Discretionary Fund 2023: Reflections

What is it and why we did it

The Smallwood Trust has been providing grants to women in financial hardship for over 135 years. In this time, we have built a strong reputation of being an approachable and empathetic funder who provides flexibility and strives to support women most impacted by gendered poverty.

Over recent years the way we have provided hardship grants to individual women has shifted entirely to our award-winning Community Grant Partnership Programme which is made up of 30 organisations across the UK who award individual grants on our behalf as part of their frontline services. This model, which we have run for 6 years, continues to be successful. However, due to the financial pressures of the cost-of-living crisis and with a high demand across the charity sector, women continued to approach us as there was little to no other help available. With this in mind, Smallwood approved a small discretionary fund to support women in exceptional circumstances. This ran from July-December 2023. 

Aims and impacts

The discretionary fund’s main aims were to preserve Smallwood’s history of providing immediate support during the cost-of-living crisis alongside our ongoing Community Grant Partnership Programme. The Fund met the core values of our grant-making:

  • Grants that support financial stability and relief of hardship/poverty
  •  Grants that support employment pathways
  • Grants that support housing needs
  • Grants that support mental health and wellbeing

The discretionary fund met the immediate needs of women who are disproportionately affected by economic poverty. The groups of women approaching the Trust for discretionary support mirrored our current priority groups across all Smallwood programmes such as the Women’s Urgent Support Fund and place-based women’s networks. This includes women who are lone parents, disabled women, women with no recourse to public funds (NRPF), victims-survivors of domestic violence and Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic women. 

The fund awarded just under £35,000 in individual grants from July-December 2023. These grants supported 40 women to overcome barriers such as resettling after escaping domestic violence and abuse, refugee resettlement after fleeing war, funding educational courses, preventing eviction, providing warm clothes, food, energy and disability aids and supporting women with NRPF. 

Eleanor’s story

*Eleanor is a Ukrainian refugee who fled the war in her country with her 2 children. She was living with a British family and had just been offered her own accommodation and needed support to start again. This is when she approached Smallwood and was offered a grant from our discretionary fund. 

The following message from Eleanor displays the initial impact upon receiving the grant:

‘I want to say thank you for your help and support! This is big money for us and now we can afford to buy a sofa and some white goods for our home. 

Moving in our house it’s a big step for me and my daughter and I’m so pleased that you helped us to make it easier! Thank you very much!’

*name has been changed to protect identity

Where to go if you need help

Please note that the discretionary fund has now ended, but there is support available. If you are experiencing financial insecurity you can visit the following places:

If you’re interested in learning about all of Smallwood’s programmes and how they support women experiencing financial hardship, you can learn more on our website.

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