Social workers urged to help clients access £300m of charitable funds

Asking for charity isn’t to everyone’s taste but it may be something vulnerable people will have to get used to if we can no longer rely on statutory funding, writes Anabel Unity Sale

Vulnerable people have been hit hard by the current economic philosophy, namely that every penny of public money spent must be justified and then painstakingly accounted for. First for the chop has been help deemed non-essential for their survival. However, charitable trusts, whose roots lie in relieving the hardships of the very poor in centuries past, could offer this vulnerable people something the statutory sector cannot – if only their existence were better known and the stigma of seeking help could be lifted.

There are 2,220 charitable trusts offering £300m worth of grants in the UK. But funding expert Directory of Social Change (DSC) points out that people in need may shy away from applying because they do not want to accept help from charities. Another factor, says a spokesperson, is that “many individuals in need may have never considered non-statutory funding options”.

Lewis Green, trustee for charity Aid for the Aged in Distress (Aftaid), is familiar with this reluctance to ask for help. Aftaid began in 1982 and operates nationally to assist older people in financial need. Green says that, although the charity’s grants totalled £93,000 in 2008 and £78,000 in 2007, it can be difficult to encourage older people to apply for funding.

Too proud to ask

“One of our problems is getting through to older people who need our help as some are very proud and don’t like to ask for, or accept, help,” Green says. “Some people in their seventies and eighties have the attitude ‘if I don’t have the money I don’t buy it’. They would never borrow it or ask for assistance from a charity.”

Cripplegate Foundation grants officer Chris Hobbs adds: “There are some people who remember what it was like to apply to charities for help in the past. Then the whole process was very judgemental – they were questioned about their needs as if it were something they had done wrong.”

Cripplegate Foundation operates in Islington, north London, to support local people experiencing hardship. It began administering grants in the early 1800s, although its roots date to 1500 when the first documented case of a person leaving money in his will to help others in the parish of Cripplegate was made. The maximum grant the organisation now gives out through its individual grants programme is £500, and last year it provided £50,000. It also funds other local organisations that lend support to individuals.

One way of informing people in need that they can apply for a grant is through outreach work, which is where the DSC’s The Guide to Grants for Individuals in Need will be useful to practitioners.

Spread the word

Hobbs regularly visits local GP surgeries, children’s centres and the community mental health service to meet professionals and spread the word about Cripplegate’s work.

Megan Cruise, helpline and grants manager at children’s cancer charity CLIC Sargent, says practitioners must be aware of how the charitable trusts in their field operate. For example, CLIC Sargent will consider applications for funding from one its four grants programmes only if the application is made by a social worker or a healthcare profession. In 2008, it awarded £900,000 to children, young people and their families through these programmes.

“This money is there for children and their families,” Cruise says. “People should not be afraid to ask for help because we understand the financial impact of having a child with cancer.”

In some cases, co-operation between social care practitioner and charity is vital.

Human needs fund

“Charities need to have greater collaboration with social workers and vice-versa to know what the criteria are for receiving a grant,” says Chris Field, head of fundraising and marketing at Aspire, which helps people with spinal injuries buy equipment. If Aspire cannot provide funding for an individual, it will signpost them to other support services or help them with their own fund-raising for equipment.

The charity gives up to £80,000 a year in grants through its human needs fund, and all applications have to be signed by a consultant or occupational therapist.

The process of filling in grant application forms can be daunting in itself – but support in completing them will speed the process, says Ian Buchan, director of care services at older people’s charity Independent Age.

A qualified social worker with 25 years’ experience in health and social care, Buchan believes informing clients about financial aid and helping them complete the forms are key tasks ideally suited to social care practitioners who often know the client best. But he acknowledges that heavy caseloads leave many social workers strapped for time.

“Some social workers miss the chance to communicate with clients about charitable organisations, and the organisations themselves about grants, because of the nature of how they work nowadays,” Buchan says. “When I was a practising social worker it was much more community based.”

Independent help

One person who has received grants from Independent Age is Hilary Boone, 62. The Lincoln resident was eligible for the charity’s assistance because Independent Age, which began in 1869, works to relieve poverty among older people who have made a sustained contribution to society or their local community. Boone spent most of her career in social care before retiring on medical grounds in 1995 as a result of polio she contracted as a child. She now runs the charity Lincolnshire Post-Polio Association and continues to do voluntary work.

Independent Age began to support Boone in 1997 when it bought her a £1,000 electric scooter to increase her mobility. Boone laughs when she says it was delivered on her 50th birthday and she was embarrassed that her neighbours saw it. “I had gone to Independent Age to be a volunteer and then found out they could help me. It was embarrassing at first because it was horrible that I couldn’t afford the scooter myself.”

In April this year, Independent Age bought Boone an electric leg raise chair for £1,350. An Independent Age volunteer had suggested it and helped her complete the form. It arrived in 10 days.

“Many social workers don’t have disability awareness and they don’t realise how hard it is to say you need something,” Boone says. “If you have a long-term condition, this should be part of your care plan, and it should state where you can apply for funding.”

Successful applications

To ensure a succesful application, you should

● Ring the grants officer at the charity for advice before applying if you are unsure if a client is eligible for a charity’s funding.

● Ensure your client meets a charity’s basic criteria to save time and energy.

● Help a client to complete all of their application form clearly and properly.

● Make sure any financial information is correct.


Tapping into social care charitable funding

There are 65 charities giving grants to people with long-term disabilities and chronic health conditions listed in The Guide to Grants for Individuals in Need. These include:

National Benevolent Institution on 01666 5050 500

Universal Beneficent Society 020 1601 4263

Aid for the Aged in Distress (AFTAID) 0870 803 1950

Full list of the 65 charities giving grants to people with long-term disabilities and chronic health conditions

This article is published in the 9 July 2009 edition of Community Care under the headline “Charitable causes”

● Provide the necessary support documents and signatures for an application.

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