Over the last two months, our Funding Support team has been working around the clock to set up an emergency response to the Covid-19 crisis and adapting our Funding Programme, so we can continue to provide vital support to individuals and organisations across Bath and North East Somerset.
With so much work being done behind the scenes, Rebecca Fox, Marketing & Events Manager at St John’s, set up a Zoom call (because that’s the new normal these days!) with Sam Gillett, Head of Delivery & Impact, and John Thornfield, our Funding Manager, to find out exactly what life is like both for our Funding team and also for the individuals, families and organisations we support.
How has the funding landscape changed since lockdown began?
We are seeing general funding opportunities reduce hugely, which is a major concern for the third sector, and has created a very uncertain future for many charities. However, at the same time, new funds are emerging to specifically support individuals and organisations during this crisis.
For example, when lockdown began, new Covid-19 emergency funds sprung up across the country. Martin Lewis (Money Saving Expert) created a £1m Coronavirus Fund, which has grown to a pot of nearly £3m, and supports small organisations focussed on Covid-19 poverty relief work. It received £50m in ask within just 1 month! Here in the South West of England, the Quartet Community Foundation has been a really valuable source of funding – their Covid-19 Fund has received £1m in donations (to date) and has awarded £600,000 since the fund launched.
Due to the impact Covid-19 has had on individuals and the organisations working to support them, we are also seeing more collaboration across the public, private and third sectors, and some really exciting innovative working practices. It is encouraging to see how quickly barriers to collaborative working can be broken down, and we hope that this trend continues after this crisis has finally passed.
What changes have you made to the Funding Support Programme to better support our community?
We have made a number of significant changes to our Funding Support Programme to ensure St John’s can provide Covid-19 emergency support to individuals and organisations. From what we are seeing through our work in Bath and the surrounding area, we know this has been the right thing to do.
For instance, we have reviewed our Crisis Fund criteria to enable more people to access the support they need during this crisis. Demand for Individual Funding remains high, as individuals and families continue to experience significant hardship, but new trends have emerged, such as an increased demand for laptops so families can access home learning materials.
In addition to the changes made to our Crisis Fund, we have funded a number of organisations, including BaNES 3SG, FareShare South West, Julian House and Southside in order to extend some areas of their work, particularly where it is most valuable for individuals experiencing crisis due to Covid-19. We have also agreed to repurpose funds previously awarded to local organisations. In our view, we have a responsibility to be flexible, because while we may have initially funded specific projects, we are also a supporter of the organisations themselves.
Why is partnership working so important during this crisis?
For us, there are two key reasons why partnership working is so important, now and in the future. Firstly, we must reduce duplication where possible. There are lots of people scrambling to help out, set up new projects or fund particular work, but they may not realise what they are looking to deliver is already safely in the hands of another organisation.
In BaNES we are seeing tremendous collaboration between emergency food providers, many schools, charities and local authority teams are providing food parcels to those in need. They have all come together to make sure that they know which families are being supported by each other, making duplication very rare.
The second key driver for partnership working is to identify gaps in support. With the majority of general funding (i.e. non-Covid-19 related) put on hold, many key services are either running a reduced service or not operating at all. By maintaining strong lines of communication across our network, we can identify what is missing, and hopefully work together to fill the gaps. St John’s works closely with BaNES Council, Virgin Care and other funders to ensure we build the ‘big picture’ and make a meaningful difference with our funding support.
What is the St John’s funding team doing to prepare for the next stage of lockdown?
Firstly, one of the most important steps we can take in preparing for the next stage of lockdown is to work with our partners and keep the lines of communication open at all times. It is critical we learn from one another and continue to build a clear picture of the challenges facing people and organisations across our region.
For example, we understand from working with referrers, one of the biggest issues for people right now is that they cannot access the agencies they would normally go to for help. So, in response, we are preparing for an increase in applications to our individual funding programme when the next stage of lockdown begins.
Secondly, through our work on the Foundation Fund (a new fund that will work to build a community where every child under 12 is supported to grow into a happy, healthy, educated member of our community), we have been, and will continue to work closely with BaNES Council, Multi-Academy Trusts, schools and food providers to understand the pressures schools and pupils are under, and how we can support in the best way possible.
One of the greatest challenges is there are countless children unable to access their learning materials or ‘attend’ school during lockdown. The anticipated impact of this is shocking. The Education Endowment Foundation has reported that:
“Over the past decade, the attainment gap between disadvantaged pupils and their classmates at the end of primary school has narrowed, reflecting the hard work of teachers and senior leaders across the country. Our initial analysis, based on what we know about the impact of summer learning loss on disadvantaged pupils, is that this progress will be at the very least reversed by the combination of economic hardship and school closures caused by Covid-19.”
St John’s Foundation Fund is geared towards supporting children so that we may significantly reduce the attainment gap in BaNES by 2029; so, this is something we are monitoring very closely.
We do not know the true impact of this crisis yet, but we do know there is a renewed sense of community in Bath and North East Somerset. This must continue. People will be struggling, in more ways than we know, and the local organisations supporting them are facing a very different future. St John’s is committed to the people of Bath and the surrounding area, and we encourage our community to offer their support where they can both now and in the months to come.
How you can support your local community:
Support your local charities
It is a difficult time for many local charities, and the future holds further uncertainty. To help your preferred local charity continue their vital work in Bath and North East Somerset, please get in touch with their teams to find out how you can support them.
If you would like to offer your support please visit https://www.3sg.org.uk/pages/compassionate-community-covid-19
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