Playing our part: supporting communities through the coronavirus pandemic

Community centre illustration

A note from our Chief Executive, Andy Peers

It was back to work for the Longleigh team after a bank holiday weekend that’s been unlike any I’ve experienced in my lifetime, and perhaps like nothing I’ll – or we’ll – experience again.

We are all living in extraordinary times. Out of the challenges that the measures to control the spread of the coronavirus create, I’m sure that, like me, many of you are watching, listening and reading about incredible acts of kindness, compassion and a swell of community spirit that has been missing for too long.

In the new world we’re in, with a massively increased move to online meetings, I am regularly finding people in a reflective mood. They express total admiration for those working on the frontline, both in our hospitals and communities, and shake their heads in disbelief at the level of commitment doctors and nurses are making to both protect their families and yet continue working. Alongside this admiration, they express sadness as the number of people we lose to this pandemic, for the time being, continues to increase day-by-day.

But, I hear people reflecting on how enforced time at home – through working from home or being furloughed – is making them slow down and have greater appreciation for the basic but essential things in life, such as taking a walk, playing with their children and greater contact with family and friends in new and ever-more creative ways.

After all, this isn’t the time for social distancing – physical distancing, yes – but, social distancing, no. This is the time for greater reaching out to those we love, to make the call that in our very recent busy-ness took weeks to make or never got made at all and, not to make people around feel like a burden but to feel like our neighbour.

Whatever shape the ‘new normality’ takes in the months to come, I hope that we can all remember our current rhetoric of our renewed determination to slow down, focus on what is most important and to be more kind and compassionate to those around us.

More funding for individuals and communities when they need it most

Whilst we all play our part to help us collectively stem this terrible pandemic, here at Longleigh we’ve been focusing on how we can both respond and be proactive to the events that are unfolding around us.

It’s at truly-testing times such as this that the good stewardship of charitable funds means considering how much more should be spent – not saved – in the effort to support those in most need. To this end, without the incredible support of our donor and without the compassion, responsiveness and diligence of our Trustees, getting plans in place to sensibly ‘get more funding out of the door’ just wouldn’t happen.

Longleigh is quite unusual in that we are a charitable foundation that delivers grants programmes to both individuals and organisations. In a short space of time we’ve been able to get new plans in place across both these aspects of our work.

Individual Grants – boosting our funding and updating our criteria to give help when it’s most needed

Our Individual Grants programme had seen an increase of funding awarded of over 2000% in the last two-years. And, in the last week, we have now boosted this part of our work by further doubling the amount of funding available. For example, we’ve recognised that families with children who would normally be getting free school meals may need further help so we’ve updated the funding criteria for our Individual Grants (currently only available for Stonewater Housing residents) to take this into account. We’ve also recognised that residents may need equipment at home in order to access online learning resources to support their children’s education. Again, we’ve updated our funding criteria accordingly.

Project Grants – being a supportive and flexible funder

We’ve written to the organisations we fund to ask them about their needs at this time and expressed our desire to be flexible in how they use their funding. We’ve encouraged them to embrace changing the way they engage with those they support. From this week, we’ll be holding regular ‘cuppa and a chat’ online meetings with those we’ve funded. We believe there are common challenges that organisations will be facing at this time. Being able to share these in a supportive peer-to-peer environment could help generate practical solutions across the group that might make the difference between staying afloat or going under. 

Like many other funders, we’ve significantly reduced our reporting requirements so that we are only requesting the most basic of information, such as a financial statement and up to date safeguarding policies. We genuinely want to help organisations free up as much time as possible to respond to the increasing demands on their services or to cope with reduced and restricted staff and volunteer teams.

Further funding support for our Project Grant recipients

We are getting closer to how we can give additional funding to some of the organisations we already fund so they can increase their capacity to support more people on a dedicated, one-to-one basis.

We know that for too many people a 20% reduction in their wages might tip them into an unsustainable financial position, especially if any other household income has also been reduced or disappeared. By increasing the capacity of the organisations we fund that specialise in working with people in severe financial distress, we hope that, alongside other practical measures to financially support people, we can help make the lasting impact of this pandemic more manageable.

The emotional strain that the impact of the coronavirus pandemic will place on people and families can’t be underestimated. Already, there are increased reports of domestic abuse, there are people who need ongoing support due to existing mental health issues and we anticipate more people struggling to cope with any pro-longed period of isolation. In turn, what this might do to the wellbeing of our children and young people is scary to contemplate. But, at Longleigh, we can work to increase the capacity of the organisations we have already funded that are dedicated to providing support for people in emotional distress and with mental health issues.

The need to react at pace can reduce the time required to really think things through to ensure that responses are timely enough and of the right quality and robustness. We all need to exercise an abundance of kindness, generosity and patience to our teams and partners because there is likely to be a time when we need this in return. We need to ‘pay it forward’ and be the support to others that we would want to receive ourselves.

And, because we can do something, we will do something. We are just one funding organisation, but we hope that we can model an approach that works and which helps – playing our part in the continual improvement and development of the Charitable Foundations sector along the way.

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