"We are referring more women to food banks than ever before"

As the cost-of-living crisis bites, we are seeing more and more charities struggle to meet demand while also covering their own costs. While this story contains details specific to one women’s refugee charity, it is not unique. Many charities we have spoken to over the last few months had already been struggling to fund increased demand off the back of the pandemic. Now, as their costs continue to rise, and more people come through their door, resources could fall off a cliff-edge.

Latin American Women’s Aid is a refuge charity providing accommodation and supporting services to Latin American and other Black and minoritised ethnic women and children survivors of gender-based violence in London. Their Advice and Information Centre provides advocacy and support for women who are not yet ready to leave abusive relationships or might not be eligible to live in the refuge.

Women, who are often in poverty, arrive completely destitute and have greater vulnerability.

The organisation was most recently funded as part of our MoJ Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence, and as part of our COVID-19 response in 2020, both times as a means of funding the increased demand and disruption they have experienced as a result of the pandemic. Many charities like this one, who have barely caught their breath since the last lockdown, are suddenly facing yet another crisis on their doorsteps.

Latin American Women’s Aid told us that the cost-of-living crisis will have a profoundly negative effect on women experiencing domestic abuse and violence. Women who will increasingly opt to stay with their abuser, rather than face financial uncertainty alone. So far, the charity has been using some of its unrestricted funding to financially support these women through the cost-of-living crisis to reduce the risk of them returning to perpetrators.

But while the funds they are currently putting into action may be unrestricted, they are not unlimited. Even before living costs further increase this autumn, the charity’s demand has already increased by up to 25%. And this figure is not down to increased gender-based violence alone. For quite some time, they have seen that more and more women arriving as refuges have been facing high levels of poverty or are completely destitute, in turn, making them extremely vulnerable. Sadly, the charity is now referring more women to the food banks than ever before.

Our main worry is the capacity to maintain staff, who are struggling to cope with the salaries of the charity industry.

The charity also currently manages four properties, and so the rising cost of living has had a huge impact on the cost of their rent and electricity. To compound this, they are struggling to retain staff, who are seeking higher salaries outside the charity sector or outside London. This runs the risk of burnout amongst those staff who do stay and reduced capacity to support the women who need it most.

Your donation to our Together for London appeal will provide direct support to smaller, local, community organisations like Latin American Women’s Aid, who are providing vital services to people and families in your local community this autumn. You will help provide items like emergency food, packages of essentials items, and sessions to support people’s mental health and money worries. And, importantly, you will help your local community centre or charity keep its lights on.