As Warren Buffett said of financial crises, “only when the tide goes out do you discover who’s been swimming naked.”
The coronavirus pandemic has spawned an economic disaster of its own, but it’s not so much exposing risk-takers as dragging everyone, no matter how prepared they were, into the maelstrom. Few imagined their livelihoods would be shut down overnight. And although the Government has offered support packages of unprecedented scale, millions have been rendered jobless, penniless, or both, and many are ineligible for support.
Turn2us, the poverty charity to which The Telegraph’s readers have donated more than a million pounds in our ongoing coronavirus appeal, is stepping in to help those individuals and their families.
Earlier this month, the charity launched an emergency grant scheme through which UK residents who have been hard hit and have little or no savings can apply for a one-off payment of £500. These payments cannot solve the crisis, but they can provide help where it is desperately needed.
Thomas Lawson, the chief executive of Turn2us, says: "Thanks to the enormous generosity of Telegraph readers we have already been able to provide 802 emergency grants, totalling £401,000, in the past two weeks. Some of these were paid out in a matter of hours." Universal Credit payments, on the other hand, can take weeks to be processed.
The charity’s fast work means that some people, such as Natalie Raeside, have already benefited from the scheme. Raeside, 36, and from Ayrshire, is a painter-decorator who takes pride in supporting herself and her teenage daughter, Libby, and who has dutifully paid her taxes all her working life. To find her work and income yanked away from her was horrifying.
2020欧洲杯网站“I was in a complete panic,” she says. “I was thinking, ‘How will we live?’ ” There was an agonising wait between the Government’s imposition of lockdown and its unveiling of the scheme to support self-employed people. That payout won’t arrive till June. Although Raeside has applied for Universal Credit, she won’t find out how much she will receive until the end of this month, and it may not be enough.
Nor, as Raeside explains, did she have much in the bank. Libby is an international figure skater, representing Great Britain at intermediate novice level, an achievement which involves significant financial support – travel, equipment and so on – from her mother. Asking for help did not come easily to a woman so used to supporting herself and her daughter.
“I was trying to hold off as long as possible to see what would happen,” Raeside says, “but I had to apply for the grant. Standing on my own two feet for so long, it was a bitter pill to swallow.” But few could begrudge her the help. When it came via one of Turn2us’s first emergency coronavirus grants, it was “a massive relief”.
To people like her, unused to asking for handouts but embroiled in a crisis they could not have anticipated, Raeside says: “These are unprecedented times. There’s help out there – don’t be afraid to ask for it, because your pride doesn’t come into it in this situation. And a massive thank you to Turn2us and their donors as well.”
Raeside hopes to return to work within the next couple of months, but some face a longer wait. Ryan Fisher, a 40-year-old consultant chef whose services are called upon by upmarket kitchens at short notice, fears restaurants will not require his services for months. Although Rishi Sunak’s bail-out package includes help for people who have been self-employed for a year or more, Fisher is ineligible as he turned freelance in December.
“I was doing so well,” he says, “I’d set myself up as a chef, all the work was coming in, and I’d started to get my life in a reasonably good position. And then it plummeted from a great height.”
Frantically cutting costs, Fisher moved out of his house to stay with a friend. He applied for Universal Credit, but it will not be enough to pay his bills and will not arrive for weeks. Somehow the situation got worse: he contracted a terrible toothache.
2020欧洲杯网站“I didn’t sleep for four days. I was ringing 111 constantly.”
Fisher managed to get antibiotics, and his toothache is lessening. More good news came when he heard back from Turn2us, whose help he’d applied for. “I went through the process pretty easily, got the email, and knew it was going to be such a help. A lifesaver.”
Fisher’s grant of £500 arrives this week. He will send half of it to his ex-partner, Amy, who isn’t working but is trying to feed their daughter, nine-year-old Ruby. The other half will go on bills. “I’m so grateful to the charity and its donors,” says Fisher.
The current climate is even less hospitable to those who were already struggling. Hayley Gibson, a 31-year-old from Grantham, had to shutter her bakery and coffee shop business after the footfall she’d been promised – the business was in a shopping centre – never materialised. Gibson was unable to repay loans, so Citizens Advice said her only option was to go bankrupt – for which the fee is a startling £680.
Gibson had found a new job, but its salary wasn’t enough to cover that fee, even before she was furloughed. Turn2us gave her enough money to pay the bankruptcy fee. “If it wasn’t for that,” she says, “the bailiffs would have taken my house and car. I’m a single parent, and it’s not nice when your five-year-old son is standing there while bailiffs are in your house.”
Life will eventually be better for Gibson and her son. “Everything can start rolling,” she says; she has a job to return to, and having used a food bank when money was tightest, she volunteers at that food bank twice a week.
2020欧洲杯网站Thomas Lawson explains why the grants are so important: “The grant fund is designed to get help to people when they need it – now. We want to stop people from maxing out credit cards, getting into debt with banks and using high street lenders. We urge anyone who fits the criteria to apply for the £500 grant as soon as possible.”
2020欧洲杯网站The Chancellor’s bail-out, while generous, cannot reach everyone – excluding, for example, people such as Fisher who have been self-employed for less than a year. And, like Universal Credit payments, it will not arrive for weeks. Appealing for help from the public in funding the grants, Lawson said: “Based on our own data and insight, we’re expecting the need for this support to grow throughout the course of the lockdown and beyond. We urge anyone who is in a position to do so to donate now. You have the ability to make the most incredible difference. Your contribution will ensure that our grant fund can keep going and prevent as many of your neighbours as possible from falling into financial ruin.”
It is no small thing to ask for financial help, but in all these cases, a grant is what its recipients need: a bridge to help them and their families reach the other side of lockdown. Let’s hope that as many of Britain’s impecunious as possible can make similar crossings.
To make a donation to the Telegraph Coronavirus Appeal, visit laurahast.com/appeal or call 0151 284 1927 (Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm)