial conversation we had?

Sonia: I’ve always found the relationship I have with Lloyds Bank Foundation via Peter is very honest and open, so it wasn’t difficult to say I needed help and support. Through being able to talk frankly with Peter we identified that I was key to Landau and that made the organisation vulnerable; I didn’t want that to be my legacy. Peter then put me in touch with a consultancy to offer that support.

Peter: “Having these conversations is such a crucial part of the process. It’s also important that if a mentor or consultant doesn’t have the right experience or there isn’t the chemistry, the charity can come and talk to me so we can make sure the support works for them.

 

What does having access to support like the Enhance capacity building programme mean to a small charity like yours?

Sonia: Having Enhance support from Lloyds Bank Foundation was my first experience of ‘funder plus’ support. What’s so impressive about Enhance is you feel like you’re receiving a high calibre, quality expertise at a 1:1 local level. I felt a sense of responsibility to make sure I utilised that resource effectively because I appreciate that the Foundation is trying to develop Landau. You’re provided with options and then given ownership over the relationship with the consultant, but equally, I know I have Peter’s support if it’s not hitting the mark.

Peter: This can be a challenge for me as a Grant Manager; sometimes charities feel they should say yes and commit to everything. I’ve learnt that building the trust between myself and the charity and then taking the time to identify their needs means they will get the most out of the support.

 

You had some support around property issues, what difference did this make to you and your charity?

Sonia: I had no experience in property or building management. The Ethical Property Foundation wrote a report about what we should be doing and the stages to get there. If I’m honest, the report itself has been a hugely valuable asset – it brought kudos when I have been sourcing funding, as it adds weight being from a reputable organisation. We wouldn’t even have thought about or had the finances to do this ourselves.

 

You’ve previously mentioned that being a charity leader can be isolating. How has the programme helped with this?

Sonia: In the charity sector you don’t have a peer support network where you can get that unbiased, impartial advice without the threat of compromising your work, and that gets lonely. One of the areas the Foundation has really supported me is through regional peer forums. I’ve been able to learn from others’ experiences and share my own knowledge to support others in a comfortable and safe space, where I’ve really been able to develop my own and others’ leadership skills.

 

You’ve also been matched with Lloyds Banking Group mentor, Andrea. How did you find that?

Sonia: We recognised that we could gain a lot from some additional thinking around finance so having access to someone from the ‘banking world’ seemed like a great opportunity, but it was also a chance to bring in someone new and impartial to give an honest opinion about the reputation of Landau. She went on to become a trustee of the charity.

Peter: It’s been a very strategic journey, you’ve understood how to use Enhance to strengthen your charity in a staggered approach, which is so important to its success.

 

How would you sum up the impact the Enhance capacity building programme has had on you and your team, and what’s the future for Landau?

Sonia: Sustainability in our sector is always difficult, especially in a charity like ours where we challenge the norms. But the support has been like a stepping stone. I have huge ambitions for our second site in Stoke and, as a result of the support, I’m now confident I know how to make it happen.

It’s given us the foundations we needed. At the start of this process, we were like a Christmas tree which was weighted at the top. Today I feel like we are a Christmas tree with the baubles spread across the levels – it’s solid and if the angel at the top falls, the tree will still stand!


If you’d like to learn more about how you can benefit from our capacity building support, please check out our website and speak to your Grant Manager.