Can technology really offer ‘social good’

As part of Hymans Robertson Better Futures 100: technology campaign, Marcella Boyle, Chief Executive Officer for the Hymans Robertson Foundation discusses ‘tech for good’. The Foundation has built such strong relationships with our charity partners; it’s great to see how our support goes some way to helping build better futures for generations to come.

The Hymans Robertson Foundation (HRF) recognises that harnessing the expertise of technology and digital talent offers “social good”.  We offer specialist volunteering opportunities to the firm’s own staff and leverage our strong relationship with the Scottish Tech Army (where our CEO is also an Ambassador).  The Foundation continues to explore new opportunities to bring skilled volunteer staff to help our charity partners scope and then resource technical / data / projects which can make a real difference to the people they work with and the communities they serve.

Last year, we took our “Tech for Good” support directly to young people. As the pandemic deepened, our charity network reported on the increasing isolation facing young people: impacting on their mental health and wellbeing and creating barriers for young people to keep connected with school / training / work and socially.  Our partners were delivering digitally but not all young people could engage. Was there a role for the Foundation to bridge the data and technology gap?

Working with our Foundation partners, we designed the Bursary: a direct grant for young people who needed financial support to “keep connected”. Over the last 12 months we have supported over 100 UK young people in total and nearly 50 young people to buy kit and data: removing barriers for the young person to keep in school, progress to further / higher education or take up employment opportunities. “This money will be a big help towards my laptop for my new college studies as the laptop will help towards my studies and future work.”

Barnardo’s is one of the Foundation partners that disperses the Bursary across the UK. Tommy McDade, Acting Head of Employment, Training and Skills UK/Barnardo’s told us:-

“HRF Bursary has been used for a wide range of things but I am particularly pleased to see how much it has supported young people when they have secured a job or apprenticeship… (it) really does help the young person to start the job and settle in without worrying about these things”.

At our September charity partners event, the Board of Trustees heard, first hand, the positive and direct impact the Bursary has had on young people. With a small amount of direct funding, young people have been able to re-engage and stay connected.

If you’d like to hear more about our Bursary, how to volunteer for digital / technology project / support for young people, get in touch. We are keen to share and help you advocate / influence your own employer organisations to do even more. 

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Action on Financial Education

Our CEO, Marcella Boyle, has written a blog for our funder (Hymans Robertson) on the importance of action on financial education for children and young people. Marcella shares recent UK money statistics from The Money Charity, research on inconsistencies in financial education for the younger generation by Money and Pensions Service (MaPS) , and the work the Foundation’s partner, MyBnk is doing to try to plug this gap through its Money Works programme, which it also delivers to the Foundation’s other charity partners:

“With our extended charity partner network, we recognised the need (particularly in young people’s employability programmes) to offer specialist education in managing finances. Building financial capability is a key priority for the Foundation.”

You can read Marcella’s full article, plus find links to further research, on the Hymans Robertson website: “Building better financial security through education

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Our 2020 Roundup

The Foundation started the year with a clear plan to further develop relationships with our charity partners and offer opportunities for Hyman Robertson LLP’s volunteers and fundraisers, to continue to deliver support to young people and our communities. The full extent of the global pandemic took hold, our plans adapted and funds were redirected. Despite everything 2020 threw at us, there have been some memorable and positive achievements we want to recap on.

The Hardship Fund

The Fund was launched in April, with extra funding released to help charities across the UK to meet the immediate and urgent needs of the most vulnerable in our communities. By the time funding closed, just over £45,000 had been donated to more than 30 charities, helping to provide urgent food and care packages, vital PPE, counselling and support, educational and digital tools.

Moving online

With face to face support either limited or prohibited, we worked with our Foundation partners to move our financial education support – delivered by our partner MyBnk – to an online delivery model, rolled out directly to young people who could engage remotely via our other partners. This change meant we’ve been able to help over 500 young people since the start of the pandemic.

The Foundation Bursary Fund for Young People

In October we launched the Bursary, aimed at retaining 16-25 year olds in education, training or employment. With young people disproportionately impacted by the UK recession and ongoing Covid-19 restrictions, our charity partners advised us of the urgent need for greater intervention in supporting young people in a positive destination.  The Fund has been rolled out nationwide via our existing charity partners and will operate for at least 18 months until April 2022.  In the first 3 months, the Bursary has supported over 50 young people in Glasgow, the Scottish Borders and North England. Here’s the impact of the Bursary for some young beneficiaries:

“the funding gave me the chance to settle in at work without worry about how I was going to get there for the first couple of months”

“the Bursary has allowed me to progress to the Employability Fund Stage 2 course”

“I have just progressed to further training and I’ll be able to do my course work independently at home with my laptop”.

More work is planned to expand the bursary to Birmingham/Midlands and London area in 2021.

Looking ahead

2020 has shown us that we work best when we listen and respond to the needs of community based charities and young people. We want to thank all our partners who continue to work in hard hit communities and with young people who now, more than ever need practical and expert advice to secure a positive future.

Thank you for reading this Roundup.

Marcella Boyle

CEO, February 2021

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One Year On… My reflections on the last 12 months

In my April blog, I highlighted The Foundation’s response to support the immediate and urgent needs of vulnerable people and communities across the UK through the launch of our Hardship Fund.  To date, we’ve supported around 30 charities through the Hardship Fund across the UK. Our funding supported people and families in refuges and homeless shelters, provided food, PPE and welfare care packages, and funded a range of counselling services for young people.  Please view our September blog for an update on Tranche 2 of our Fund which has now closed to applications.

The pandemic, lockdown and now evident recession have amplified the challenges facing the UK’s most vulnerable people and communities.  In this post, I wanted to reflect on the positive consequences of the pandemic: partnership working with purpose.

Our relationships with Foundation charity partners have deepened and strengthened. This has been evident through FARE’s recent employability programmes in Glasgow, supported by MyBnk (providing a continuing focus on financial education and resilience).  Charity partners are increasing their joint working by developing joint funding applications, supporting referrals.  The Foundation can also signpost charities to the excellent pro bono services from Scottish Tech Army and Covid Tech Support. A special shout out to Kirsty McIntosh at Scottish Tech Army for her unwavering support and guidance!

We have actively listened to our charity network to jointly design the Foundation’s sustainable support with local charities and younger people in education, training, employment and volunteering.  In the coming month we will announce an additional funding initiative directed to young people with our youth based charities fully engaged in its future delivery.

Finally, a thank you for all the ongoing support and interest in the Foundation.  I’d particularly like to highlight the work of our Hymans Robertson partners: Helping Hands colleagues who have been key to engaging local charities with the Foundation. We want to hear from you if you have safe volunteering or local fundraising opportunities which we can support in London, Birmingham, Edinburgh or Glasgow.

Keep Safe

Marcella Boyle, CEO


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Hardship Fund Update

In April 2020, The Foundation launched its Hardship Fund as a response to the pandemic and subsequent lockdown. The Foundation recognised the need to immediately support charities working with our most vulnerable communities and people. The first tranche of funding was directed at existing Foundation partners.  In June, the launch of a second tranche of funding expanded eligibility to include community-based charities across the UK supported by staff at Hymans Robertson LLP.

In the last 3 months, we were able to support a further 24 UK charities with emergency funding to provide food, care and PPE packages. As charities responded to online and remote delivery of services, funding was also used to support the provision of data and technical gadgets enabling young people to access counselling and welfare services.  

Our charity partners have demonstrated care and support to their communities throughout. Their resilience has been outstanding and humbling.  Our Chair, Clive Fortes, commented:

“It’s sobering to remember how much £250 can support: 15 families for 2 days with essential food supplies; 6 counselling appointments for young people in distress. At a time when many charities are facing reduced income and meeting increasing need, The Foundation was compelled to take immediate action.”

We are pleased to share a few of the responses from our charity partners on the positive impact that hardship funding has had:

The Hymans Robertson award has helped us to purchase PPE so that we can re-open our building to the families we support and ensure that the important connection between counsellor and family can be established.” Edward’s Trust

“We are very grateful to The Hymans Robertson Foundation for their grant, which will go towards helping Sebastian’s Action Trust provide emergency provision packs to families of seriously-ill children. Whilst lockdown restrictions for many of us are easing, for our families, the reality of isolating at home stays the same. With this grant, we will be able to provide six families with much-needed emergency provisions’ packs.” Sebastian’s Action Trust

We were delighted to receive the funds which have been used to purchase PPE and new, cleanable seats for our waiting area. As restrictions have lifted, we have opened our Glasgow office to run a Low Vision clinic in partnership with NHS. It has been fantastic to once again welcome our service users and provide much needed face to face services.” Visibility Scotland

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The Ongoing Impact of Covid-19 and Lockdown

The Foundation’s operational plan now reflects a different reality: charities we support can no longer (for most services) deliver to young people and communities, our jointly agreed planned priorities are on pause, and charities are focusing on meeting urgent and emergency needs from vulnerable people and communities across the UK.

In March 2020, NCVO reported that UK charities expected to lose at least over £4 billion income (resulting from lockdown closure of retail shops, the cancellation of fundraising events, the repurposing of reserves and demand for services increasing). Like other charities, the Foundation has concentrated on its purpose and refocused short-term effort to provide ongoing and further financial support to our charity network.

We launched the Hardship Fund in April 2020: open to eligible charities across the UK where the Foundation and Hymans Robertson had relationships. Tranche 2 of the Fund was approved by the Foundation’s Board in May, underlining our ongoing support to the charity sector in its vital work with the UK’s most vulnerable people and communities.

We’re also working with our Foundation partners to identify more areas for their joint working and where possible, opportunities to develop online and remote resources, particularly with MyBnk’s involvement in financial education for young people. 

We continue to talk weekly with partners demonstrating our interest and support. In the worst of these times, it’s humbling to see the effort charities are making to provide much needed services and lifelines to the most isolated and vulnerable. 

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