Like millions of children, Summer and Paige spent much of the last 12 months learning at home as schools across the country closed their doors in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
Our Visiting Volunteer programme (VV), launched in 2016, helps make the application process as easy as possible for vulnerable and disadvantaged Freemasons and their families. Since then, hundreds of VVs across England and Wales have passed their training and carried out thousands of home visits to help people complete their applications for MCF support.
Although home visits were paused during the first few months of COVID-19 in order to protect VVs and the people they support, we were keen to find a way to re-involve our volunteers. We worked hard to adapt the application process and establish the training required to prepare VVs for their new role as ‘virtual’ Visiting Volunteers. This was facilitated by a new online training hub, which has allowed the VVs to access all of the information they need from the safety of their own home.
We continued to accept new enquiries and applications for support to cover daily living costs, and our use of ‘emergency grants’ was expanded to meet the short-term needs of beneficiaries arising as a result of the pandemic.
Smaller emergency grants of up to £250 were established to cover any immediate needs of an individual or family whose income changed due to COVID-19. These emergency grants were intended for food or other essential goods necessary to everyday life, and were awarded without the need to wait for a full application for support.
Discretionary support for up to £3,000 was also available for emergencies arising from the pandemic, such as if an individual or family were at risk of arrears on household bills, or received threats of eviction.
Additional support was provided to all households that had school-age children at home, and were home schooling or socialising during the first lockdown.
IT equipment such as laptops, tablets and printers, as well as specialist educational software or apps required for children’s wellbeing and education were offered to all children. We also provided a contribution towards the cost of school clothing for all primary and secondary school pupils, at the request of parents or guardians.