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“It’s an opportunity to rewrite the future”

We find out how Hammersmith & Fulham Council’s Covid-19 emergency response has relied on partnership working and the creativity of the third sector.

“I can remember when we saw the first deaths in a residential home. That was a particularly low moment. It was traumatic for everyone – a terrible tragedy,” says Linda Jackson, director of Covid-19 Response and Recovery for Hammersmith & Fulham Council. “Now everyone has been touched by this crisis, one way or another. It’s been really difficult, seeing the devastating impact on families and businesses.”

The crisis over the past year has brought together everyone living and working in the community like never before, Linda says. “There has been an extraordinary partnership response between the council, fire, police, NHS, businesses, community organisations, residents – with camaraderie at every level.”

Early days of the pandemic

After recording the very first case on 22 January 2020, the council could see what was coming on the horizon and knew it needed to act quickly, Linda says. By the beginning of March, a structure was put in place to get some control and respond quickly. The team has always tried to be intelligence-led in its response, she says, and closely monitored how the pandemic was progressing in Hammersmith, London, the UK and the world.

It became clear in March 2020 that hospitals were discharging residents into care homes without first testing them for Covid-19. With an absence of national guidance or support, the council team forged ahead, linking up closely with health partners to close the homes to new admissions and test everyone to bring the virus under control. And in November, Hammersmith & Fulham became the first borough in London to launch lateral flow testing initially at residential care homes and then at three fixed centres making tests much more widely available. The council has also been facilitating the NHS-run vaccination programme, helping to set up centres and supporting GPs with systems and process.

For organisations providing sheltered housing with high numbers of older people, the speedy roll-out of these programmes has been game-changing. “With both testing and vaccinations, I always felt that the council was doing its best to bring any single benefit to the community as quickly as it could,” says Victoria Hill, chief executive of Hammersmith United Charities, which provides almshouse accommodation for older people on lower incomes.

“When we started being able to test our staff on site in December, it was a really big deal. It became a huge part of our infection control process,” says Victoria. “Before that, we were constantly worried that we could be infectious without knowing it and bring the virus on site.”

“All of our over-80s were vaccinated before Christmas, followed by staff in January. Now nearly everyone is vaccinated. It is such an incredible relief. Every single health and social care worker in the world has been weighing this up, every day, for a year: am I going to bring coronavirus into work? Am I going to take it back home with me?”

Working with the third sector

The council and the NHS are pushing out vaccines and testing to every corner of the borough with the help of the voluntary sector, Linda acknowledges. These organisations have a unique ability to wrap quickly around the thousands of people in the borough whose lives have been turned upside down by coronavirus.

“There is a quite breath-taking amount of skills and abilities in the local third sector,” says Linda. “These organisations move silently within communities and activate community capacity a lot quicker and better than a council officer could.”

Over the past year, the council and grassroots organisations have worked together to provide support where it’s been needed most. Early on the Volunteer Community Aid Network (CAN), along with street-level mutual aid groups, galvanised hundreds of people to volunteer their time to help vulnerable people. There has also been a 150% growth in donations to the food bank in the borough to support the surge in families who now can’t afford to put food on the table. “Some of the people using food banks were looking forward to a holiday a few years ago. Now they have no income and no money,” says Linda.

In partnership with fundraising organisation United in Hammersmith & Fulham, the council set up the Covid Appeal in March 2020, and local businesses and residents have now donated over £144,000 to fund organisations supporting people affected by the pandemic.

Community organisations are powerful because they have an intimate, inside-out understanding of the borough, says Victoria. “Hammersmith United Charities also provides grants to local organisations, and when I look at the organisations we’ve funded throughout this crisis, I see a strong movement of charities run by people who live here. They know the people most in need personally and over the crisis have worked together at speed to provide whatever is needed – whether it’s food, laptops, phone data, toilet paper, or a cheering phone call.”

“Throughout the pandemic, community organisations have stepped up very quickly, without thought to their previous agenda or outside pressures like funders’ targets. They just changed what they usually did to meet the immediate need, because their first priority was getting their community through this crisis. I hope funders now have a better understanding that it’s crucial to trust community organisations and give them the flexibility to respond to needs as they see them changing.”

Green shoots

So what does recovery in Hammersmith and Fulham look like? “I can see the green shoots of spring,” says Linda. “We’ve launched our ‘Shop Local, Shop Safe’ campaign to help businesses open safely as lockdown is eased. And we’ve got to build on the connections we’ve made with the third sector. After 12 months of working really hard together, how do we keep the capacity we’ve gained? We want to develop the recovery plan in co-production with the third sector, so that it’s an integral part of what the council offers, rather than working around the outside.”

The pandemic has shifted health and social care priorities. “Before, the focus was on specific diseases, like diabetes and cancer. Now? It’s on basic needs like food, employment, housing,” says Linda. “Some say it’s a backwards step. I say it’s an opportunity to rewrite the future. But we absolutely need the community sector to write it with us.”


Find out more
  • Find out more about coronavirus, latest guidelines, testing and vaccinations in Hammersmith and Fulham on the council’s website
  • Read more about Hammersmith United Charities’s grants programme and other community projects
  • Find out about our sheltered housing in Hammersmith with beautiful award-winning gardens.
  • Linda and her team are reaching out to the community to understand why people may be hesitant to have the COVID-19 vaccine and put support measures in place to improve vaccine take up in the borough. If you would like to contribute your views please join their online meetings held on Tuesdays at 6pm – 7pm which can be accessed via Microsoft Teams using this link.
Linda Jackson, director of Covid-19 Response and Recovery for Hammersmith & Fulham Council

Opening our doors to older people in need of a home

We're inviting older people on a low income who need an affordable new home to tour our almshouses.

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New Flexible 3 Year Grant holders announced

Find out more about some of our Flexible 3 Year Grant holders

Many of our grant holders are facing the perfect storm of increasing costs coupled with increasing demand. Our new Flexible 3-Year Grants programme was launched in response to feedback from grant holders, who let us know how much they value multi-year funding. The grants will help organisations to meet demand and plan for the future.

Our first funding round closed in December 2023, and we’re delighted to say that Family Friends, The Violence Intervention Project and the Lido Foundation have all been awarded £45,000, which will be split over three years.

Family Friends

We all need someone to turn to when times are tough – someone who will listen without judgement, offer advice and provide emotional support. Family Friends offers all this and more. Its befriending service helps parents to feel more confident, connect with local services and work to build a brighter future for themselves and their children. The charity also offers ‘Big Buddies’ to support children and teenagers with homework, hobbies and goals.

CEO Mel Christodoulou says, “The grant will enable us to employ a dedicated Family Connector focused on Hammersmith and Fulham, responding to a 36% increase in referrals this year. This ‘boots on the ground’ presence will allow us to extend our services and create a sustainable future in Hammersmith and Fulham.”

The Violence Intervention Project (The V.I.P)

When children and teenagers are aggressive, it’s often a sign of childhood trauma, such as abuse, neglect or bereavement.

The V.I.P works with young people to break the cycle of violence. It does this through ‘Urban Therapy’, which combines both therapeutic and practical support, to develop their psychological resilience and improve their socio-economic situations. This holistic approach is key to achieving long-term, sustainable changes within their cohort.

Funding & Operations Manager Jamie Crouch says, “Despite experiencing adversity and disadvantage, our clients have the potential to lead positive and fulfilling lives – and we act as the bridge between their past and their future.”

The V.I.P will use its grant to help establish a new youth committee, engage members of the public and contribute to staffing costs.

The Lido Foundation

Recent years have taken a huge toll on people’s finances, so it’s no surprise that the Lido Foundation experienced a three-fold increase in the number of people needing support last year. CEO Liban Muse says, “We have seen people in desperate situations who had to make difficult decisions to get food on the table for their families or to heat their homes.”

The charity helped 1400 people in 2022-23, many of whom are Black women with limited English and digital skills. The Lido Foundation offers practical support, such as helping people to apply for Universal Credit, negotiate with creditors and avoid homelessness.

HUC’s grant will help the Lido Foundation to cover its core costs, including contributing to the salary of the charity’s welfare adviser.

Find out more about applying for a grant

We will award up to three more Flexible 3 Year Grants in 2024. The exact date for applications is to be announced but is planned for June. This programme focuses on organisations that we already work with.

We also offer Community Grants. There are three opportunities to apply each year. If you’d like to be informed when the next round opens, please sign up to our newsletter.

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November 2023 and February 2024 grantees

£240,000 to 28 community organisations!

Every year, Hammersmith United Charities provides £400,000 to local groups that are creating positive change in our area of benefit. Our most recent grant rounds in November 2023 and February 2024 saw unprecedented demand, with organisations requesting a total of over £640,000. The Committee responded by approving grants to 28 of those groups, ranging from £3,500 to £15,000 and totalling over £240,000.

The organisations receiving funding include Age UK Hammersmith and Fulham, who support 426 people over 50 years old; Bees & Refugees, who work with 100 people in H&F, most of whom are on a low-income; and Hammersmith Community Gardens Association (HCGA), who manage four community gardens in H+F.

How to apply for a HUC Community Grant

We hold three grant rounds each year and are particularly keen to hear from smaller, local organisations with a strong connection to their community and a working knowledge of the local area. Your project can be one-off or ongoing. What interests us most is the difference you’ll make to the local people most in need.

Please complete our Eligibility Quiz before applying, and then contact us at grants@hamunitedcharities.com to tell us about your project. We like to talk to applicants before you apply so that we can get a better understanding of what you’re doing and answer any questions you may have.

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CIC workshop success

“How do I convert a CIC to a charity?”, “Which banks accept CICs?”, “How do I employ people at my CIC?” 

These are just some of the questions that came up at the recent workshop we held for the leaders of Community Interest Companies (CICs). Many of the organisations that we work with are Community Interest Companies. Smaller CICs are often run by just one person, who has to manage everything from customer service to admin, accounting and marketing. Not surprisingly, many CIC leaders struggle to keep up with admin and reporting, which makes it difficult to apply for grants and other funding.  

So, when we asked local CICs whether they’d be interested in a workshop to share ideas and experiences, the answer was a resounding “yes”. To help ensure that as many CIC leaders as possible could attend the workshop, we decided to hold it online. We also worked with Dr Edwards & Bishop King’s (DEBK) and Peabody Trust to promote the event to relevant organisations.  

The Directory of Social Change recommended that we ask Leesa Harwood to run the event. Leesa has more than 30 years’ experience in the third sector and now runs her own consultancy company, so was the ideal presenter and facilitator. 

The two-hour workshop proved to be very informative, with plenty of lively discussions and sharing of experiences. 11 people attended. All either run a CIC or are considering setting one up. Conversations included finding directors with the right skills, whether (and how) to change from a CIC to a charity to attract more grant funding, and the challenges of employing people part-time.

Feedback was very positive, with one participant writing, “Thank you for organising today’s workshop. Very helpful and great to connect with other local organisations.” 

At Hammersmith United Charities, we often receive grant applications from community groups that are finding it difficult to keep up with CIC administration or which are struggling to create an appropriate organisational structure. We hope that workshops such as these will support local organisations to share information, access funding and, ultimately, become more sustainable so that they can continue their vital work for many years to come. 

If you’d like to discover more about what was shared at the workshop, you can access the files here. And, if you’re thinking of setting up your own CIC, Social Enterprise UK has lots of useful information and you can also download guides from the government’s website 

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Leslie, Head of Housing

Meet our head of housing

Leslie Morson has been managing housing for over 20 years. He started his career in Hammersmith and has recently returned to the borough as our Head of Housing. Find out about his biggest vice and who he thinks is the best James Bond.

What do you like about Hammersmith?

It’s a really vibrant borough and there’s always a lot going on. I like the mix of communities – I live in Haringey which enjoys the same kind of mix. There’s also a lot of support in the borough for older people which is important.

What does your job involve?

I manage Hammersmith United Charities’ sheltered housing making sure that the buildings are safe and well maintained and also that the residents are being looked after and we can meet their needs. We help them with things such as completing forms and also provide a programme of social activities. We have two sheltered housing schemes just off Goldhawk Road – John Betts House on Rylett Road and Sycamore House on Sycamore Gardens. We are fortunate that we offer large flats decorated to a high standard. What is very special about our housing is the large communal gardens which both our schemes have and these gardens are enjoyed and highly valued by the residents. We are so lucky to have two gardeners who work with the residents to maintain them and keep them looking so beautiful.

You mentioned activities for the residents, what are those?

We have coffee mornings every Thursday. There are also exercise classes and game nights. Local specialists and community groups come in to talk to the residents and there are occasional trips, such as afternoon teas and outings to the seaside. In addition, the residents organise their own social events. For example, at John Betts House the residents arrange a film evening once a week. One of the things that I am looking forward to is to see how we could develop these activities even further. We’re starting to think about what we might do to celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee in June.

What’s the best thing about the job?

The people. We are a really nice staff team here – almost like a family. I’m starting to get to know the residents and they are great too.

In your free time what do you get up to?

Free time? What is that? I like travelling and I love to get away, even if it is just a short trip at weekends – we were in York the other weekend. My last big trip was going to China and I really like going to the Far East such as to Thailand and Cambodia.

What’s your biggest vice?

I think my wife would tell you it is wasting money, particularly buying electrical things and gadgets that I shouldn’t. I am what’s called an early adopter when it comes to technology and really like my gadgets. Last year I bought a new shower head which has a demister which somehow helps the environment, but I still haven’t installed it after about nine months!

Which do you prefer film or theatre?

That’s difficult. My wife trained as an actress and we often go to the theatre. I’ve been at least three times since the theatres opened up again. However, I do enjoy film as well and pay far too much money for streaming services such as Netflix and Sky. The last thing I saw at the cinema was the latest James Bond movie – I’m a huge James Bond fan. Daniel Craig is without doubt the best Bond we have ever had.

Eat out or take away?

I am a terrible cook, but my wife is an even worse cook than me and she’ll admit to that. I am the one who prepares Christmas dinner. Eat out would be the preference but my wife is a really fussy eater so I enjoy going out for a meal with friends rather than with my wife!

Reading a book or watching the tv?

I’m ashamed to say it but it’s going to have to be TV. I asked for a couple of books for Christmas which I got and I haven’t even picked them up yet. I used to be an avid reader, but I just don’t do it now. One of the books I got for Christmas was Vic Reeve’s autobiography but reading takes concentration and instead you can just stick the TV on and zone out.

Tea or coffee?

I’m not really a big tea or coffee drinker. I never have been. If I was to drink tea, I prefer a Darjeeling with a slice of lemon than a builder’s tea.

If someone is interested in Hammersmith United Charities’ housing, what should they do?

First, check our eligibility criteria. Then just give me a call on 07470 793 565, I would love to show you around.


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