Charity Awards 2024


Getting small, urgent grants out to survivors of domestic abuse

There is little financial support for survivors of domestic abuse. Existing funds are often inflexible and onerous, with frontline services unable to effectively support survivors and their families. Following the Covid pandemic, ongoing cost-of-living crisis and years of austerity, victims and survivors face increasing financial pressures.

SafeLives Circle FundIn the summer of 2020, NatWest donated £1m to help victims of domestic and economic abuse, asking SafeLives to design a three-year fund with direct impact. A steering committee was formed from SafeLives team members, NatWest staff, survivors of domestic abuse, frontline services, and representatives from specialist charities to help design an appropriate and responsive programme.

Inspired by a scheme run by the National Australia Bank, SafeLives created the Circle Fund to allow frontline services across the UK, particularly specialist services in marginalised communities, to give survivors what they need, when they need it.

Annual grants of up to £2,500 are issued directly to services for onward distribution. The services are trusted to use flexible grants of up to £500 to support survivors in ways they see fit – covering everything from transportation costs to essential products and food items. The grants can be released to clients within 24-48 hours by bank transfer, cash, vouchers, prepaid cards, or by purchasing goods and services directly for the client.

Through the Circle Fund, 137 frontline services have supported over 4,000 survivors of domestic abuse, reaching some of the most marginalised groups including LGBT+, D/deaf, and Black and minoritised ethnic communities.

The success of the Circle Fund has helped SafeLives securing a further £1m from Natwest to fund the programme for another three years. Other funds are now replicating the model, recognising the impact that small sums can have on survivors’ ability to reach safety and rebuild their and their family’s lives.

Charity Awards judge Judge Nicola Toyer, head of charities at Investec, said: “I like the fact that it’s unrestricted, and that it’s getting money to people who need it quickly – which is unusual, sometimes, in the grantmaking sector.”

Judge Sharika Sharma, head of business development at CCLA, said that while providing cash at a precarious time in someone’s life might not appear groundbreaking, “it can make the difference between someone breaking away from abuse or not”.

Shane Ryan, senior adviser to the National Lottery Community Fund, added that it is clear to see the link between what the charity is doing, and the immediate impact it is having on people’s lives. “One of the hardest things to do in grantmaking, especially in large organisations, is to get money out to individuals. So it’s a great thing they are doing and should be commended.”

CC Reg no. 1106864

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