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“Some will benefit, but some will lose out”

Recovery from the pandemic is beginning, but it’s not straightforward and is particularly unequal in London.

By data analyst Christabel Cooper, Labour councillor and Hammersmith United Charities trustee.

The success of the UK’s vaccination program has meant that after 18 long months we finally can start thinking about a return to a (relatively) normal life after the Covid pandemic. Despite the deep recession caused by the restrictions needed to contain the virus, most economists are predicting a fairly rapid return to pre-pandemic levels of activity.

Yet Covid has financially impacted different people in very different ways, and the recovery is also likely to be uneven. Millions have seen their income fall. That might be because they accessed the furlough scheme, which only paid part of their wages, or because they have lost their jobs altogether.

Despite this, the pandemic has increased the wealth of many who carried on working. That’s particularly true for higher earners, who tend to spend more of their money on non-essential services such as eating out, entertainment and holidays. Opportunities for these activities have been limited over the last 18 months, saving households across the UK £150m, the Bank of England estimates.

In London, the impact has been very unequal. Around 50% of residents have been able to work from home during the pandemic, and a significant amount of wages will have been translated into savings. This makes post-pandemic economic recovery much easier as residents with accumulated wealth start to spend (at least some of) that surplus with local businesses.

But according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies the city also lost the biggest number of jobs of any UK region last year, unsurprising given the capital’s disproportionate dependence on hospitality, entertainment and tourism – all sectors decimated by Covid. By November 2020 London had both the highest percentage of claimants for unemployment-related benefits, and the highest percentage of workers furloughed anywhere in the country. London’s unemployment rate has now fallen back as restrictions have eased, but remains above the UK average.

Nevertheless businesses and residents are generally optimistic about the future. According to the most recent London Intelligence survey from the Centre for London think tank, 50% of the capital’s residents thought their personal finances would improve over the next 12 months, versus 19% who thought they would get worse.

But even a strong economic recovery may be unable to help those who are already in an unsustainable amount of debt. 48% of Londoners said they wouldn’t be able to meet an unexpected expense of £500 from their own money, up from 44% in September 2020. 21% would have no way of meeting an unexpected expense of £500 even if they borrowed money. Private tenants in particular will face problems. The eviction ban has now ended, and the government still plans to withdraw the £20 a week uplift to Universal Credit which will hit the poorest.

Meanwhile Covid cases are still high. Around 30,000 people are day are testing positive for the virus and (at the moment) this shows no sign of dropping significantly. This has had the knock-on effect of requiring millions of people to self-isolate because they had come into contact with an infected person.

Changes to the requirements to self-isolate following contact with a Covid case may ease this ‘pingdemic’. But this comes on top of a continuing reluctance to return to previous behaviour patterns. The London Intelligence survey reveals that although residents feel increasingly comfortable about going out in Central London, over a third remain hesitant including 45% of those aged above 65. For some businesses a combination of self-isolation requirements and persisting public reluctance to resume normal activities means that they may run short of both staff and customers. That’s just as the Chancellor of the Exchequer starts to withdraw financial support in the autumn. London is set to face a difficult few months.

In the longer term, the pandemic will have an impact on the way we work and the way we shop. Undoubtedly workers will eventually return to offices, but almost certainly not in the same numbers as before. As a borough which contains both large numbers of both offices and residential areas, the impact of these changes on Hammersmith and Fulham is uncertain. Local businesses which depend on providing office workers with food, drink and other services may be badly affected. The pandemic has accelerated the decline of bricks and mortar shops in favour of online retail, and many of our retail businesses will remain vulnerable. Yet, at the same time, greater numbers working from home mean that some of our residents will end up spending more time in the borough rather than travelling into an office in Central London.

It is important that the overall economic figures do not mask the fact that while some people and businesses will benefit from the changes brought by the pandemic, others will lose out. The structure of London’s economy and population is likely to go through some painful re-adjustment, and within our borough there are still large numbers of residents who have been hit hard by the pandemic and may struggle to recover in the short term.

As a grant-making organisation, Hammersmith United Charities will continue to support local people in need as we recover together from the pandemic.

More information:

About Christabel Cooper
Christabel is a Trustee for Hammersmith United Charities, and a member of the Finance Committee. She’s also a local councillor in the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham, representing Fulham Reach ward. She’s an Assistant to Cabinet with responsibility for running a project to improve and to publicise the role of analytics within the council. Follow her on Twitter @ChristabelCoops.

About Hammersmith United Charities’ grant-making
We invest in the future of our community through our grants programme. We give grants to local organisations supporting people who live in our area of benefit. Find out more about our grants programme here

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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We’re looking for a new Grants and Communication Officer

We have a terrific opportunity for someone at the early stages of, or looking to begin, their career in grant making. Find out more about our Grants and Communication Officer role here.

Location Based at Sycamore House (W6 0AS) with frequent visits to other HUC locations and grant holders (all in Hammersmith)
Salary: £28k – £34.5k (pro rata) depending on experience
Contract: 22.5 hours per week (3 days), Permanent
Reporting to: Head of Grants and Community
Benefits: 28 days annual leave plus bank holidays (pro-rata), Up to 8% employer contribution to pension, Health cash plan on completion of probation

The opportunity

This is a terrific opportunity for someone at the early stages of, or looking to begin, their career in grant making.

Key activities involve supporting the management of the grants programme, contributing to raising the profile of the organisation and the impact of our grant holders, and
maintaining the grants database.

Hammersmith United Charities is part of our community, and it is important that the Grants and Community team are in touch with what is happening in Hammersmith and the rest of our small team. This involves frequent visits to grant holders, partners or networking meetings as well as hands on involvement with the life of the Almshouses.

About you

We are seeking an individual who is passionate about community, loves working with people, is flexible and thrives in a changing environment, genuinely enjoys administration and takes pride in excellent attention to detail.

We particularly welcome applications from people with a strong connection to Hammersmith and Fulham.

Purpose of the role

To provide support to all aspects of the Charity’s grants and community work including:

  • Grants administration
  • Database, website and social media management
  • Supporting prospective and current grant holders
  • Helping promote the work of the Charity and that of our grant holders

Download the detailed Job Description here

Application process

We are committed to our team reflecting the diversity of the communities we work with and welcome applications from people of all ages, sexual orientations, genders,
ethnicities, nationalities, religions and beliefs.

If you are excited by the role but aren’t sure if you have the right experience then we’d still love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact Paul, our Head of Grants and Community, for an informal chat by emailing paul.robson@hamunitedcharities.com to arrange a call.

To apply, please send us written answers to the following questions using a maximum of 600 words in total OR answer the questions in a video of up to 5 minutes.

  1. Tell us why you want this job and why you want to work for Hammersmith United Charities
  2. Tell us about your skills and experience and how they are a good fit for the role

Please email your written answers or video to officeadmin@hamunitedcharities.com no later than midday on Tuesday 21 November 2023, shortlisting will take place that week.

First round interviews will be held online on 29th or 30th November

Second round interviews will be in person at Sycamore House, W6 0AS on Wednesday 6th or Thursday7 th December. A presentation may be required at final interview.

These dates may be subject to change and applicants will be advised in advance should this happen.

To be appointed to this role you must be eligible to work in the UK, undertake an enhanced DBS check and provide satisfactory references. We will follow up on this later in the process.

By submitting your application, you are consenting to the processing and storage of your personal data in order that you can progress through our recruitment and management process. We will never sell your data however we are obliged by law to inform you that should we be required to we may share your data with external agencies. This may include but is not limited to CareCheck (a service for managing and processing Disclosure & Barring Service clearance applications) and our HR Advisors. We will also contact those individuals you name as your referees to confirm your suitability for the role you are applying for. Your data will only be used for your role and to comply with our statutory and legal obligations. If your application is unsuccessful, we will retain your information for 6 months; after this date it will be safely destroyed. If your application is successful, we will retain your information for the duration of your commitment and up to 6 years after you cease employment.

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In pictures: out and about

Our team took part in the Wormholt & White City Community Festival in September, which celebrated our vibrant community.

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5 minutes with…Our community gardeners

Meet our community gardeners, India and Lucy, who nurture the award-winning green spaces at our almshouses.

What do you both do and why do you enjoy it?

We are the community gardeners for Hammersmith United Charities’ two sheltered housing schemes (almshouses), John Betts House and Sycamore House.

The gardens are an unexpected highlight at both almshouses. Visitor, residents and staff alike often comment on the beautiful surprise of the gardens as they discover them for the first time.

We manage, maintain and improve the gardens while also providing activities and workshops for residents. A big part of our role is to encourage the residents to use the gardens, and advise and support them with their own plots and pots displays.

At both the almshouses, we love the diversity of personalities, activities and events – and how each day is different from the last. The kindness of the residents to the staff and each other is a daily joy.

How would you describe the gardens?

The gardens provide a space for all residents to enjoy in a variety of ways. Groups of residents meet in the gardens for a chat and a cup of tea, others sit alone and immerse themselves in the sounds and sights of nature, or simply read a paper or have a chat on the phone.  Some residents get their daily exercise by doing laps of the gardens, while many residents have their own small plots and pots, getting involved in the practical nature of gardening, planting, watering and weeding.

Currently residents are preparing for spring by planting bulbs in pots and looking forward to the next growing season following the dark and quiet winter months.

How do the residents help you with the gardens?

We work closely with the residents and many of them assist us in maintaining the gardens by watering and weeding, sweeping paths, leaf clearance and dead heading the beautiful roses.  We appreciate all the work the residents do and could not maintain these award-winning gardens without them.

What are some important gardening jobs you’ll be doing as we head into the autumn and winter?

Seasonal jobs include leaf clearance and ensuring all pathways are safe, bulb planting and compost turning. We manage all our green waste so that it returns to the gardens for the health of the plants and trees. We are currently preparing areas in both gardens to create wildflower meadows for next summer.

What is your favourite local green space to visit and why?

India has recently introduced Lucy to W6 Garden Centre on the edge of Ravenscourt Park.  It is a beautiful oasis of indoor and outdoor plants, garden supplies and has a gorgeous cafe. Many of our residents enjoy it too!

Find out more 


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Almshouse living may boost life expectancy by up to 2.5 years

New research from Bayes Business School has found that many almshouse residents receive a “longevity boost”.

On average, the lower a person’s socioeconomic status, the lower their life expectancy. But new research from Bayes Business School has found that many almshouse residents receive a “longevity boost” compared to their peers of the same socioeconomic status from the wider population.

The new research is based on analysis of many decades of records from 15 English almshouses. The life expectancy of almshouse residents was compared to people of similar gender and socio-economic background from the general population and was generally found to be longer. Giving an example, the authors estimate that a 73-year-old man entering the almshouse with the highest longevity boost in the study today could live 2.4 years longer than his peers from the same socioeconomic group.

Almshouses, which have traditionally provided affordable community housing for older people, are usually designed around a communal courtyard or gardens. Residents live independently and there are plenty of opportunities for social connection and support when needed.

Professor Ben Rickayzen, report co-author and professor of actuarial science at Bayes Business School, said: “More research is needed to ascertain exactly what factors cause almshouse residents to have a longer life. However, we postulate that it is the sense of the community that is the most powerful ingredient.

“For example, a common theme… is that [almshouses] encourage residents to undertake social activities and responsibilities on behalf of their fellow residents. This is likely to increase their sense of belonging and give them a greater sense of purpose in their everyday lives while mitigating against social isolation.”

Hammersmith United Charities Chief Executive, Victoria Hill, said: “It’s great to hear some evidence for what we’ve always felt to be true. Community means different things to different people, but usually it’s more than just the opportunity to socialise and be active. It’s often things like feeling safe and welcome among your neighbours, knowing there’s always someone nearby to help or being able to help others. It doesn’t surprise me that this feeling of belonging in your community may help you live longer and, we hope, happier lives.”

Find out more 
  • The full report: ‘Almshouse Longevity Study: Can Living in an Almshouse Lead to a Longer Life?’
  • Bayes Business School news release with a summary of key findings
  • Find out more about Hammersmith United Charities’s almshouses
  • Find out more about almshouses and their history

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