A struggling charity, once chaired by Charles Dickens, says store workers are seeking its help amid financial hardship caused by the end of the universal credit hike, reduced hours and lack of allowances from sickness.
The Fashion and Textile Children’s Trust (FTCT) is stepping in to help children whose parents work in the fashion industry but struggle to make ends meet.
Anna Pangbourne, chief executive of the charity, said declining visitors to stores and malls over Christmas and speculation over new Covid restrictions caused new concern over job security .
The withdrawal of universal credit of £ 20 per week, which was introduced after the first lockdown, came as a shock to families, some of whom had fallen into debt during the pandemic, Pangbourne said. “The effects of the initial lockdown are going to be felt for a long time,” she said. “We continue to reach out to families in the industry who lack the safety net of sick pay or savings. “
In 2021, the charity received nearly 2,500 grant applications, following a record 3,516 inquiries in 2020 when Main Street was rocked by the failure of large employers Debenhams and Sir Philip Green’s Arcadia and the first wave of store closures in the event of a pandemic.
Families told the charity that the cut in universal credit was badly felt as most started claiming it when the increase was in place. Others said they did not receive sick pay while in isolation or their children were sick or quarantined.
This week, as part of a £ 1 billion emergency financial aid package for hospitality and leisure businesses, the government reopened the statutory sickness benefit reimbursement scheme, which reimburses businesses with up to 250 employees for payment to staff.
The rapid spread of the Omicron variant has led the Usdaw union to call on the government to review sick pay provisions. Staff who are entitled to statutory sickness benefit receive £ 96.35 per week, but the Retail Workers’ Union wants the payment to be based on normal earnings.
The FTCT said the end of the leave-on employment assistance program meant people had returned to work but often received fewer hours, and the accompanying pay cut affected their ability to pay workers. bills and replacing broken home appliances at a time of skyrocketing cost of living.
The charity, which was founded in 1853 by a group of philanthropic textile merchants to support a colleague’s bereaved family, assisted 713 families in its most recent fiscal year. Its average grant is around £ 500, which Pangbourne says was used to provide the children with “hot meals, comfortable beds and warm clothes”.
The work of the charity, originally called the Purley Children’s Trust, caught the attention of Charles Dickens who chaired its Appeal Board from 1856 to 1857.