7th May 2020
People who need additional help at this time of crisis are being given hope by charities supported by the Southend Community Fund and other emergency funds, which are managed by the independent charitable trust Essex Community Foundation (ECF.)
In the past few weeks, over £150,000 has been awarded to the voluntary sector in the Southend area by ECF through its charitable funds and its recently launched Essex Coronavirus Response and Recovery Programme.
Grants distributed by ECF are ensuring that people in need are receiving essential services from charities and community organisations whose work has proved more important than ever during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Among the local charities given a much-needed funding boost are Southend Foodbank, Safe Steps which helps domestic abuse survivors, and Southend Carers' Forum.
Natasha Copus, project manager for Southend Foodbank, which has received a total of £11,500 said: “The funding has been a great help at a time when our services are in such demand and we are really busy. During the eight-week period following the Coronavirus outbreak we gave out food parcels to help 661 adults and 569 children.
“We have had to adapt to so many changes over the past few weeks and we are now based in a church hall which is not being used. This means we can implement social distancing and can have more volunteers working at one time.
“People can't come into our centres at the moment, so we are distributing food parcels at the door. There is an increasing need for foodbanks, with many people suddenly losing their income and finding that they don't have enough money to feed their family. It just shows that this sort of situation can happen to anyone. There is also the ongoing problem of people having to wait about five weeks for benefits to come through.“
Domestic abuse is another major problem which has seen a rise nationally during the COVID-19 lockdown. Funds totalling £10,000 have been given to Safe Steps in Southend to help provide vital counselling for survivors of domestic abuse. It is estimated that one in four women experience domestic abuse during their lifetimes and the counselling sessions help those affected to begin to re-build their lives.
Esther Taylor, fundraising manager for Safe Steps said: “We are delighted to receive this grant from ECF that will enable us to continue to provide counselling sessions over the coming year. During the lockdown we haven't been able to carry out face-to-face counselling sessions, but we have continued to give support over the phone and are still accepting referrals. Our refuge remains open, our advocacy, children and young people’s services are providing support remotely, and our 24-hour helpline continues to take calls 7 days a week, and for some, these services have become a lifeline.
“A lot more of the cases we have been dealing with during this time have been more severe, with abuse occurring more frequently, and we are also expecting a spike in cases when the lockdown eases, as survivors who have not been able to escape from abuse are able to seek help.
“When parents are at the receiving end of domestic violence it also affects their children, and as the schools have been closed, these children have had no respite. We give specific support to children and young people and this will be needed more than ever.”
The role of carers has become even more important during the coronavirus crisis and funds totalling £15,500, including £6,000 from the Birketts Charitable Fund managed by ECF, has enabled Southend Carers' Forum to set up a new database and develop new online and telephone support so that they are accessible and responsive to those who are caring for a loved one and need support.
The new online systems will transform the help that can be offered to carers and improve how information is shared across the organisation. The requirement for the new system had already been identified by the charity before the coronavirus pandemic, but it is now even more urgent, and the funding will help to launch the project.
Other Southend-based charities receiving funding from ECF include Southend Association of Voluntary Service for an initiative to help protect older people from scams and fraud, SOS Rape Crisis and Communities and Sanctuary Seekers Together.
Caroline Taylor, chief executive of ECF said: “The Southend Community Fund was set up in 2002 and plays an important role in offering support to local people.
“This is a time of exceptional need and we are heartened that the help we can give through the Funds we manage and our Response and Recovery Programme, are making a huge difference.”
For more details about applying for a grant from ECF, click here.