There for You, UNISON’s welfare charity, provides confidential advice and support for UNISON members and their dependents experiencing financial and personal difficulties.
Knowing that the pandemic would drastically hit members with a loss of income, debt and bereavement, in 2020, There For You set up the UNISON COVID-19 Response Fund as an additional source of help for those directly affected by the pandemic.
The figures are in now, and There For You is proud to report that over the past year, 4,620 grants were awarded to UNISON members to help get their lives back on track. That’s more than 12 grants every single day of the year.
The reasons for them are varied: bereavement, sickness, sudden loss of income, relationship breakdown, caring for someone with special needs or an illness, or just an urgent repair cost that comes at the same time a child grows out of all their clothes.
Anyone can find themselves suddenly facing unexpected bills, but UNISON is determined to make sure that members don’t need to shoulder the burden alone.
The There For You 2020 impact report details the stories of UNISON members who have been helped by the grants. One of these includes Kay*, whose husband John suddenly died, aged only 44. Kay had to reduce her working hours to look after their son, and had multiple debts. There For You awarded Kay with a grant of £1,500 towards John’s funeral costs.
Alex* is a paediatric nurse with three young children. She and her partner Francis managed to buy their own home and used credit cards and overdrafts to supplement the expensive business of bringing up a family. They thought they were managing while both of them worked and the children were in school, but COVID-19 threw unexpected obstacles their way.
Before the pandemic, they already owed more than was comfortable, but things quickly got out of control over lockdown, when Francis was furloughed and receiving only 80% of his wage, and food and fuel costs skyrocketed with Francis and the children at home all day.
In desperation, Alex turned to There for You with Council Tax arrears, fuel debt and multiple bank debts. Alex struggled with anxiety and depression, feeling hopeless and frightened of losing the home they had worked so hard for.
In total, she was shouldering £16,000 of debt and she could see no way out. There For You referred Alex to Debtline, who gave a full financial assessment of her situation, support to restructure her debts and an immediate grant of £800 to help give immediate relief on the fuel and Council Tax arrears.
Kay and Alex are two of thousands of UNISON members for whom There For You offered a lifeline. None of this would have been possible without the support of UNISON and individual branches. Combined, UNISON branches donated a massive £533,504 to There For You in 2020 alone.
UNISON general secretary Christina McAnea said: “At a time of unprecedented pressure on our public services, UNISON has been proud to support There for You – and through them thousands of our members who have worked so hard to keep our NHS and our local services going.
“We are always proud of our key workers but this year a special thanks goes out to them and for all they have done, often at great personal cost to themselves.”
Branches can make a bank transfer straight to There for You. Find out how on our COVID-19 Appeal page.
The response fund offers grants of up to £500 to help members whose household incomes have been affected by the pandemic. You can check whether you are eligible and apply online today.