Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility Providing unrestricted funding during COVID-19 - Impact on Urban Health
Spring Community Hub

Research and development

Providing unrestricted funding to community organisations

29 November 2021
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7 min read

As part of our COVID Emergency Fund, we supported organisations that provide services in the local community that impact health.

The pandemic has sharply exposed the link between finances and health inequalities that exist in society, particular in urban areas.

When local and national government responses failed to reach systemically marginalised groups, many residents turned to community organisations for their basic needs. In the boroughs of Lambeth and Southwark, these trusted organisations provided essential support to people struggling financially. But during the height of the pandemic, many of these organisations became overwhelmed by demand. Spring Community Hub (previously Central Southwark Community Hub), who provide food bank services in Southwark, experienced a huge increase in demand for their service. This went up from approximately 200 referrals per month to 1,035.

COVID Emergency Fund

As part of our COVID Emergency Fund, we provided Spring Community Hub with unrestricted funding and grants plus support. This meant they could continue to support people hit hard by COVID indefinitely. The Fund’s goal was to identify local community organisations, like Spring Community Hub, that can be overlooked for funding but provide services that impact health.

We spoke with Spring Community Hub to discuss the services they provide, the motivations behind the work they do and their experience of the funding process.   

 

Tell us a little bit about yourself. 

My name is Felicia Boshorin and I’m the CEO of Spring Community Hub. My first passion is caring for people, and I worked for many years as a Care Manager. Prior to setting up Spring Community Hub, I worked as a Food Bank Manager for Southwark Food Bank. I did this for six years before deciding I’d learned enough of it to do something different. They do a good job, but I felt we weren’t going far enough.  

 

What is unique about Spring Community Hub, and what are the services provided to the local community? 

At Spring Community Hub we also look at the underlying cause. We have the following strands within the team: mental health, homelessness, immigration and employment support. There are a variety of people that come to us. But we tend to see a lot of people with no recourse to public funds. They’re not entitled to benefits until their immigration status has been resolved, which means they have no food. We work with agencies who help them address their immigration status. In the meantime, they can get food [from us].  

We also run a drop-in centre where residents with no recourse to public funds come in once a week and they learn hairdressing, dressmaking, beauty and work on their personal development. Because some of our residents have been in this situation for years – not working and not developing skills – we put on workshops to help them pick up new skills and they make lasting friendships.  

Because some of our residents have been in this situation for years - not working and not developing skills - we put on workshops to help them pick up new skills and they make lasting friendships.  

Felicia Boshorin CEO of Spring Community Hub

We also see a larger number of people experiencing mental ill health. Lots of people are now forced into a particular type of benefit, for example, Universal Credit. But you need to be available to work. When some people experience mental ill health, they’re not ready to work and they cannot continue job searching, so they get sanctionedWhich means no benefit for a period of three months, to a maximum of three years. They come to us, and we work with their support workers to change the benefit they’re on to reflect their condition, which can take a long time. What do they do meanwhile? They can come to us for food. That’s the difference with our service.  

We run a holiday club during the school holidays to provide food and activities to children who would usually receive free school meals. Our holiday clubs provide activities for the children and their families. Our activities stimulate family learning and increase confidence. We offer trips to local Arts and Cultural sites, such as London Zoo. This year they went to Whitstable Beach creating an experience that will last them a lifetime. 

We started a project called ‘Back2Work’ to help our residents to retrain into jobs or new positions. Without trying to resolve these [underlying causes of poverty], people are going to be on a wheel, going round and round. It’s still hard to hear the stories and to know that it’s somebody’s life, but they’re also what inspires me. So now I want to make a difference.

Spring Community Hub

You continued to provide services to residents during the height of the pandemic. What effect did COVID-19 have on your organisation and how did you respond? 

The business was getting busier, and I was finding myself running between shops to restock our warehouse and centres. It was so busy; the volunteers couldn’t cope on their own and it needed all of us to be at hand. I remember thinking “I don’t know if I’m going to cope”. I was really struggling because we were spending every penny we had on food. We’ve never had to spend that much money on food before as we rely on donations – but the donations weren’t coming in. 

I was really struggling because we were spending every penny we had on food. We've never had to spend that much money on food before as we rely on donations - but the donations weren't coming in.

Felicia Boshorin CEO of Spring Community Hub

The food suppliers who have always supported us no longer could because they were supporting lots of other local charities. We didn’t used to have many residents from the Latin American community coming to us. But during the height of the pandemic, we suddenly saw a 61% increase. At one stage we were buying around £3,000 worth of food per month on top of what Southwark Council and Fare Share [a charitable food redistributor] would give us.

 

You have been running the food bank services for a while now. What are some of your experiences of accessing funding? 

Southwark Council really supported us with funding last year and we were able to get staff – and so the centre ran very well. However, this year the funding from Southwark Council has reduced significantly, we’ve relied on other sources of funding, and mainly the funding we received from Impact on Urban Health.

 

How has Impact on Urban Health’s funding helped? 

It was a godsend. Because most of the funding was unrestricted, it allowed us to look at the needs across our organisation.

If it was restricted funding aimed at one function of our service, for example, to help us buy more food, the rest of the business would have struggled due to being under resourced and underfunded during the pandemic. And that obviously has consequences for the quality of the service we can provide and us being able to address systemic, root causes of food poverty. That’s why I think Impact on Urban Health’s unrestricted funding was really clever. It meant we could look at the service we were running holistically, rather than topping up certain business functions and constantly being in a state of crisis. 

Impact on Urban Health’s unrestricted funding was really clever: it meant we could look at the service we were running holistically, rather than topping up certain business functions and constantly being in a state of crisis.

Felicia Boshorin CEO of Spring Community Hub

That’s great to hear. And what plans does Spring Community Hub have for the future? What does the future hold? 

I want a relationship [with Impact on Urban Health] going forward. I think that our work can feed into the outcomes that you’re looking at.  Not having money is one thing but the impact that has on people’s health it’s a lot wider. For example, there are links to mental health and childhood obesity. 

During the height of the pandemic, we had nine organisations working together to support the whole of Southwark. That made a huge difference. We began to connect and are still meeting once every two weeks. We are currently talking about what to do going forward. It’s now clear to all partners, including Southwark Council, that food insecurity has always been a big issue in the borough. We are talking about what we can do to eradicate it. Having such a consortium of organisations does make your voice more powerful. But also I think we kind of support each other, you learn from each other.  

 

Conclusion

Many of these local community organisations are a backbone for residents when they need it most. To safeguard them from risk of closure, there needs to be an equitable funding environment built without barriers to apply or restrictive conditions tied to funds. Using a trust-based approach, we designed the funding – and funding process – to be as accessible and equitable as possible. We provided unrestricted funding to allow community organisations the autonomy to determine their present and future.  

We also offered additional restricted ‘grants plus’ support to provide strategic planning to ensure these organisations survive long-term. Our partners expressed that they greatly valued the opportunity to explain their needs verbally, rather than by filling in an application form. By creating this fund, we learnt that a programmatic approach should not prevent us from being responsive to changing needs. We will continue using unrestricted funding within our programmes, and hope this builds stronger ties with the communities that we serve.