Paul Streets: Leeds charity that provides solace to asylum seekers

Solace is just one of many refugee charities supported by Lloyds Bank Foundation writes our CEO Paul Streets. 

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This blog was originally published in Third Sector on 5 February 2019.

I recently visited Solace, a local charity in Leeds that focuses specifically on asylum seekers, who have unique needs within the broader refugee community.

It’s one of many refugee charities supported by the Lloyds Bank Foundation, many of them located in the “dispersal” cities and towns where, after being “processed”, refugees are sent to “settle”. Unable to work while their asylum pleas are being considered, they become dependent largely on local organisations just to survive. That’s the reason Refugee Action – a larger charity than we can fund – is fighting to Lift The Ban on employment, not just because refugees want to work, but because enforced worklessness demeans those who at home would often be regarded as industrious and highly skilled.

Ahead of my visit to Solace, I’d read how one of its psychotherapists, Divine Charura, describes what it means to work with asylum seekers. He talks of their complex psychological journeys, in which they address trauma, displacement and the loss of people, identity and homes. They’re forced to process complex mental health diagnoses while seeking out the basics, such as food and shelter.

He shares the challenges of conducting sensitive counselling sessions with interpreters in languages for which there might be no direct equivalent for some terms, or for people who might be used to different cultural norms – such as appointments not being scheduled by clocks and therapy sessions aren’t limited because “the hour is coming up now”.

When I met Kathryn, the chief executive, and Sarah, a therapist, their stories completed the picture, revealing how small and holistic charities like theirs are best equipped to address issues like these. They told me that people arrive in waves from different destinations, the current wave being dominated by Iranians and Eritreans.

Solace offers a wide range of support, but its core offer is psychotherapy, including EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing) and body psychotherapy. Almost always this is provided alongside practical support around housing and access to legal aid.

Sarah’s descriptions (of a woman they helped, who had pain on the left-hand side of her body because she was hurt by a right-handed man, or of another who was recovering from the horror and humility of being raped on the streets) backed up what charities have long been telling us: that leaving family, friends and homes in favour of risk and almost certain danger is a sign of refugees’ true desperation.

When they arrive they are broken and they need rebuilding from the inside out. Sarah says women like these often see Solace as like family, seeking to make them proud, even when she has very little furniture and no money.

Solace is fortunate to be based in Leeds, one of the UK’s few Cities of Sanctuary, where enlightened commissioners such as the local clinical commissioning group recognise that dealing with this kind of trauma is beyond anything they can do and trust local charities like Solace, who step up to provide this kind of highly specialised, well-rounded support package.

Solace reaches 147 people each year for as long as they need it, a flexibility that commissioners recognise is a critical component of a service which, were it provided by them, would have to be limited to a standardised approach.

Without Solace and other charities like it, more refugees and asylum seekers would be homeless and destitute. But with the right support many will become valued members of society, contributing the entrepreneurialism and prosperity that has characterised successive waves of refugees right back to the Huguenots, who fled persecution in France in the 16th century and who first coined the word “refugee” from the French “refugie” and the Latin “refugium”, a noun meaning “hideaway”.

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Ask A Grant Manager – January 2019

Mike Lewis is our Grant Manager for Wales. He joined the Lloyds Bank Foundation in 1997 after fourteen years in banking with Lloyds Bank.

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Mike Lewis – Grant Manager for Wales

As anyone who knows him can tell you, Mike is passionate about two things: the voluntary sector and Wales! Apart from his work with us, Mike has held roles as a trustee with the Wales Council for Voluntary Action, as the Wales representative of the UK grants committee with Comic Relief and has chaired the Wales Funders Forum.

“I’m often asked what I enjoy most about my role? That’s easy. It’s all about meeting and supporting people. From individuals who lead small local charities to beneficiaries who are committed to turning their own lives around. It’s an honour to work for an organisation that aims to help people get to a better place.”

Mike enjoys living in mid Wales and speaks fluent Welsh.


Q: Why is the foundation focussed on “local” charitable activity when the virtual world abolishes geography and allows development of communities?

At Lloyds Bank Foundation we’re very aware of the potential for digital technologies to build and strengthen communities (of geography and of interest), and we support charity sector digital initiatives, such as the Charity Digital Code.   As our CEO Paul Streets recently shared, digital does have a place in charities, especially in reducing administrative and “back office” workloads, freeing up staff and volunteers to do what they do best – providing support to people in need.

We know from our research that small and local charities are best placed to deliver the in-depth, person centred, holistic and targeted support that people experiencing the complex social issues we fund need.  This kind of intensive support should ideally take place locally to the people who need it.  Additionally, the most vulnerable people in society, the people our charities help, are some of the hardest to reach and may not have regular access to the internet and its virtual communities.

So, while we think digital technology can be extremely beneficial for communities and charities, it isn’t a replacement for holistic, person centred support in the local community.

 

Q: As a small, local charity, it is easy to get excited about the operations side of things and the life-changing differences we make for our beneficiaries!!! But we have found that applying for funding from charitable trusts has helped us to identify where we have room for improvement, by requiring that we show copies of some of our governance documents. This has motivated us to prioritise governance and to focus on not just doing good but being a good charity too.

So, my question is: In your experience as Grant Managers, what are the areas of governance that you feel could be focused on more by grant holders from small-to-medium charities?

Good question! As a Grants Manager, I am acutely aware of the many legal, regulatory, financial, quality, safeguarding, risk and procedural requirements placed on charities. Combined, meeting these requirements can be extremely daunting, particularly for smaller charities.

From my point of view, the starting point of good governance is a good board. This begins at the recruitment stage, continues through ongoing training and should even include reviews with 360 degree feedback to ensure the board are performing.

Although it’s not just about having the policies but also how they are implemented, and kept up to date. For example,. As a Grant Manager I need to feel confident that the applicant organisation has effective safeguarding practice in place, I’ll ask how it’s safeguarding policy is used and reviewed to be confident that it is effectively understood  and put into practice across the organisation. I might ask when was your safeguarding policy last discussed at Board level or how many safeguarding incidents you’re reported in the last few months.

Personally, I have always found the Charity Commission ‘CC’ guides a very useful reference point, especially those that focus on governance, like their guide for trustees. The guides are conveniently structured with things you ‘must’ do by law, and things you ‘should’ do to ensure good practice.

 

Q: We had our previous application refused because our accounts were not on the Charity Commission site. This has now been done, can we resubmit existing claim or do we have to resubmit? Thank you

Unfortunately, you won’t be able to resubmit your existing application and will need to make a new one. To save yourself some time, you can access your original application through your online account and copy relevant answers across.

If you originally applied to the Enable programme you can make a new application at any time, if you applied for an Invest grant you can apply when the next round is open.


Have  a question you want to ask our Grant Managers? Submit your questions here.

Don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter so you can see the answers. 

 

 

Paul Streets: The dilemma of the bottom-up approach

It makes for accountability, but can lead to a patchwork of provision writes our CEO Paul Streets. 

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This blog was originally published in Third Sector on 21 December 2018.

It’s been a challenging run into Christmas and a time of reflection for me: a year of personal loss that’s made me challenge my assumptions about what matters and what works.

At the Lloyds Bank Foundation we launched our strategy on the back of our report The Value of Small, driven by a desire to absolutely understand and scaffold the work of small, local charities, which matter greatly to those with nowhere else to turn and whose approach very definitely works.

McGarvey’s book and Julia Unwin’s inquiry pose a challenge to people like me – a step removed from the front line – to be responsible for how we understand and respond to local need, rather than superimposing our own ideas.

Across the sector Julia Unwin’s Civil Society Futures inquiry has encouraged new debate and books such as Darren McGarvey’s Poverty Safari, which I’ve just read and which won the Orwell Prize for its fresh perspective on our times.

The inquiry challenges us all to question our practice around PACT: where do Power and Accountability sit? Are we genuinely Connected to and Trusted by those we claim to reach? Questions like these must be implicit in funders’ decision-making. But the mere fact that we ask them smacks of the power imbalance between funder and funded, leaving us to some extent between a rock and a hard place. Yet for me accountability is crucial: I don’t subscribe to the view that we should simply listen, give people the money and go. And I suspect I wouldn’t last long as chief executive if I did.

McGarvey’s book and Julia Unwin’s inquiry pose a challenge to people like me – a step removed from the front line – to be responsible for how we understand and respond to local need, rather than superimposing our own ideas. McGarvey’s book opens with lines from Tom Leonard’s brilliant satirical poem: “jist whut this erria needs… it last thiv sent uz a liaison co-ordinator.”

It can lead to a patchwork of provision, whether by issue or geography. A properly holistic approach can help us to focus on the person, not the service, but won’t guarantee great service across the board.

I’m not aware that the Lloyds Bank Foundation has ever funded one. Our grants are more often for chief executives or front-line workers. And we’d hope and expect that most of our grantees are “PACT-compliant”: rooted in and run by and for those they serve. They’re also an embodiment of the “kindness” Julia Unwin wrote about being the gap in public policy, calling for friendly, open conversations about what people and communities need.

But the bottom-up approach the inquiry and others call for poses a genuine dilemma. It can lead to a patchwork of provision, whether by issue or geography. A properly holistic approach can help us to focus on the person, not the service, but won’t guarantee great service across the board, which is why commissioners, especially those with statutory obligations, will often revert to large and national.

So next as a sector we need to harness the “PACT-type” benefits of the small alongside the “reach” benefits of the large, responding to an issue the economist EF Schumacher raised in his seminal book Small is Beautiful. Federated models such as Mind and social franchise models such as Emmaus offer some solutions, but fall short of the ideal – the best of small and large combined. In 2019 the Lloyds Bank Foundation, together with the National Council for Voluntary Organisations and Acevo, will grapple with this further.

Meantime, as you pack your Christmas stockings find some space for Poverty SafariSmall is Beautiful, the Civil Society Futures inquiry and Julia Unwin’s report on kindness. And save time too for reflection on what they mean for those who won’t spend prosperous, fortunate holidays with their nearest and dearest, or wishing they had a liaison coordinator in their stockings.

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. 

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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.

 

Samantha Fisher: Making Financial Abuse Everyone’s Business

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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.