In March 2020, the Health Foundation made a rapid assessment of what we could best do to help in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The impact of the pandemic and the lockdown was felt quickly by people across society, with individuals who already faced greater disadvantage often being disproportionately impacted. The third sector, which plays a role in helping to support people in need, was facing a steep rise in demand at the same time as it was experiencing a reduction in its funding. 

We therefore took a decision to depart from our usual longer-term funding programmes to support voluntary sector organisations providing immediate help to vulnerable groups whose long-term health is at most risk. So far, we have awarded over £2m in funding to charities and community groups supporting people who have been disproportionately impacted by coronavirus.

Below we outline the charitable donations we have made to date and hear from each organisation about the impact of the funding. This page will be updated as we continue to identify and support those most in need.

The Health Foundation has made a donation to the Trussell Trust  to help their network of food banks respond to the impact of COVID-19.

Their Chief Executive, Emma Revie, explains how this money will be used:

'Last year, food banks in the Trussell Trust’s network provided 1.6m emergency food parcels to people in crisis. More than half a million of these went to children. As the COVID-19 outbreak develops, many more people are in need of a food bank’s help. There have been over a million new applications for universal credit in the last few weeks alone. 

'Wherever possible, food banks are continuing to provide emergency support to people in their community in the safest way possible. Our teams are working tirelessly to ensure that food banks are able to remain open and have the necessary stocks to respond to this crisis. Food banks have had to make significant changes to the way they work in order to protect the health of everyone at the food bank – whether that’s people who need the food bank, people volunteering, or people donating.

'We are working to support food banks in any way needed during this time of uncertainty and challenge, helping get emergency food to people who can’t afford it in the safest way possible. Our team are providing daily guidance to help food banks transform the way they work in order to continue providing emergency food safely. We’re also helping them to recruit new volunteers and develop safe ways to deliver food bank parcels to people’s homes.

'Throughout the pandemic, our network is also being given constant access to support through a frontline field team and food bank helpline.

'Everyone should be able to afford their own food and we’ll be continuing our work to end the need for food banks, but right now more people than ever are likely to need a food bank’s help.'

A donation to the Care Workers’ Charity Coronavirus Emergency Fund was made by the Health Foundation to support those working at the front line of the coronavirus crisis.

Karolina Gerlich, Executive Director of the organisation, explained why donations like these are so vital and have enabled them to act fast to support the sector:

'There are almost two million care workers in the UK, contributing to one of the largest workforces. They spend their careers assisting others, but when circumstances change, sometimes it is the care workers who need help.

'We've had a 1000% increase in applications for financial support for care workers, and in two weeks awarded 371 grants to the same value as we did in the whole of last year. Care workers are really struggling, going hungry and unable to pay their bills.

'COVID-19 is one of the biggest crises our generation will see in its lifetime. Care workers are at the front line of this, caring for the most vulnerable people in our society who are most susceptible to the disease. If a care worker needs to self-isolate, they will fall into desperate need. We’re anticipating an even larger number of applications for support over the coming weeks so it’s vital we can provide financial support in the form of crisis grants for care workers. This is not going to be an easy journey, but together we can make it.'

The National Emergencies Trust is coordinating a national appeal and distributing funds to groups across the UK. We made a substantial contribution to its coronavirus appeal, with a significant amount ringfenced for black and minority ethnic-led charities supporting black and minority ethnic communities.

Lord Richard Dannatt, Chairman of the National Emergencies Trust, said, 'by distributing funds as swiftly as possible to thousands of grassroots charities and groups, our aim is to curb the impact of the crisis on communities as much as possible. In recent months, we’ve seen the nature of that impact change dramatically. In the early weeks of the appeal nearly half of grants were for food banks and food delivery services as people struggled to get access to essential items. Today, we can see the mental health implications of the pandemic really coming to the fore in grant applications for wellbeing services, such as bereavement counselling and mental health support. As the Government schemes that have proved a lifeline for so many now draw to a close, the needs in communities will evolve once again. Support from the Health Foundation means we can continue to respond to urgent needs on the ground, whatever shape those needs take.'

'Hospice of the Valleys has continued to both deliver our usual services and respond to increased demand throughout the COVID-19 outbreak. This has coincided with a dramatic fall in income as our shops closed and fundraising events were cancelled, so support from the Health Foundation has been essential in helping us to continue to be there for the local population at a time when they need us most,' said Grant Usmar, CEO of Hospice of the Valleys in Ebbw Vale, Wales.

Chris Morton of Ardgowan Hospice in Greenock, Scotland, told us, 'COVID-19 necessitated the cancellation of several hospice fundraising events, which were expected to bring in over £100,000. The gift from the Health Foundation will replace some of this lost income, helping us to continue to provide care.'

Debbie Briden, Grants & Trusts Manager at Birmingham St Mary’s Hospice said, 'throughout the pandemic we have been providing round-the-clock care on our inpatient unit and offering vital support in people’s homes. We’ve also been working in partnership with GPs, district nurses and the NHS to ensure more people can get the right care as quickly as possible. Despite the increase in demand for our services, however, our ability to raise funds has taken a huge hit. So the Health Foundation’s contribution comes at a really critical time.'

Alun Owen, Corporate Director of Willowbrook Hospice in Merseyside, said, 'this is a challenging time. Owing to the impact of COVID-19 and needing to close our shops, we lost substantial income. We then closed our inpatient unit to visitors in March so enabling patients to keep in touch with their families has been of key importance. We are upgrading our IT and communications equipment and bought iPads so inpatients can have video calls with their families.'

We have made a donation directly to The Big Issue, which, for nearly 30 years, has offered people who are homeless or in unstable housing the opportunity to sell its magazine in their local area. The model creates an income, links people to support and services, and encourages connection with the local community.

Lara McCullagh, Executive Director at The Big Issue Group, said: 'for The Big Issue and its sellers, lockdown posed an immediate threat to our survival. Unable to sell the magazine on the streets, our vulnerable sellers struggled to meet their most basic needs, and for the organisation – which relies on trading income – its future was in jeopardy. But we responded quickly, and with the support of the public, businesses and organisations like the Health Foundation, we were able to provide our sellers with vital financial and emotional support during those 15 weeks.

'As street selling became an option once again, the focus shifted to ensuring sellers could earn a living in a safe and effective way which was in keeping with changes in public behaviour. With that in mind we have provided all new and returning sellers with PPE, and accelerated our move to cashless payment, to minimise risks and ensure our sellers reap the benefits of digital and financial inclusion.

'There is still much to be done, particularly as the number of people in poverty continues to increase, but The Big Issue remains committed to providing a hand up to anyone who needs it.'

Beat Eating Disorders is a UK charity with a mission to end the pain and suffering caused by eating disorders.

Beat’s Chief Executive, Andrew Radford, said: 

'The Health Foundation’s grant could not have come at a better time for Beat and our beneficiaries, as we face the most challenging period we have ever been through. This donation will be used to help meet the 35% increase in people contacting our helpline and digital support services since the current crisis began. It will enable us to: add helpline capacity to meet the rising demand; start new online support groups; make referrals for/with callers to eating disorder services, notably where referrals from GPs have dried up; and develop increased support for people unable to access treatment or facing long waits, helping to keep them on track for recovery.'

The Lloyd’s Bank Foundation supports a diverse range of small and medium charities in England and Wales that help people overcome complex social issues.

Harriet Stranks, Director of Grants said: 'In May this year we wrote to our existing grant holders offering additional grants between £5,000-£15,000 to cover any costs for adapting or developing services to respond to the COVID-19 crisis. We could help around 200 of our charities with this fund, but we received strong applications from twice as many charities as we’d anticipated.

'The donation from the Health Foundation has meant that we’ve been able to award funding to 90% of those that applied. These are small but vital charities that have seen a huge demand for their services from people affected by the pandemic. These small grants will go towards adaptations for physical space and PPE, equipment, and additional staff hours and fundraising costs so that our grant holders can keep supporting people facing complex social issues.'

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