London-based charity Quaker Social Action (QSA) has won a national award for its anti-poverty work. QSA was one of five winners of The Guardian Charity Award for 2012, having been chosen from a field of almost 1,000 other entries. The award is given for Down to Earth, QSA’s work with bereaved families helping them to avoid paying beyond what they can afford for a funeral and so avoiding ending up deeper in debt and despair.
QSA has been working in east London since 1867. It has created a series of innovative services helping people on low incomes in east London. Their projects work towards the organisation’s vision of a ‘just world where people put people first’ and they recognise the people they work with as agents of change rather than objects of charity.
QSA has five core services:
• Homestore provides quality used furniture across seven boroughs, helping households create a home.
• Homelink enables homeless people to be responsible tenants and find private accommodation.
• Knees Up supports residents to work together to create safer, more cohesive communities.
• Made of Money delivers financial literacy education, supporting families to improve money management and communication.
• Down to Earth gives practical support to bereaved people to plan affordable, yet meaningful funerals.
QSA won the award for the achievement of its funeral care project. Down to Earth is a mentor-led project that supports people living on a low income, and often already struggling with debt, to arrange an affordable funeral for their dearly departed. The loss of a loved one is made worse by the dread of paying to give them a good send off and the anxiety, grief and guilt can be devastating. Down to Earth makes meaningful funerals affordable, enabling bereaved relatives to say goodbye without debt or regret. In just two years Down to Earth’s clients have saved over £100,000 in funeral expenses.
“Funeral poverty is a really important subject but gets so little attention,” said QSA director Judith Moran. “We have found it hard, like many other charities, to raise money for this project, but we know that we make such a big difference for those who are desperately struggling to afford a funeral. This is a real boost to the team and the volunteers who have worked so hard.”
Caroline Diehl, one of the judges of the awards and chief executive of The Media Trust, said: “This is a wonderful charity which provides an important service that is really needed. Funerals are often a subject which people don’t like to talk about and through using clever branding and offering emotional and practical support, Quaker Social Action has had a great impact in their local community.”
Gloria Ogunbadejo, a volunteer mentor with Down to Earth said: “Down to Earth makes a fantastic difference to people who are already struggling, often with debt, when they come to us. We help them plan a funeral in the way they want, that respects the wishes of their loved one. We work hard so they don’t end up in debt.”
As well as a cash prize, each of the charities wins a support package from the Foundation for Social Improvement, including advice and training; a media package from Media Trust, and a year’s free membership of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO).