We’re not a charity, but you might occasionally see us asking for donations. Why is that?
The simple truth is that we want to make sure our clients – across all our services – aren’t going hungry, or making do without essentials like electricity, bus money, or a working phone.
Gateway’s hardship fund is a pot of money that we make available to staff to give to clients in extreme circumstances.
Any member of staff can access the hardship fund. The money is for essentials such as fuel, transport, or baby things, and the most we give to a client is £15 (we’ve recently upped this from £10). These comments, from our Impact Assessment App, show the sort of situations where the hardship fund has been used recently, alongside other forms of support:
To the question “how have I helped you today?”, Flora said:
You went with me to Narthex for clothes and items for baby such as blankets, coat, moses basket, bath, baby gym, toiletries for my hospital stay, steriliser, nappies and changing mat. You also went with me to a charity shop to buy a car seat and bouncer from Gateway hardship fund. Thank you so much Miriam I do not know what I would have done without your support.
and Donna said:
You came with me to the neighbourhood office. You helped me complete the housing application form. You gave me hardship fund so I could have electricity.
The money is not for food. If someone needs food, we will give them food; either from our own small food bank or by taking them to a local food bank like Narthex.
The hardship fund was set up because, on a couple of occasions, we found out that staff had given clients money from their own pocket. We found it shocking that they felt pushed to make this decision; our staff already go over and above in their jobs. We decided we had to address this as an organisation.
But we are not a charity, so the hardship fund money comes primarily from our board members as some choose to donate their annual honorarium (a small payment). On top of this, staff will occasionally fundraise and donate the money to the hardship fund.
Money from the hardship fund really is a very short term stop gap, not a long term solution. But in conjunction with other types of help, it can be a lifeline when things go wrong, as Vicki Bond, a Health Trainer, explains:
“I had a client who had had her benefits stopped, and a replacement had not been put in place.
“Some clients feel ashamed of the situation they’re in, so sometimes it isn’t until you do a home visit that you realise the difficulties that people are facing. This was the case with this client. Not only had benefits been stopped but some essential items were missing from her home, so I helped her to get these by liaising with neighbourhood team to get things like a bed, oven and fridge.
“This lady accessed our food bank on a couple of occasions and also our hardship fund. The cash meant she could buy bus tickets, as she had a lot of face-to-face appointments that it was important for her to attend, but finances were making it extremely difficult to get there.”
Food and toiletries bank
We have a bank of non-perishable foodstuffs and essential toiletries that staff can access to help clients all year round, and at this time of year we have a little drive to add donations that can be used for Christmas hampers.
Christmas hampers go out to some of the women our Pregnancy Outreach Workers Service works with. As well as essentials, they include some extra treats, like baby clothes, or toys for older siblings. At Christmas, postal delays and holiday closures can make it even more difficult to get financial help from other sources, so the hampers aren’t just a Christmas present – they can be a vital stopgap.
If you think you could donate any items such as toiletries, non-perishable food items, toys, or baby clothes, give us a call on 0121 456 7820 and we can arrange to collect.
This week we have also been very grateful to receive a donation of shoebox gifts from Carol Browne to pass on to our clients for Christmas.
Carol said, “I just wanted to do something near to home and make a little difference. My Health Trainer, Joy, told me about Gateway and the POW service and I decided it would be a good place to donate to.” Carol told us that she had been a young mum herself, and she’d received hampers like this which had helped her in her time of need.