BS5 Mutual Aid Solidarity Fund
About the fund
Why do we need a fund?
Coronavirus is affecting us all in different ways. Older people and people with medical conditions are most at risk of becoming seriously ill from the virus and are needing to stay home and avoid public places. Many people are losing their jobs, and people already disadvantaged by discrimination and oppression are being impacted more severely during this crisis. This is making daily life very difficult. This fund will help cover the costs of practical support to those affected by coronavirus, such as providing food, accommodation and medication, particularly whilst people self-isolate.
Our aim as a mutual aid group is not only to meet people’s needs during the coronavirus pandemic but to help create strong communities that can support each other long into the future. The end of the pandemic will not be the end of the crisis. The economic impacts will likely put our livelihoods, homes and health under threat for years to come. Services and charities that have so far survived austerity and are helping people now may disappear. It has been inspiring to see neighbours supporting each other over the last few weeks and in the process getting to know each other and build a more connected and supportive community and this will become more and more important. This is what we want to help support and grow.
What makes our fund different
Unlike other funds, the solidarity fund will be directly controlled by the people who benefit from it. We are the experts, we know what we need and what needs to happen. Solidarity and mutual aid are about collective responsibility to each other as equals, not giving through an act of charity. Charity comes from those who have, to those who have not, and is often given in a patronising way as if the donor knows best. Mutual aid allows for more effective use, as with many other efforts there are barriers for people accessing help. Most funding is directed by a large institutional body that distributes money to smaller institutional bodies which then distribute funds, through bureaucratic procedures, to the communities who need them. With this fund, the money goes directly to the community who will democratically decide how the money is used.
Funds will be distributed on a basis of trust and community solidarity. It is in all of our best interests that members of our community are able to be secure and provided for. The best way to do this is to provide strong, self-sustaining structures for meeting people’s needs.
The guidelines for the dispersal of funds can be flexible and can change over time as we fundraise more money, as the needs of the community change and as we learn from experience.
What you can apply for
We recognise that the pandemic is making existing inequalities worse, and it is therefore vital that the diversity of our community is represented. To address this, we will prioritise applications from people who face discrimination due to their identity or background (e.g. class, disability, gender/gender identity, ethnicity, nationality, religion, sexuality, age, migration status, or other factors).
The fund is open to requests for the following:
Individual costs – up to £50 (larger amounts may be considered depending on funds available)
- Any needs that you have because of coronavirus that the local community could not meet (eg food, medication, transport, accommodation)
- Reimbursement of costs you incurred carrying out mutual aid work for someone else (eg transport costs, police fines, buying someone shopping who couldn’t afford to buy it themselves)
Group costs (applications to come from mutual aid group) – up to £250
- Buying items and resources that allow our new networks to function and become resilient (egtools, printers, bike trailers or fuel costs)
- Supporting projects that help BS5 communities become more resilient (eg food growing, childcare networks etc)
In the spirit of mutual aid, we would welcome any person or group who have received funds to support the fund in the future if they are able to or to contribute to community mutual aid in other ways. Supporting the solidarity fund could include donations, promoting the fund to friends and wider networks or becoming panel members. There is no pressure or obligation to do this.
How to apply
Already people have shown amazing kindness helping neighbours with time and money and this fund is not intended to replace that. We also don’t want to encourage dependency on the fund. Therefore, if you’re an individual, we ask that you first contact your local street group and see if they can help you. If you would rather make a request anonymously to your street group you can ask the main contact of the group to share your request for you, or you can call the BS5 hotline and ask them to put the request in for you.
- Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “SOLIDARITY FUND REQUEST” or call 07985 237 457
- Include 4 details: 1) your sub-postcode (BS5 02x, BS5 6Dx etc), 2) your name, 3) how much you need (within the limits of explaining why you are requesting money), 4) what you need it for. If there is particular information you feel is important for us to know you are welcome to add this but please keep it very brief.
- Please also let us know if you need it by a certain date.
- If you’re an individual, please also confirm your local group has been unable to help but have discussed it.
- BS5 8JP, Alyson, £35, me and my kids need to do a food shop, but I have been laid off and my Universal Credit application has not been processed yet. I need this money ASAP please. I have contacted my local street group and they were unable to help.
- BS5 2BH, Tara, £25, I talked to a rough sleeper who is on the list to be sheltered over the next few days but needed to get into a hostel for the night so that she didn’t miss her meeting the next morning. I paid for this but need reimbursement as I am currently out of work. It was an emergency situation and I wasn’t able to get support from my local street group.
- BS5 3PU, Maria, £20, we need to print leaflets and get a new phone to set up a new mutual aid group.
- BS5 0QA, Kishan, £60, people on my street are looking to set up a food distribution system and we need money to get a delivery of surplus food from Fareshare that would feed every household on our street. The next delivery slot is on Thursday.
How decisions are made
A panel of 5 people from BS5 will make decisions on how the funds are used. Every 2 weeks two people will be replaced so that decisions aren’t always made by the same people, but also allowing for new people to be supported. People can also join the panel as observers. At all times we will aim for the panel to come from across BS5 and from different backgrounds and identities. Decisions will be made by consensus. Any requests over £50 will need to be approved at a BS5 meeting, which currently takes place once a week. If it’s an emergency the panel will propose their decision to the BS5 WhatsApp group to seek their views, following the group’s agreed decision-making procedure.
Members of the panel should stand aside if there is a conflict of interest (for example if they are related to the person applying) and the panel member doesn’t feel like they are able to make an objective decision. Declarations of conflict of interest should be given at the beginning of the meeting.
We will update a publically available list of all applications received and our decision. This list will not include names, postcodes or any information that would make people identifiable. The panel will also be accountable to the wider BS5 mutual aid network.
How much would we like to raise?
- Around £10,000 over an extended period would allow us to be able to build resilience within our community. Of course, we don’t expect this amount, especially in this extremely difficult time but if we were able to accumulate around £500-£1000 a week over the period that is most affected by this virus, that would allow us to take the strain of the crisis off of a large section of the BS5 postcode a week.
Which fundraising platform will we use?
- The crowdfunder is on the BS5 Mutual Aid website and we use Gofundme and Paypal to receive donations. We encourage other community groups in BS5 to share it with their supporters. Money raised through crowdfunding websites are not immediately accessible and fees are taken.
- We will set up a system to allow people to make regular donations/standing orders.
Which bank account will we use?
- Bristol Redistro (https://bristolredistro.weebly.com/) have offered their bank account. Payments could be made from this account directly to people who need it.
Will we ask grant recipients to provide reports?
- People applying for money are likely to be in some kind of crisis so we’d like to check with them that they’re ok and that the money was useful, but no-one has to give us an update if they don’t want to.
How will we choose the decision-making panel?
- We will recruit the panel by putting a call out through the BS5 WhatsApp and Facebook groups. We will specifically ask people to come forward who feel they have a shared background, identity or situation as people we’d expect to be applying to the fund and ask them to give their postcode. We’ll choose 6 people randomly, whilst also ensuring the panel members come from different areas of BS5. We’ll encourage panel members and people who’ve received money to ask people they know to come forward for the next panel.
How will we manage the funds?
- A small group of people will help with the admin of the fund. Members of the admin group will be accountable to the panel and wider BS5 mutual aid members. Full reports on payments made and copies of bank transactions will be made available to the BS5 group.
- The role of the admin group will be to accept applications, ensure the panel are up to date with how much money is available and work with Bristol Redistro to ensure payments are made.
- The admin group will manage a list with the names, addresses and bank details of the recipients and a spreadsheet tracking the applications and money given out. They remove personal details and assign each applicant a reference number before sharing the information with the panel.
- The admin group would not be involved in decision-making about funds
- Admin group members will change, with a maximum amount of time each member can remain on in the group – perhaps 6 months. Leaving the group would be staggered, rather than all leaving at the same time, to ensure there are experienced members who can support others.
- If we open our own bank account at some point, we will appoint a treasurer and secretary who will become signatories of the account. These roles are only for bureaucratic purposes (needed by the bank). Bank Signatories need to be aware that there are legal responsibilities that come with the role – a small risk, but a real one is being held responsible for any Fraudulent use of the Bank Account, ditto any Money Laundering activity that touches the account
How will we protect people’s personal data?
- Each person who applies will be given a unique reference number
- The people on the panel will not see the name of the applicant, only the reference number. People’s names will not be shared publicly either.
- Only the admin group will have access to people’s personal data
What will happen after the coronavirus pandemic is over?
- Impacts of the pandemic will continue to affect people long after it has passed so the fund will continue to provide support to people who need it. Once the lockdown has been lifted the fund can also be used to cover costs of mutual aid groups getting together in person to help ensure they can adapt to the changing circumstances and become stronger. No doubt the mutual aid groups’ purpose will change over time and we hope will help communities to address other issues as they come up, whether coronavirus related or not.