Be Kind fund
Claire Higgins, Chief Executive, Cross Keys Homes
When the nation was plunged into lockdown for the first time in March 2020, at Cross Keys Homes (CKH) our thoughts quickly turned to the impact on our communities. As residents of social housing, we knew our customers could be disproportionately affected by the social and economic challenges life under lockdown would bring.
Home schooling, the risk of furlough, support for shielding relatives, all brought additional pressures on already limited household budgets and our customers rarely have the safety net of savings to cushion the blow of sudden changes in circumstance. We also provide homes to many who live in isolation, without the support of friends and family.
That’s why we ring-fenced £1.2million to offer practical support to help families and individuals navigate the challenging months ahead. The Be Kind fund was created to give all residents living in our homes somewhere to turn when things got tough. We didn’t publish a set of parameters of what we were willing to offer (our only definite rule is that the fund cannot be used to clear rent arrears), instead we created a channel for people to tell us what we can do to help based on what they need today.
Since April, we’ve received more than 2,000 online requests for support and the vast majority of people ask for simple, everyday items. They are things we can take for granted but when living through a pandemic play an important part in protecting yourself and your family. For instance, white goods allow us to reduce contact with others, through fewer trips to the supermarket or not having to do laundry at a neighbour’s home. Plus, being able to safely store food helps people save money, as does having the right tools in the kitchen to cook meals from scratch which can make a huge difference when you’re living off 80% of your regular salary.
One of the resounding messages we have received loud and clear is that while many of our customers have internet access and are happy to engage with us online, they didn’t necessarily have the right equipment to support long days of home study. Education is the most important tool we can give to the next generation, so it was essential that no young person was left behind simply because they couldn’t access the resources their schools were providing. Working with local schools, we launched a campaign to get laptops and tablets out to more than 300 homes in Peterborough.
In addition to the requests for white goods and furniture, we’ve also delivered more than 500 food parcels to our customers and to date have spent in excess of £655k getting people the support they need. From fridges to baby clothes, no matter what scale of support they’ve received the feedback from customers has been overwhelming, they feel able to get on with daily life with one less thing to worry about. In the midst of such uncertainty this is one of the most valuable things we can offer them.
We’ve continued our fantastic work with local partners to make sure that residents have access to mental health support, can increase their employability and continue to feel connected to their communities. But sometimes people just need a helping hand to get over one bad piece of luck and that’s what the Be Kind fund exists to provide. We’re helping our residents get through the challenges of today, and having seen the impact this support can make, we intend to continue with our commitment to Be Kind as we work to build a shared future after this crisis has passed.