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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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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.

Find out more

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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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