Keeping Foundations Steady in a Cost-of-Living Crisis
By Jane Austin Operations Manager
From my own experience of poverty in childhood, I saw education offered a way out. I was bright, and thrived on the self-worth that good grades offered. It gave me the chance to not only dream, but build a different life. But I have always been aware of those who didn’t get to thrive. Those children who had to drop out of school, facing insurmountable barriers beyond their control.
So, after a career in the corporate world, this lived experience took me to the door of the Key Fund over a decade ago. I felt a need to work in that space that helped the most vulnerable in society. Key Fund has faced up to the challenges of structural poverty since it began in 1999. By removing barriers to finance in areas of disadvantage, we help create jobs, while helping fix societies most entrenched problems. Homelessness being one.
The values and mission of Key Fund runs through each of us who work here. But, as winter is ushered in with a cost-of-living crisis, the impact of this on the most vulnerable is one we’re acutely aware of at Key Fund, and it particularly resonates with me. Many of the organisations we fund work to meet the basic needs of those in most need in our society. Some even do the seemingly impossible and offer pathways out of poverty; they reach the unreachable.
The Really Neet Project is a good example. It makes education accessible to young people who struggle with school, often due to external barriers such as homelessness, leaving care, or being a young parent. It was set up by Sophie Maxwell when she was just 22. She was homeless too – at 16, leaving behind a violent family home. Sophie understands the need to deliver youth work before education. You can’t teach Maths to a child who hasn’t got a roof over their head or food in their belly. Solve those basic needs first – provide safety, stability – and you open up that path to move out of the poverty trap.
It’s clear though that organisations are already struggling to keep the lights on and doors open, as energy bills soar. With the challenges of these ever-changing turbulent times, it’s crucial Key Fund can bend and flex to ensure our clients stay afloat. Covid has proved that it’s the most vulnerable who are damaged when there’s a crisis – whether it be pandemics or a financial crash. Providing flexible finance – the right money, at the right time – has always been the Key Fund mantra.
Which is why this month we’re launching two new funds designed to help navigate this cost-of-living crisis. One will offer loan and grant up to 40% so organisations can invest in eco-solutions – from insulation to heat pumps – that will help manage their long-term energy costs. This will offer sustainable solutions and help buffer them from this current, and future, threats.
The second is a flexible finance fund – essentially a facility that enterprises can draw on if they need cash flow due to the unpredictability of utility bills in this current climate. Maslow’s hierarchy of need from the bottom up are food and clothing, safety, love and belonging, and finally esteem and self-actualisation.
If you are hungry, without a roof over your head, and its winter, how can you begin to think about things like self-actualisation? How can you pursue ambition? We know our clients are doing amazing things to help address societies imbalance, these funds are our latest attempt to them.