"Cash grants give people the support they need during the coronavirus pandemic, with dignity"
By Alex Fraser, Hardship Fund programme sponsor, British Red Cross
Imagine you have relied on your partner to support you for years because you are disabled. You are just about managing financially, then the coronavirus lockdown hit. Neither of you can work, and your partner is not eligible for furlough payments. How will you buy food? How will you pay your bills?
Or maybe you are an asylum seeker newly arrived in the UK. Like everyone else, you have to stay at home most of the time, which in your case is a tiny hostel room. You’re not just poor, you are not allowed to work legally and are not eligible for public funds until you have been granted asylum – and your claim was put on hold during the pandemic.
THE HARDSHIP FUND GIVES CASH GRANTS TO THE POOREST PEOPLE FACING FINANCIAL HARDSHIP BECAUSE OF THE PANDEMIC.
Our new Hardship Fund can now help. At the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, Aviva and the Aviva Foundation* donated £10 million to the British Red Cross to support people most at risk. Half of this, £5 million, is being used for the Hardship Fund to give cash grants to the poorest people facing financial problems because of the pandemic. These may be families living below the poverty line, those fleeing domestic violence, people seeking asylum or homeless people staying in temporary accommodation.
People get special cash cards preloaded with either a one-off payment of £120 or a grant of £120 each month for three months. The cards can be used online or in shops, or people can withdraw up to £35 from a cash machine.
Hardship Fund supports people most in need
We aim to support 13,000 people through the Hardship Fund, each one referred to us by our frontline staff and volunteers, local government workers or partner charities. The Red Cross has used cash grants to help in international emergencies for several years and the Hardship Fund lets us extend this within the UK.
Cash grants give people the support they need through the coronavirus outbreak, with dignity. Each household’s needs are unique. With the cash grants, people can buy exactly what they want and need, and shop around to get the best prices. A grant could also cover other costs, such as rent or fuel payments. Or it could buy a few minutes of mobile phone credit so they can contact a loved one or call a support organisation.
Cash grants are also fast. There’s no need for us to buy goods in bulk, store them centrally then distribute them around the country. Instead, people can shop in their own neighbourhoods, and support the local economy at the same time.
Our grants come alongside, not instead of, other kinds of support from the government or other charities. For instance, the Red Cross has also created a coronavirus support line for anyone finding it hard to access food or medication, feeling lonely or worried, or facing other issues during the pandemic. We’re also supporting refugees from some of our existing centres throughout the coronavirus pandemic.
The coronavirus pandemic has been a challenge to us all in different ways. Throughout, the Red Cross has tried to respond with kindness, in whatever form is most needed. The Hardship Fund gives us an exciting and effective new way to do this, and to create a model for how best to help whenever and wherever a disaster strikes.
* The Aviva Foundation is administered by Charities Trust under charity registration number 327489.
Hardship Fund sponsor, British Red Cross
Alex Fraser is also director of refugee services and restoring family links at the British Red Cross.