‘SECRET’ CHARITY APPEALS FOR DONATIONS TO HELP ALLEVIATE AUSTERITY-INDUCED POVERTY IN THE UK
PEWSEY, WILTSHIRE: 05 February 2014
Keywords/categories: Human interest, community spirit, poverty, charity, welfare reforms, bedroom tax, Austerity Britain
- The ‘other Anonymous’ – a ‘secret’ charity making small but often life-changing donations to people in the UK left cold, hungry and homeless by changes to the welfare system and low pay has come out of the shadows to appeal for donations from the public, to help the charity continue its vital work.
- A story of ordinary people moved by the plight of others, banding together to ease the pain of poverty in the UK.
- A good news human interest story, with a plea for help to enable a tiny charity ease the financial burden of some of Britain’s neediest families and individuals.
The rise of The Biscuit Fund (“TBF” – whose strapline is “offering a crumb of hope”) is the heartwarming story of what happens when people with very little money of their own are so moved by tales of others’ struggles to afford even the most basic of life’s necessities, they put aside what little they can spare and give it to the needy to help with heating bills, food bills and keeping bailiffs from the door.
But this tiny band of Facebook friends, who registered their charity in October 2013 in order to make official what they had until that time been doing informally, can only do so much without a steady flow of donations. And with no marketing budget (see notes to editors), the issue of external fundraising is a challenge that is being met by TBF’s members enthusiastically and with good humour.
TBF’s roots lie in another group, formed in January 2013. Members chipped in whatever they could afford, whenever they could afford it, to help out in even the smallest ways whenever they became aware of someone hit hard by poverty in the UK. One case might involve putting £20 on a client’s pay-as-you go electricity card to prevent them freezing in the cold winter months. Another might be a £100 shopping delivery to help nourish a pregnant woman being sanctioned by the Department of Work and Pensions. In some cases, the clients were victims of crime – like two elderly ladies mugged of their pension money on the way home from the Post Office. By the summer, the group had helped some 48 people – individuals, couples and families – to overcome the hurdles that were being placed in their paths by poverty.
The Biscuit Fund was officially formed in May 2013 and is now a registered charity with own website (www.biscuitfund.org).
Of necessity, the charity’s work is very secretive and its members anonymous outside the group. The charity does not accept applications for help, from either individuals or agencies. Instead, members keep an eye out on Facebook and in the media for extreme hardship stories and share such tales with the rest of the group.
Where possible, in the first instance TBF refers clients to contacts with vast experience in navigating the welfare minefield; this enables clients to feel they have a little more control over what’s happening to their lives and their finances, and sometimes this is enough to close a case. But in cases where there is an immediate need for financial help – such as benefits being sanctioned, children going hungry, homes being unbearably cold – TBF members vote on whether to make an offer of financial help, and if so, how much money to offer. Clients are then approached, privately; the offer is made and, once accepted, money is transferred to the client or a shopping delivery is organised. In some, more extreme cases, clients’ bills have been paid direct by the charity.
Until today, TBF’s fundraising activities have been strictly internal; its 40-odd members – who come from a variety of backgrounds and are in some cases recipients of state benefits themselves – donate what they can when they can, to keep the kitty relatively healthy. But with more horrific stories of extreme poverty unfolding every minute of every day in Britain, the charity has taken the decision that it’s time to start fundraising outside the group.
The first external fundraising activity is a charity single, “Home To You”, by musician and political writer Katy Anchant. Katy, who was a founding member of a small Facebook group who would later reform as TBF, and is now a trustee of TBF, said: “I’m really pleased to be able to offer this kind of support to my friends who resurrected the idea and have taken it to such successful heights.” The song can be downloaded at http://biscuitfund.org/index.php?id=supporters in either standard MP3 or high quality MP3. The download is free, but includes a plea for donations for those that would like to contribute to the fund.
“We have to be satisfied that we’re doing as much as we reasonably can,” said a TBF spokesman of the decision to go public. “We know that until something is done to end poverty in Britain, all we can ever be is a sticking plaster on a gaping wound.”
While the secrecy surrounding the group will always be vital – “to protect ourselves from those who see charities as sources of free cash when it’s not actually needed, we stay hidden in the shadows,” the spokesman says – the fact remains that there are people in the UK suffering badly from the effects of poverty. Where benefits cuts and low wages are devastating the lives of these people, The Biscuit Fund aims to step up to the plate and help alleviate the pain.
As The Biscuit Fund’s spokesman points out: “One of our ongoing regrets is that for every person we help, we know that thousands are swept away from us by the current of misery that is still being generated by benefits cuts, zero-hours contracts and the rising cost of living.”
If that current is to be held back by this tiny but caring group of ordinary people, even the smallest donation can make a difference. “If you can spare as little as a pound you could help make the difference between a child having a meal and going to school hungry,” the charity says.