What is OxFAP and how we work
OxFAP (Oxford Friends Action on Poverty) is Oxford Meeting’s response to poverty, inequality and need on our doorstep. The committee distributes funds raised from individual members of the Meeting, and from funds allocated by the Meeting as a whole. We give sums between £50 and £200 to individuals who approach us via organisations we know in Oxford. These individual grants are for things that will make a difference in helping them to get back on track in their lives. We aim to give to less well-known or less popular charities and identify needs not covered by other sources. We also give grants to Oxford voluntary organisations when possible.
Recently OxFAP has focused on gaps in the benefit and support systems provided for vulnerable people coming out of prison, asylum seekers, and those with insecure housing. We seen further increases in applications from individuals in exactly these situations: people who have fallen foul of changes to, and tightening of, the benefits regime; those in difficult situations in temporary housing; and people coming out of prison with little more than £50 in their pocket to face life again. A new reason for requests is the need for passports to fulfil the ID requirement confirming 'right to work' for many kinds of agency work. We have paid for 10 passports between September 2015 and August 2016.
2. Funding and how it was spent
Block grants to organisations
In December 2015 we gave grants to the following organisations:
In addition we gave the National Probation Service (NPS) three grants totaling £900 for emergency interim needs of ex-prisoners and the Street Population Outreach Team(SPOT) a grant of £300 for imaginative on-the-spot needs (e.g. money to buy a birthday card for someone's daughter).
Grants to individuals through agency case workers
This year the scale and urgency of need has continued to put a strain on the burden of administration for the Committee. However, we now have a committee of five people, including a representative from Headington meeting, which donates a high proportion of their total collections to the work of OxFAP. We make payments by bank transfer and are grateful for the work of Richard Stamper in carrying out the payments at short notice.
Where we can, such as with NPS and SPOT, we give block grants to be used at short notice with clients whose needs are urgent and within the scope of our normal work. Both organisations report the expenditure to us when the money runs out.
Plus once a month Gatehouse sandwich costs and costs of providing washing up bowls filled with domestic equipment for people moving into housing.
Further grants are in the pipeline during the preparation of this report.
This year most help was for people in desperate situations. Some were being moved into temporary accommodation, and needed storage costs, white goods or basic furniture, such as shelving. Many grants were simply for food and clothing – people only had what they stood up in when they left prison. Some were for documentation, such as birth certificates, driving licence, or passport. Some were for women with children in desperate need, fleeing domestic violence. Most recent claims have been from Asylum Welcome whose clients have continuing needs and whose own capacity for funding them is under stress.
Sandwiches for the Gatehouse:
The cost of providing sandwiches and cakes once a month for the evening drop-in centre in St Giles is now shown as an expense in the OxFAP account. Elisabeth Salisbury and John Gould continue to make and deliver the sandwiches on behalf of Oxford Meeting, as they have done since 2005. Many thanks!
2b Income and available funds
We are therefore running in deficit this financial year so far. However, there has been an excess of income over expenditure of £6785.12 accumulated during the existence of OxFAP as a designated fund of the Meeting. If the pattern of income and expenditure is the same in the second half of the year then OxFAP will run a deficit of about £600 by the end of the 2016, so would carry forward about £6185 into 2017.
Richard Stamper says: "Unless there is a good reason for OxFAP to be carrying forward this accumulated surplus then there is scope for OxFAP to increase substantially the amount it is giving."
We are grateful to Richard for clarifying our financial situation, since we have been aware that we were probably spending more than we were receiving.
3. Pro-active work this year
OxFAP was asked to help fund training and a chainsaw licence for a client of Aspire, but instead was able to introduce him to a forestry charity which can fund and support people into forestry.
Housing and homelessness
Oxford continues to be a difficult place for getting housed, as shown by the number of grants this year supporting the needs of people forced to leave their accommodation and unable to buy the basics to set up a new home. Although OxFAP does not have the capacity to campaign on housing, we do see our role as, where possible, a channel of information, and weattend relevant meetings with the City Housing and Homelessness group, OXHOP Job Centre Plus and other agencies, networking. Sometimes we know more about official and unofficial sources of funding than do the case workers, due to rapid turnover of staff and volunteers.
agencies: National Probation Service
Most of our support in the past has gone to voluntary organisations and charities, and working with the statutory (or ex-statutory) services is a new experience for us. Last summer (2015) we disbursed nearly £700 in individual grants to clients of the National Probation Service in Clark House, Oxford. Their funding from national and local sources has been severely curtailed or withdrawn in the last 12 months since the privatisation of most of the probation service. Men coming direct to Clarks House from prison have only their basic Job Seekers Allowance to depend on - and that can take 4-5 weeks to arrive, during which time they use food banks up to the permitted maximum of three times a week, have only the clothes they stand up in, and have no money for expenses, such as travel to or documents for job interviews.
Job Centre Plus
We have learnt that Job Centre Plus will fund some needs that are directly associated with getting a job, so are exploring the scope and limits of such provision, since some volunteer agency workers may not be aware of this.
5. Looking Forward
The situation faced by people in poverty and need continues to get worse, as a result of cuts in welfare benefits, more stringent requirements, and more complex systems that confuse vulnerable people who are already finding life difficult. The organisations that support them have to cope with increases in demand, reductions in funding, and continuing privatisation of the services they run. We continue to be very grateful for the Meeting’s support. It is good to know that we can always draw on a wealth of knowledge and support from members and attenders: a pool of wisdom that helps us to tackle poverty and inequality as they continue to grow.
We are entering the time when we consider giving block grants to particular agencies. In autumn 2015 we gave £4000 in grants, reflecting our finances at the time. Our individual grant giving has doubled during this financial period, but we have considerable funds in reserve from previous years so we look for guidance about how to proceed.
The current OxFAP committee
The OxFAP team is appointed by the Nominations Committee of Oxford Quaker Meeting. The current team is Anne Watson (convenor) Tany Alexander, Tina Leonard, Brighid Schroer, Stewart Jeffrey appointed from Headington Meeting, and Mena Remedios co-opted.