Family Action Chief Executive David Holmes CBE looks forward to 2023, while also considering how far we’ve come to get here.
There is a tradition when speaking about the New Year.
We often frame it by imagining a new start for ourselves and those we love, setting New Year’s resolutions and ambitious goals that we would like to achieve in the year ahead.
But I’d like to focus my New Year message this year on where we’ve come from and what we’ve learned over the last year rather than talking about all that is to come.
In writing this message I’m conscious that we’re all still getting over the pandemic.
It took so much from us – our freedoms, our health and, in some tragic cases, even those we loved – but it also taught us a lot about what matters most.
Communities came together, helping each other for no other reason other than a recognition of what we share, and many of us developed closer relationships with our family, friends and work colleagues, which was particularly notable when we could often only see them via a screen.
As a nation we were reminded of the importance of the things that really matter in life: our health, our relationships, our families, our friends, our community and our basic freedoms.
It may have come at a cost, but many of us developed extra resilience and adapted to an extraordinary situation surprisingly well. But the cumulative impact of that time is still being felt by so many of us.
In the worst of the pandemic Family Action reflected the nationwide spirit of community and practical help.
Our agility and responsiveness allowed us to keep our services open and find new ways to support the people who relied on us so much during the pandemic, but the need to support people was still very much there as we emerged.
We saw huge demand for our services as the cost of living crisis put additional pressure on families; many of whom were still dealing with the lingering impact of the pandemic.
This led to a redoubling of our efforts in 2022 because the need we saw was so great.
As ever we took heart and inspiration from the fact that our collective efforts receive amazing support from our volunteers, our supporters, our funders and our corporate partners.
This support allowed us to respond quickly to what our front-line staff and volunteers were telling us on the ground about families struggling to afford essentials: Mothers watering down baby formula to make it last longer and parents skipping meals so their children could eat.
“We were determined to support those in most need, so we created a new grants programme.”
We were determined to support those in most need, so we created a new grants programme – the Family Action Fund – providing £200 grants per family in the form of practical supermarket vouchers to support those in most need.
Nearly 1,000 families have already been supported through the fund and we hope to support many more in the New Year before it is exhausted.
We have also supported families through services such as our FOOD Clubs, which help families to access nutritious food at very low cost and in a welcoming and supportive environment.
There are now more than 50 of these Clubs nationwide, which are busier than ever and make such a difference wherever they operate.
Our national helpline FamilyLine continues to offer free practical help and emotional support to anyone who contacts us and we have seen a huge rise in the number of calls about financial support.
Collectively our work in 2022 led to a Christmas where we once again ensured, through our Toy Appeal, that many thousands of children across the country didn’t have to wake up on Christmas Day without a gift, and where we helped many families to put food on the table at Christmas.
So, in conclusion, I don’t really have any new year resolutions for Family Action to announce this year. I just want us to keep doing more of the same – offering practical and emotional support and, where we can, some financial support too to those most in need.
This is what we’ve always tried to do throughout our 150-year history and it feels more important than ever before.
Of course we’ll continue to evolve, to innovate and to deliver high-quality support for the families and communities that need it most.
But what matters most to me is that we take practical action and don’t just talk about how difficult things are.
I’m proud of Family Action’s work, our staff and our volunteers, but I’m also conscious that we are one little part of an incredible national community of other charities, groups and individuals that are all recognising the pressures that families face today and doing their utmost to provide practical support to make life just that bit easier to manage.
I sincerely hope 2023 will be a better year for us all and my greatest hope is that the cost of living crisis will ease considerably. But, whatever we face in the year ahead, I know we’ll face it together and you can rely on Family Action to take action.
Find out more about our life changing work and how you can get involved.