Remembering Grenfell: The power of community in times of crisis
The fire which destroyed Grenfell Tower sent shockwaves across London and the world.
This residential tower block in North Kensington is based within the heart of our Beneficial Area. We knew of many of the people and communities that live there through the groups that we fund and quickly decided to do all we could to help members of this much-loved community.
Traditionally, Kensington & Chelsea as a local authority area is often overlooked for funding and support from outside agencies. Parts of the borough are the most affluent in the country, if not in Europe. However, in pockets, such as North Kensington, levels of deprivation and need are incredibly high. In the first days and weeks following the fire, we worked closely with other funding organisations and London Funders to create an emergency response strategy to support the communities living in the area that had been affected. John Lyon’s Charity was able to use its experience and knowledge of the area to help others navigate the complex landscape and galvanise this support to help direct funding to organisations on the ground, supporting those who needed it the most.
What was striking about this approach was that out of the embers came strength and community. Funders stepped outside their normal practices through raising additional funds, collaborative delivery, changing the application process to a far simpler format to ensure quicker release of funds and swift, efficient decision-making. It was incredibly powerful to witness how local organisations came together to support each other with funding applications, ideas for projects and sharing resources. London Funders provided a platform for mobilising the emergency response by setting up a Community Core Costs Fund. This Fund aimed to get money out quickly to some of the frontline and grassroots organisations who had responded to the fire or who were meeting wider community needs. The funding for this programme was provided by the Department of Community and Local Government and The Tudor Trust. Over £1.1m was distributed during July to 100 local community groups, faith groups, schools and residents associations for the extra equipment, spaces, food, supplies or staff needed to support local communities for 3-6 months.
JLC’s emergency response to support London Funders was to put out a specific call for action by organising a formal meeting of funders. Alongside local partners, we coordinated a Children and Young People Funder Coalition to help organisations working with children and young people affected by the fire at Grenfell Tower to access funding. Using our contacts and local reputation, the Grants Team headed into North Kensington to hold four whole-day, one-to-one drop-in surgeries for community groups to discuss funding needs and ran one large scale feedback workshop that had approximately 85 representatives from community groups. This happened within ten days of the fire.
The Children and Young People’s Coalition Funding was for local organisations working with children, young people and families affected by the Grenfell Tower Fire. The funding for this programme was provided by a range of funders including the Big Lottery Fund, The Tudor Trust, BBC Children in Need, City Bridge Trust, Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, Kensington & Chelsea Foundation and the Department for Education. The Coalition ran two phases of funding. Phase one saw funders provide grants of £1.07m to 61 organisations to deliver services and projects for children and young people in the summer holiday period. These ranged from day trips to the running of free activities. Phase two saw organisations apply for longer-term funding for projects delivered over the following year. These were divided into three priority areas: out of school activities; children’s emotional wellbeing; and family work. A further £1.2m was provided to 53 organisations in phase two.
To simplify the funding process, we created a single application form to ensure funds were distributed quickly and efficiently. These could then be viewed by all the funders on an online portal, created by London Funders, to make offers of grants. The models and methods used to respond to these emergencies demonstrated that it is possible to get down to the bare bones of what each funder needs in order to participate. We felt touched and honoured that we were trusted to lead by example and use our many years of experience to triage the applications using our local knowledge and expertise to ensure the application process was executed as quickly and efficiently as possible.
Here is a what a few of the organisations supported by the Grenfell Emergency Response Fund had to say:
“Thanks to funding from John Lyon’s Charity via the Grenfell Response Fund we were able to provide a range of activities for families affected by the Grenfell Tragedy. The families came together with their children in a safe and friendly environment to share positive experiences, which helped the children gain confidence, make new friends and take the first steps to rebuilding their lives.” – Ulick Tarabanov, FRSA, Founder & CEO, London Sports Trust
“In the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower tragedy, we were among many local voluntary organisations who stood up to help support the community during an incredibly difficult and shocking time. As we are a very small organisation with a limited reserve, we would not have been able to support the community without being awarded an emergency grant. This grant helped us to continue supporting the bereaved community as well as recruit more staff and volunteers to help. We could not have reached as many people without this emergency response funding for the Grenfell Tower funded by John Lyon’s Charity”. – Kamal Mohamed, Chairman of Westpoint Sustainable Community Development
“On the night of the Fire at Grenfell Tower, QPR Community Trust lost two participants who had participated in our Girls programme and Kicks programme. What was really important to us as the local football club was to support that community to recover in the days after the fire and the months and years ahead. It was important for us to play a supporting role and facilitate the needs of the community who needed organisations & people they could trust and react quickly to their needs. Without the support of the John Lyon’s Charity we would not have been able to provide activities and dedicated staff to facilitate the needs of the community at a time when they needed it most.” – Andy Evan, CEO of QPR
Four years on, the ramifications of Grenfell Tower continue to be felt throughout the area and will continue to do so for many years to come. As we begin to focus on the recovery process of the pandemic, it is hard not to draw significant parallels between Grenfell and the emergency response in the days and weeks that followed. It was admirable how quickly London Funder members stepped up in a time of crisis to unite with one core purpose – to ensure the survival of the Kensington community. This was the first time public and private funders in London had got together to make a real difference to its community in a time of need and it was ultimately this process that was the catalyst in thinking that led to the London Community Response in 2020. Without this joint funding approach, we may not have had the same crisis response experience and expertise to face the present pandemic and unite once again with such speed to ensure our London community is protected.
Major Funder of Children & Young People Announces £22M Lifeline to Tackle the Impact of Covid-19 with initial focus on support for the Arts in Schools.
Grant-giving funder John Lyon’s Charity has ring-fenced £22 million from its endowment, to be spent over the next six years, to support the children and young people’s (CYP) sector in its Beneficial Area. With the generous support of its Trustees, this funding will be in addition to the Charity’s regular grant giving of c£12 million every year. John Lyon’s Charity has worked tirelessly throughout lockdown to support multiple organisations from crumbling due to the pandemic. As a result, it has created a strategic plan to protect the CYP sector in the long term, with the core focus on Home – School – Community; the three main points of reference in any child’s life.
Since 1991, John Lyon’s Charity has awarded over £156million in grants to a range of organisations that seek to promote the life-chances of children and young people through education. Covid-19 has had a devastating impact upon children and young people and this has been further exacerbated by the funding cuts to the voluntary sector over the past decade.
CEO Dr Lynne Guyton says: “While we have been part of the collaborative emergency response coordinated by London Funders since last March, granting over £1m in immediate grants, we have taken time to reflect and believe we now need to act strategically and definitively for the sector for the long-term. Our aim is to fund not just for the recovery but for the sustainability of the CYP sector. Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic we have pledged to walk alongside our JLC Community and provide help and assistance in any way we can. We strongly believe that we need to take positive action now to safeguard our previous investment in the sector for future generations. Now is the proverbial rainy day”.
Cathryn Pender, the Charity’s Grants Director adds, “The Charity has spent the last 30 years contributing to the maintenance and effectiveness of a varied and vibrant CYP sector in London. The impact of Covid-19 threatens to sweep away even the strongest of organisations; once they are gone, they will not come back.“
The Charity’s Home – School – Community strategy is designed to boost support to the sector by funding the services that the Charity knows are crucial for a child’s life. Most young people spend their time either at school, at home or in the community (such as at a youth club). It is already part of the Charity’s ethos to work collaboratively across these three environments and support organisations, which work in these areas. The additional £22million of funding is in place to tackle the impact of Covid-19 to ensure that organisations survive a post Covid world. Each vertex of the funding triangle (Home-School-Community) is strategically designed to ensure a holistic approach to supporting children and young people.
Over the next 12 months John Lyon’s Charity will start the recovery process by beginning to invest the additional £22million into its Beneficial Area. Using its 30 years of experience and expertise, the Charity will specifically look to support organisations by initiating collaborations, replicating successful initiatives and rehabilitating organisations, using this funding as a lifeline for many who are at risk of permanent closure.
One of the first areas the Charity will address is the dramatic fall in the offer of creative opportunities in schools by launching a new Cultural Capital Fund. Even before Covid-19 and the closure of schools, there was already a worrying trend away from Arts subjects in schools to focus on the more ‘academic’ core subjects; there is a real risk that an appreciation and enjoyment of the Arts will become the preserve of those who can afford it. This innovative new Fund is designed to bring Arts organisations and schools together to ensure there is a varied and accessible offer available to all children, regardless of their background. We will invite applications from both schools and Arts institutions in London for projects that utilise the skills of the most experienced and high-quality practitioners, many of whom have been unable to work during the pandemic. As a result of this approach within Home – School – Community, doors will be opened for young people from all backgrounds to access and enjoy the Arts and the value it brings, as well as ensuring that the Arts sector is able to retain the highly skilled practitioners, upon whose talent and skills the educational outreach offer of these cultural institutions is based.
Voluntary organisations that deliver vital services for children, young people and their families are already stretched and are now having to think very differently about the problems caused by Covid-19 and lockdown scenarios. As a relational, responsive and responsible funder, John Lyon’s Charity has the knowledge, the reputation and the tenacity to make a difference for children and young people for the long term in its Beneficial Area, and beyond. The Charity predicts that this additional funding on top of the c£12million granted each year will help protect the many vulnerable children and young people it supports within its community. John Lyon’s Charity urges other Funders across the UK to follow this strategic approach to ensure the survival of the CYP sector. You can learn about our Covid-19 strategy and approach here.
Catholic Children’s Society (Westminster) and John Lyon’s Charity have collaborated for Children’s Mental Health Week to raise awareness about the importance of supporting children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing during the pandemic.
Children’s Mental Health Week 2021 is putting the focus on children’s ability to ‘Express Yourself’. This involves encouraging children to find ways to express their feelings, especially about the pressures of the pandemic, through discussion, communication and creativity.
John Lyon’s Charity (JLC) has always valued the work of organisations supporting children and young people with their mental health, awarding 126 grants totalling over £8.75m since 2010. Funding from John Lyon’s Charity has helped the Catholic Children’s Society (Westminster) support thousands of children experiencing mental health difficulties by providing qualified therapists to work on-site in schools. This has proved a very successful partnership and this work has grown to include providing mental health training for school staff, as well as specialist training to help schools run support groups for children experiencing bereavement and loss.
The Catholic Children’s Society now works in over 80 schools across London (both Catholic and non-Catholic). During the pandemic they have supported over 4,500 vulnerable children, both through their mental health services and by providing emergency food and essentials for families living in poverty.
Greg Brister, Catholic Children’s Society’s Deputy CEO, commented:
“The pandemic and subsequent lockdown has been extremely challenging for disadvantaged children, particularly those with a history of mental health difficulties. The lack of routine, together with difficult home lives and poor housing conditions, has made life very hard and isolating for many children”.
“Fortunately, thanks to funders like John Lyon’s Charity, our mental health services have been able to continue supporting children throughout the pandemic. This has included delivering therapy face-to-face in schools as well as providing sessions for children at home via telephone/video calls. Offering this consistent support has made a huge difference when children have faced so much change and uncertainty in their lives.”
JLC has worked with the Catholic Children Society for many years and provided over £1million to support their mental health services in schools. This close partnership has been particularly effective during lockdown where they have worked together to ensure vulnerable children and young people can continue to access specialist mental health support despite the challenges posed by Covid-19.
Grants Director at JLC, Cathryn Pender says “the Charity has long had a reputation for funding emotional wellbeing projects; its commitment has risen steadily in the last ten years from £137,000 in 2010 to £1.2million in 2020. We have always been aware that there is need for our funding when it comes to children and mental health and working so closely with Catholic Children Society over the years has certainly proven that. We hope that other organisations take advantage of the Emotional Wellbeing grants JLC has to offer, as well as the ongoing support we as a Grants Team provide to organisations to help them ensure the vulnerable children and young people who need support are reached”.
One positive development both Charities have seen is that lockdown has helped to remove some of the stigma around accessing mental health services. Greg Brister adds “that many ‘hard to reach’ parents have been far more open and willing to engage with our therapists and work together to support their children. Children’s Mental Health Week is a fantastic opportunity to build on this and raise awareness of the importance of encouraging children to express themselves, share their feelings and access the support they need”.
CASE STUDY: ASIF’S STORY
Asif is eight years old. At school he often appeared tired and would get tearful and angry or lash out and be very aggressive.
Asif’s home life was very challenging; his mother was emotionally distant and there were serious safety concerns in relation to Asif’s father who subsequently left the family and stopped providing any financial support.
During therapy Asif enacted some very distressing scenarios. For example, characters would often be attacked by a ‘baddie’ and would be desperate to escape but would be caught and killed or eaten by a monster. Gradually Asif was helped to process these distressing experiences and the therapist worked with him to develop a greater sense of safety. Asif’s play started to shift and at times there would be happy endings, where the character escaped and lived happily with his mother.
During lockdown the Catholic Children’s Society’s therapist spoke with Asif each week and was also able to have conversations with Asif’s mother. Usually she was very hard to engage with, but the extraordinary situation with the pandemic had helped her to let her barriers down. She discussed the physical abuse she had experienced at the hands of her husband and the impact this had on her son. Together they explored different ways they could help Asif feel more secure and less afraid and volatile. Asif’s mother recognised that she did not always make time for her son and could be impatient with his challenging behaviour.
The therapist suggested a new routine to set aside some time each day to play together and provided some creative resources and ideas for different activities. The therapist also talked through different ways Asif’s mother could set clear boundaries whilst also giving Asif the attention he so craved.
This has had a big impact. Asif’s teacher has commented:
“I was so worried about how Asif would cope during lockdown and cannot believe the progress he has made. The support the therapist has offered during this time has been amazing”.
“I liked being able to talk on the phone. You helped me when I was scared and made me feel better… I got out all my bad feelings and now I don’t have them anymore”.
Catholic Children’s Society, John Lyon’s Charity and many other charities involved with Children’s Mental Health Week, are calling for more support to ensure children and young people do not develop long lasting mental health issues as a result of Covid-19. If you would like to find out more about Catholic Children’s Society services than please visit their website www.cathchild.org.uk or to find out more about John Lyon’s Charity and its Emotional Wellbeing funding.