Acts 435 Giving to anyone who has need

As a charity we have been inspired by the willingness and generosity of our donors, and also our Advocates at this critical time. Our Executive Director, Jenny, has recently been speaking about this with Stewardship, who facilitated donors to give during the current pandemic: https://www.stewardship.org.uk/blog/blog/post/662-how-40acts-helped-two-charities-through-coronavirus.

Cleckheaton Methodist Church, with their Advocate Alan, have been an Acts 435 partner since 2014. The church's reaction to the current Covid-19 crisis has been to help as many people as possible, wherever possible.

You may remember Alan's story, which we wrote about last year, and how he became an Acts 435 Advocate. It was a journey to find how best to serve his community. You can read his story here: https://acts435.org.uk/blog/advocate-spotlight-alan-littlewood-cleckheaton-methodist-church.html.

Alan, and his church, have taken the current crisis head-on, and are taking any opportunity to help individuals through external referral agencies, such as local housing associations, the council and through their local Citizens Advice Bureau. Also, Alan described that his church is part of a local coalition; 'the churches have set up emergency food distribution in Cleckheaton and in Liversedge so they pass people on to us who need extra help.'

While he is doing all he can he is still adhering to the government guidelines around the pandemic, mostly speaking to applicants over the phone to gather information. The applicants are already known to the external organisations, which means that Alan is aware of their genuine need from the referral agencies. Then where requests are for goods, they have someone locally who supplies the appliance and bills them directly.

Alan continues;

"For requests for food and utility bills, we would normally provide supermarket vouchers and go with them to get gas and electric cards topped up. Again, at the moment, we are usually paying these out by bank transfer and asking them to keep their receipts. Rather than paying these all in one lump sum we usually spread it out into 2 or sometimes 3 smaller payments, depending on their circumstances and how long they expect to be without money. If they are in urgent need we may advance some of it to get them out of immediate difficulties."

But, if someone is referred to Alan who is not known by a referral source he will still aim to seek help for them through the local crisis provision, and will never turn anyone away who appears in desperate need of immediate help, such as food: 'One thing I have learnt while I’ve been doing this is that even if someone is not completely honest with us, they can still be in desperate need, and we can’t just walk away.'

Alan spoke to us about two specific individuals that they have helped during this time;

Our most common requests at the moment are from those waiting for benefits payments and struggling to cover food and fuel costs. A typical example would be Kevin who contacted us earlier this week in a very anxious state. He was referred to us by the local mental health services who are currently supporting him for anxiety and depression. He was working, but was laid off at the start of the current crisis. He applied for Universal Credit but faces the usual 4 to 6 weeks wait. When he contacted us, he had another three weeks to go before he was due to receive his benefits and he had used up the little money he had. We are in the process of submitting an Acts 435 request for him and we were able to offer a small sum from our Community Fund to get him out of his immediate difficulty so he could buy food and credit on his electric. The current situation has put a lot of extra pressure on those, like Kevin, who are struggling with their mental health. The relief when we said we could help him was obvious, and very emotional.

Another emotional response - floods of tears in fact - came from a grandma who was struggling to care for and feed her grandchildren. Cath was already finding it hard to make ends meet, but then her daughter was sent to prison, and she found herself having to look after her 3 grandchildren. In the current lockdown they are home the whole time, so the affect on the household budget has been crippling and she couldn't manage on the money she was getting. With no other family to call on for support, she felt very much on her own as she struggled to get extra financial help for the children. It has taken the full quota of 3 Acts 435 requests to keep her going over the last few weeks. However, thankfully, extra help is now in place and when I spoke to her earlier this week she was feeling much more positive and expecting a payment in the next few days. She couldn't be more grateful for the help she has received from Acts 435 and doesn't know how she would have got through the last few weeks without it.

Alan's generous heart for people like Kevin and Cath, who are in most desperate need at this time is echoed through all of our partner churches, and their local communities during this current pandemic. He is grateful to be able to have the ability to help people through community response, and through donations from Acts 435 donors.

'At a time when the need is perhaps at its greatest, it’s good to see how generous people are being, in so many ways, and to be involved in spreading that generosity to where it’s most needed.'

Alan, Cleckheaton Advocate, and team when we visited last year