Celebrating 300 years

Recognised and valued

Whether you’re among those providing vital help or receiving it, caring will touch nearly everyone’s lives. Aileen Scoular finds that Freemasonry has been united in its support of carers for 25 years

Every day some 6,000 people become carers. Today there are around 6.5 million in the UK, and national membership charity Carers UK estimates that by 2037 more than nine million people will be in a caring role. 

This means providing unstinting, unpaid support for a loved one, friend or neighbour who is older, disabled or seriously ill. 

While some carers will have made a decision to provide care, for many the role will have presented itself gradually or unexpectedly, and they may struggle to balance caring with their own needs.

Of particular concern is the fact that the number of older carers is growing rapidly. ‘The Carers UK joint report with Age UK, Caring into Later Life, showed that there are now almost 1.3 million carers aged 65 and over in England and Wales – an increase of 35 per cent in 10 years,’ says Emily Holzhausen, director of policy, advice and information at Carers UK. ‘It was even more alarming to discover that the fastest-growing group of carers are those aged 85 and over.’ Around 87,000 octogenarians now care for a loved one, despite their own fragile health.

Young lives are affected, too. Carers Trust estimates that there are around 300,000 carers aged 16 to 24 in the UK, and some 13,000 of those are providing more than 50 hours of care a week, which makes it very difficult to work or go to college.

Thankfully for today’s carers, there is a network of dedicated caring charities. But the problem is that not everyone who provides care realises they are a carer, so it can be hard for such charities to reach those who most need their support. ‘People often have a picture of who a carer is and they find it hard to identify with that label,’ says Holzhausen. ‘Many carers simply don’t want to ask for help, often because they feel like it is their duty to care for their loved one.’

Help for those who help

Carers UK celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2015 and is working with a network of volunteers and local community-based organisations – including masonic lodges – to help them understand how to reach, connect with and support carers in their community in the best way. However, they need funding to reach more carers with vital advice, information and support, which is why The Freemasons’ Grand Charity’s support of the caring sector is so important.

Over the past 25 years, the Grand Charity has donated more than £1 million to charities that specifically support carers, including a £250,000 donation to Carers UK back in 1990. Baroness Jill Pitkeathley OBE headed up Carers UK at the time and she described it as ‘one of the most significant events which took place on my watch as chief executive… allowing us to expand our branch network, increase our membership and expand our profile with the media. Carers everywhere owe the Grand Charity a debt of gratitude.’

‘Many Freemasons recognise the need for care, and for some it’s a topic that is becoming more relevant to their own lives,’ says Katrina Baker, Head of Non-Masonic Grants at the Grand Charity. ‘It is reported that many carers are already living on the breadline so any welfare cuts take their financial situation to a critical level. The masonic community and our Grants Committee are passionate about supporting the caring sector.’

The Grand Charity has made sizeable donations to caring organisations in recent years. Crossroads Care, a UK-wide network of carers’ centres, received £125,000 over three years, allowing it to develop more branches. Contact a Family also benefited from £125,000 over three years, enabling it to establish a new regional structure in the north of England. Home Farm Trust (Hft), a charity for people with learning disabilities, used a £60,000 donation to fund a Carer Support Service. A conference for The Princess Royal Trust for Carers (now merged with Crossroads Care to form the Carers Trust) was made possible with a £33,000 grant, allowing best practice to be shared across 118 independent care centres. 

‘Unfortunately we receive far more applications for grants than we can support, and the number we receive is rising.’ Katrina Baker

The more you know…

Recently, the Grand Charity once again supported Carers UK with a £100,000 donation to help fund its national advice and information services, giving carers access to free guidance on the practicalities of caring, and information on their entitlements and rights. ‘It is a substantial donation for us, larger than most grants we give,’ explains Baker. ‘Unfortunately we receive far more applications for grants than we can support, and the number we receive is rising.’ 

Baker and her colleagues research the applications thoroughly, and present the Grand Charity Grants Committee with a shortlist from a broad spectrum of charitable sectors. ‘We always aim to be fair when selecting projects to support,’ she says. ‘It is also important to support causes that are of interest and relevance to the masonic community. We want them to be able to connect with the sectors and organisations we’re supporting.’

Not surprisingly, the charities that benefit from the Grand Charity’s donations are very grateful. ‘We hugely appreciate the support that has come from the Grand Charity over the past 25 years, and its current grant to help us develop our network of services,’ says Holzhausen. ‘We’re always keen to work with the masonic community, and we want them to know that our services are always there for them, too.’

Making life better

Margaret Dangoor, 75, regularly visited her mother in a Bath nursing home until her death aged 102, while also looking after her husband Eddie, who has Alzheimer’s, at home in Surrey. She explains how tough caring for loved ones can be

‘Sometimes people are so focused on the person they care for, they forget about their own well-being. Caring is a big role and it can be extremely daunting; many carers also feel very guilty. It’s not all negative, though – there can be a sense of community if you engage with the care environment. I’m a Volunteer Ambassador for Carers UK because I want to spread the word and reach those who might be caring alone. 

‘For me, it’s poignant to see the Grand Charity supporting carers’ charities. My father was a member of Raymond Thrupp Lodge in Middlesex, and Lodge of Honour in Bath when he lived there. When my father was very ill during the last months of his life, the lodge in Bath was very helpful to my mother. She had early Alzheimer’s disease, and a member of the lodge took her to visit my father every day for several weeks. 

‘She had no concept of what a commitment he was making and our family, who were all living at a distance, were extremely grateful.’

The personal impact

Being a carer affects people’s lives in many ways – not all of them predictable – as research from Carers UK reveals

Employment

According to a report by Carers UK, two million people have given up work to care. More than a third of carers have also used up their holiday leave to provide care.

Relationships

Caring can profoundly change the terms of a relationship. Having nursed each other through cancer on separate occasions, BBC Radio 2 DJ Johnnie Walker and his wife Tiggy are now patrons of the Carers UK 50th Anniversary appeal. ‘Caring pushed our relationship to the brink,’ he says. ‘It has left us with a deep understanding of how difficult and challenging caring for someone can be.’

Family

Sometimes, family bonds can break down too. ‘At first, family can be very supportive but as time passes, that support can drop off,’ says Emily Holzhausen of Carers UK. Around 60 per cent of carers worry about the impact their caring role will have on their other relationships.

Physical well-being

Caring has had a negative effect on the health of some 82 per cent of carers, according to Carers UK, and 41 per cent have experienced an injury or their physical health has suffered as a result of caring. Looking ahead, more than three quarters of all carers are concerned about the impact of caring on their own health in the next 12 months.

Isolation

Feeling isolated is common among carers. Many don’t want to ask for help, and others are too exhausted – or cannot afford – to do anything except provide round-the-clock care. Eight in 10 carers say they have experienced loneliness and isolation as a result of their caring role, and over half have lost touch with friends or family.

Financial hardship

Caring is costly and more than a third of all carers do not realise what benefits they are entitled to. Around 48 per cent cannot make ends meet, and 26 per cent have had to borrow money from friends or family to survive.

‘The personal impact’ statistics from Carers UK reports: State of Caring (2015); Alone and Caring (2015); Caring and Isolation in the Workplace (Carers UK and Employers for Carers, 2015)

Published in The Grand Charity

The silver shortlist

To mark the 25th anniversary of the Masonic Samaritan Fund (MSF), the trustees are making available £1 million in support of medical and care research projects

 The MSF is planning to award grants of up to £100,000 in 10 regions across England and Wales. Its Silver Jubilee Research Fund originally received 62 grant applications, seeking nearly £9 million in support. However, with only £1 million available through the fund, the charity will need to make some difficult decisions.

Since 2011, the MSF has supported research projects that aim to improve the prevention, detection, diagnosis, treatment and care available for illnesses and disabilities that affect masonic families and the wider community. Nearly £2 million has been awarded to large and small research organisations such as Breakthrough Breast Cancer, Carers UK and the A-T Society

Several research projects funded by the MSF have achieved significant success in their field. A £181,000 grant awarded to Alzheimer’s Research UK has helped to develop a new blood test that, it is hoped, will predict whether someone with early memory problems will develop Alzheimer’s within a year. Two grants totalling £75,000 awarded to RAFT (the Restoration of Appearance and Function Trust) have helped to develop a working prototype of a bionic arm fit for human trials, in a bid to compensate for the loss of a limb. A grant of £34,000, presented to Prostate Cancer UK, has helped Dr Hayley Whitaker and her team to identify that the presence of a specific protein can distinguish prostate cancers that are aggressive from those that may never seriously harm the patient. 

For further details about the Silver Jubilee Research Fund and the research studies shortlisted for a grant in your Province, please visit www.msfund.org.uk/research

Consulting for consolidation

The 2015 MSF members’ meeting was hosted at Freemasons’ Hall in March and marked the start of the formal process of consultation with the charity’s members regarding the proposal to consolidate the four central masonic charities. 

The proposed consolidation seeks to ensure that the full range of support currently provided by the central masonic charities will continue to be available to all eligible applicants and will be delivered in the most cost-effective manner.

Throughout the transition process and beyond, health and care grants will be accessible for eligible beneficiaries seeking treatment, care and support without undue delay or expense. 

Full details of the information provided by the MSF president and CEO are available at www.msfund.org.uk/news.php  

The consultation will conclude at the next members’ meeting on 29 October 2015. For further information on the consolidation of the charities, see www.masoniccharities.org.uk/review 

Published in Masonic Samaritan Fund

The Freemasons’ Grand Charity has just approved its first grants of 2014 totalling £842,500

Ranging from £10,000 to £100,000 each, they support nineteen significant causes across the UK.

Charities to receive funding include:

Speaking about the Major Grants programme Laura Chapman, Chief Executive at The Freemasons’ Grand Charity, said:

'The Freemasons’ Grand Charity seeks to help people in need, and we are dedicated to helping people who are socially disadvantaged, disabled, seriously ill, homeless, or facing economic and social deprivation. It is our hope that the positive impact of these grants will be felt by thousands of people facing difficulties.'

Quotes from the supported charities

'Red Balloon is extremely grateful to The Freemasons’ Grand Charity for donating £25,000 to our Bursary Fund for places at one of our Centres in Cambridge, Norwich, NW London or Reading, our mini Centre in Braintree or on Red Balloon of the Air. 

'This money will enable us to help the recovery of severely bullied children who hide under their duvets, depressed, self-harming and with suicidal thoughts unable to attend mainstream school. 

'The donation will help us to provide more children with a full-time education and therapeutic support, to get their life back.'

Dr Carrie Herbert MBE, Founder and President, Red Balloon Learner Centre Group                                           

'Raleigh International harnesses the passion and energy of young people to create positive change in very poor communities around the world.

'We are very grateful to The Freemasons’ Grand Charity for its support of our programme for disadvantaged young people – this will contribute to transforming lives abroad as well as in the UK.'

Alderman Fiona Woolf CBE, The Rt. Hon. The Lord Mayor of London, Trustee of The Lord Mayor’s Appeal, Trustee of Raleigh International

 'We are extremely grateful to The Freemasons’ Grand Charity for their generosity in providing bursaries for high ability students from less advantaged backgrounds to attend our Inspiring Excellence Programme Courses which they would otherwise be unable to afford. 

'Far too many able young people substantially underachieve, creating a major block to improving social mobility in the UK. With the support of The Freemasons’ Grand Charity we are working to overcome this through inspiring young people to fulfil their potential.'

Richard Gould, Chief Executive, Villiers Park Educational Trust

'Mind is delighted to receive this significant contribution towards the development of a smartphone app for our Elefriends online support network. At www.elefriends.org.uk, people with experience of mental health problems support each other in a safe and friendly space. This grant will mean that even more people with experience of mental health problems are able to give or receive peer support wherever and whenever they need it.'

Paul Farmer, Chief Executive, Mind

Further grant details

Medical research

The Blond McIndoe Research Foundation has received £50,000 to fund research into the development of stimuli responsive materials, which are able to detect and respond to changes in a healing burn and diabetic wounds to help the repair process.

Cancer Research UK has received £100,000 to fund Dr Thorsten Hagemann’s pancreatic cancer research at Barts Cancer Institute. The Freemasons’ Grand Charity and the Masonic Samaritan Fund have both made grants of £50,000 towards the project.

The National Society for Epilepsy has received £50,000 to fund research into the genetic causes of epilepsy through exome DNA sequencing techniques.

The University of Leicester has received £33,000 to fund a clinical trial into the treatment of heart attack patients with the application of remote ischemic conditioning. The Freemasons’ Grand Charity and the Masonic Samaritan Fund have both made grants of £16,500 towards the project.

Youth opportunities

Chetham’s School of Music has received £75,000 payable over three years to fund the school’s community outreach services in disadvantaged areas.

Envision has received £25,000 to fund a community project in Bristol aiming to develop the confidence and skills of young people.

Red Balloon Learner Centres has received £25,000 to fund bursaries for severely bullied children to attend specialist learner centres, to build their resilience before returning to mainstream education.

SkillForce has received £100,000 payable over two years to fund the Onto Next Steps programme in Norfolk and Kent. The programme will mentor and coach pupils who are at risk of exclusion from education, and face subsequent unemployment.

The Lord Mayor’s Appeal has received £50,000 to engage with disadvantaged young people by funding Raleigh International’s youth agency partnership programme in the UK.

Villiers Park Educational Trust has received £25,000 to fund bursaries to enable disadvantaged young people to attend educational courses for raising academic achievement and developing employability skills, to help them gain places at leading universities.

Vulnerable people

Carers UK has received £100,000 payable over two years to fund its national advice and information service; providing expert advice and support on financial and practical matters for the estimated 6.5 million carers in the UK.

Designability has received £25,000 to fund the manufacture of powered wheelchairs called Wizzybugs for disabled pre-school children, which help them to get around with their peers and to learn spatial awareness.

Fledglings Family Services has received £13,000 to fund the cost of printing 26,000 copies of a brochure that will help families to find the best specialist products for children with special needs.

Mind has received £40,000 to help train 720 peer-supporters and to fund the development of a smartphone application, aiming to increase peer support hours by 20%.

Parkinson’s UK has received £90,000 payable over two years to fund the salary and costs of a Parkinson’s nurse specialist in Lancashire.

Phab has received £10,000 to fund courses on inclusive living experiences and skills for independence for disabled people.

Shelter has received £25,000 to fund its advice service in Norfolk. In 2012/13 the charity saw a 47% rise in people seeking help, and 2,400 households in Norfolk faced eviction or repossession.

The Children’s Trust has received £13,000 to fund the salary of the online co-ordinator of the Brain Injury Hub; a resource providing accurate information and advice to families on childhood acquired brain injury.

The Queen Alexandra Hospital Home in Sussex has received £60,000 payable over two years to fund the occupational therapy department; providing residential, nursing and rehabilitation services to disabled veterans and their dependants.

Published in The Grand Charity

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