‘I have to do my sums just to take my children on the bus’

·6-min read
‘You quickly begin to understand that you and your children cannot enjoy your life’  (Matt Writtle)
‘You quickly begin to understand that you and your children cannot enjoy your life’ (Matt Writtle)

When Christina swept up her children and fled with just the clothes on their backs to a domestic violence refuge 13 months ago, she learned for the first time how it wears you down to live in constant fear of running out of money.

“You allocate the money you have for food and heating but you quickly begin to understand that you and your children cannot enjoy your life,” said the 37-year-old, whose three children are all under 12. “You can’t go out to an occasional restaurant and have a meal cooked for you, you can’t take the kids to fun activities, there is no travel money. I do financial calculations just to take my children on the bus because it means we will have to go without somewhere down the line.”

Things got even more stressful when Christina left the shelter several months later and got placed by the council in an utterly bare south west London flat with no beds or oven or essential items.

That was when Buttle UK stepped in. The nationwide charity, which helps vulnerable children and families referred by social services or similar agencies, provided Christina with a £2,000 grant earmarked for certain agreed items.

“That grant helped us a lot,” she said. “I bought a cooker, a washing machine, a table and chairs, carpets and beds for my children to sleep in. I was also able to get the children some books they liked and membership of a local football club and the climbing wall in a nearby park. It relieved the pressure and helped get me on my feet. But more than that – it showed me that somebody cared about us, that we were not forgotten, that somebody had hope on us and that …. That is massive.”

Buttle UK is one of eight charities we are backing with grants of £133,000 each as part of the second and final phase of funding from our £4m On the Breadline campaign with sister title the Evening Standard and in partnership with Comic Relief and The Childhood Trust. Today we announced grants of over £1m which follow the £2.8m grants already given out to 208 charities across the UK.

Christina, who received her Buttle UK grant last year, is typical of the type of person in need the charity will help with the grant from our appeal, said Richard Barron, director of fundraising and marketing. He added: “With the cost of living crisis, we are seeing more and more families pushed closer to the edge and over the edge. We help people who are suffering financial hardship and have at least one additional vulnerability, be it domestic abuse, estrangement from family or mental health issues. We agree what the money can be spent on and it’s then loaded onto a pre-paid card. We provide practical, emotional and educational support.”


Andrea, 21, another Buttle UK beneficiary, told how she left her dysfunctional home in south London at 17 and sofa-surfed at a friend before getting her own flat provided by social services. She, too, moved in with nothing and again Buttle UK came to the rescue with a £1,680 grant.

“The day I got my washing machine and microwave was the best day ever,” said Andrea. “I also used the grant to buy a laptop, clothes and therapy to deal with my post-traumatic stress. It was a godsend and it helped me lift myself up, not just physically but emotionally, because to suddenly have an organisation helping me out was not something I was used to. I had come from a dog-eat-dog world so to have this support, it hit me hard. I was taken aback. It meant a lot.”

Now Andrea is studying social science at university while working part-time as a cleaner to make ends meet. “The Buttle UK grant came at a very low point in my life,” she said. “It gave me that boost I needed when I was really down. I am studying now because I want to make something out of my life so that one day I can help others. The help that people gave me in my desperate hour of need will never be forgotten.”

Names of the Buttle UK beneficiaries have been changed

The eight new grantees

(Grants of £132,943k each)

Africa Advocacy Foundation (Catford, London)

Funding will support African migrant women and girls living in poverty who are undocumented, on spousal visas, have no recourse to public funds, no extended family support networks and at risk of or experiencing domestic abuse. The grant will be for case work and a hardship fund for essential items.

BME Health Forum (Edgware, London)

The Black, Minority and Ethnic Health Forum helps ethnic people from deprived communities in north-west London who speak little English to manage their finances and help them into employment. The grant will be used to provide one-to-one advice and support to maximise their income.

Buttle UK (Nationwide)

Funding will provide grants for vulnerable families and children in London referred by agencies. Grants – averaging £1,500 per family – will help people recovering from upheaval and trauma, such as fleeing domestic abuse, and will assist with practical items like furniture, counselling and educational needs.

Coram Voice (London-wide)

Coram Voice provides advocacy for young people up to age 25 let down by the care system and has faced a spike in demand for services due to the cost of living crisis. The grant will support an additional 250 care-affected young people on top of the current 1,000 caseload.

The Felix Project (London-wide)

The Felix Project is London’s largest surplus food distributor, tackling both food waste and food poverty by providing food to 1,059 organisations supporting 530,000 people. The cost of living crisis has led to a waiting list of 500 organisations who need their help and this grant will help expand their capacity.

The Hygiene Bank (London-wide)

This charity tackles the impact of hygiene poverty by distributing toothpaste, shampoo, laundry detergent and period products to community partners including foodbanks, baby banks, shelters and refuges. The grant will be used to reach more partners and set up six new project locations.

Spear (South West London)

Spear supports homeless 16-25 year olds in South West London by providing immediate crisis help for rough sleepers as well as tailored one-to-one assistance to secure safe accommodation. The grant will fund the extension of this work as more people are pushed into homelessness due to the cost of living.

Stay Safe East (Waltham Forest, London)

This organisation is run by and for disabled people and provides advocacy and support services to disabled survivors of domestic abuse, sexual violence and hate crime. The grant will fund advocates to support clients and provide emergency items like bedding, clothing, energy support and subsistence.

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