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VRF - Emergency Fund

IMPORTANT UPDATE  

From 23 July 2020, we will only consider applications for Securing Accommodation. We will no longer be awarding grants for basic essential needs or overcoming barriers to support. 

New opening times - you can only submit your applications Mondays to Thursdays 9am to 5pm.

Our priority is supporting people experiencing homelessness. In response to COVID-19 we have developed an emergency fund that is designed to offer flexibility in what you can apply for as the full impact of the COVID-19 pandemic unfolds. The fund is informed by feedback from over 950 frontline workers who responded to our Emergency Fund Survey in the first few weeks of the crisis.

To ensure that we continue to adapt as the needs of people experiencing homelessness change over the course of the COVID-19 crisis, we are keeping our survey open and would encourage you to complete it as you see needs shift. We will in turn do our best to ensure that the fund remains useful throughout this time. 

 

What can I apply for?

From 23 July 2020, we will only consider applications for Securing Accommodation. We will no longer be awarding grants for basic essential needs or overcoming barriers to support. Securing Accommodation grants might be a deposit to access accommodation, a deposit to secure accommodation suitable for self-isolation, an identification document that is needed to secure accommodation or rent arrears where there is an imminent risk of eviction.

For further information please see our grant category and evidence list here.

 

Who can apply?

We only accept applications from paid frontline workers who provide support to people experiencing homelessness or whose accommodation might be at risk. Frontline workers include staff working in the voluntary, statutory and public sectors. For example: Resettlement or Outreach workers, CAB advisers, Supported Housing Officers, Mental Health Workers, Drug and Alcohol Support, GPs, Probation Officers, Social Workers, Prison in-reach workers, Police, Health Professionals.

 

How much can I apply for? 

Most of the grants we provide are small one-off grants – the amount is decided based on your current need so please give as much detail as you can on the application form. As a guide, we would usually expect to receive applications for amounts no more than £1000 for Securing Accommodation.

However, in exceptional circumstances we will consider more.

 

How do I apply?

Applicants need to register on our Flexi-Grant system with a valid work email address before making an application.

If you’re already a registered user, log in here.

 

Who can the payment be made to?

We can make BACS payments to organisations or landlords. In exceptional circumstances we may be able to make a payment direct to the individual.

 

Consent

To reflect the current challenges posed by COVID-19 we understand that it is unlikely you will be able to get consent in writing from your client. Where this is possible, please do, but if you are only able to get verbal consent we have adapted our consent form which can be found here. This will need to be uploaded to Section 5 of your application form.

 

Evidence

We ask that you provide evidence of spend and where possible, also evidence of the outcome of the grant.

You can find examples of the evidence that you will need to provide here

 

Contact

  • Email: vrf@stmartinscharity.org.uk
  • Phone: 020 3795 5746 (voicemail only)

For further information please see our grant category and evidence list here and read the FAQ below.

 

Emergency Fund FAQ

- read thoroughly before applying

1. About The Emergency Fund

1A. How can I contact you?

We are a small team, so before contacting us, ensure you have read through these FAQs carefully.  

You can email us on vrf@stmartinscharity.org.uk

Our number for voicemail only is 020 3795 5746

We can only accept calls and emails from frontline workers enquiring about our grants programme, not from members of the general public. 

For more about our opening hours, see our grant portal homepage.

 

1B. Do you offer advice?

We do not offer advice on housing or homelessness. 

 

2. What we fund

2A. What do you fund?

From 23 July, the VRF Emergency Fund will only pay grants for Securing Accommodation. Examples of what we will fund are:

  • a deposit to access accommodation
  • a deposit to secure accommodation suitable for self-isolation
  • moving costs for people moving from temporary to permanent accommodation
  • identification document if it is essential to remove a barrier to accommodation
  • rent arrears where there is an imminent risk of eviction
  • hoarding/decluttering where there is an imminent risk of eviction

Before applying, please check this list of what we will fund and the evidence we need from you.

Please note we will not fund educational equipment for children.

2B. How much can I apply for?

£1000 for Securing Accommodation

However, in exceptional circumstances, we will consider more.

For further information please see our grant category and evidence list here.

 

2C. Do you help with private tenancies?

Yes, we can provide deposits and rent in advance to help your client access a private tenancy. We also pay private tenancy arrears when this will prevent someone being evicted and made homeless.

2D. Do you help with debt relief orders/bankruptcy?

We can consider applications for debt relief order or bankruptcy fees where this would help someone access housing or prevent eviction.

We can make payments to the supporting organisation or directly to the accountant in bankruptcy or to the Insolvency Service.

2E. Do you help with hoarding/decluttering?

Yes if it would prevent eviction and homelessness.

2F. I’m looking for help not covered by VRF’s grants

We recommend the Turn2Us database of grants for individuals - https://www.turn2us.org.uk/

For white goods, we recommend Glasspool Charity - http://www.glasspool.org.uk/

For educational resources for children, we recommend The Buttle Trust - https://www.buttleuk.org/

 

7. Consent

Can I provide verbal consent? (COVID-19)

During the Covid lockdown we may accept verbal consent for your application. You will still need to upload the consent form to Section 5 of your application form. Please read the following for details:

VRF Privacy Notice and Consent Form

3. Eligibility

3A. Who do you help?

The VRF provides crisis grants for people who are:

- currently homeless or 

- at imminent risk of becoming homeless

They should not have more than £3,000 in savings. 

Applications should only be made to us as a last resort. The VRF has a strict daily budget that is oversubscribed. As it is a crisis fund, we will only approve applications where a grant will alleviate or prevent homelessness or assist those that are vulnerably housed. We do not make grants to simply reduce financial burden.

For more details, please read the Emergency Fund grant making policy.

3B. Who can apply?

We only accept applications from paid frontline workers providing support to people who are experiencing homelessness or vulnerable housing.

A frontline worker includes staff working in the Voluntary, Statutory and Public Sectors undertaking diverse roles including Resettlement or Outreach Workers, DWP workers, CAB advisers, Supported Housing Officers, Mental Health Teams, Drug and Alcohol Support, GP’s, Probation, Social Workers, Prison In-Reach Workers, Police, or Health professionals.

3C. Why can't people apply for a grant directly themselves?

By issuing the funds through frontline organisations and landlords, we can maintain a secure point of contact, receive receipts and ensure grants are spent as intended to help the people who need it most.

3D. Do you cover the whole UK?

Yes, we provide grants UK-wide.

3E. Why can’t we apply for a grant before notice of eviction is given?

We are not able to give grants simply to clear arrears - we can only give a grant where there is a threat of eviction and so need to know that a formal eviction process has been started and is not currently on hold. This could be evidenced by an email or a letter from the landlord.

3F. Can I include several clients in one application?

We need individual applications for named clients. Eg if you have 15 clients who each need a mobile phone, we will need 15 separate applications.

4. Applying

4A. I’m homeless, can I apply for a grant?

We do not accept applications from members of the public. If you need a grant yourself, you will need to approach a support service (eg. a homelessness charity or the CAB) and ask them to apply for you. We are not caseworkers and unfortunately cannot provide casework support ourselves. 

4B. What documentation is needed to support the application?

All applications must include a signed VRF client consent form. You must use the Privacy Notice and Consent Form for Applicants which can be downloaded here
Please note we may accept verbal consent during the Covid lockdown - please read the consent form for details. 
Applications to clear a client’s rent arrears must include an official written notice of eviction/ termination of a license.

Applications to prevent eviction must include evidence that the grant will prevent the eviction from going ahead.

Please see the Grant Categories and Evidence document for full details. 

4C. How do I make an application?

Before registering with us, please read our: 

Privacy Statement

We only accept applications through our online system Flexi-Grant. Go to https://smitf.flexigrant.com and follow the link to ‘register as a user’. Registration involves 3 steps:

  1. Provide your email address
  2. Confirm your email address (you will receive an email prompting you to do this – it may go into your spam folder so check there)
  3. Log in at https://smitf.flexigrant.com/login.aspx with your confirmed email address, select ‘Application Portal’ at the top left of the screen. Select the ‘New User Registration Form’ and fill in this form. This is NOT the grant application form.
  4. Wait 5 working days for us to process your registration form. We will email you with our decision.

 

Once you have completed this registration process, you can again log in to https://smitf.flexigrant.com/login.aspx and fill in a grant application form.

4D. When will I hear back from you?

Please allow five working days for your application to receive a response. We ask that you do not contact us within this time. The VRF is heavily oversubscribed and to ensure we treat all applications fairly, we do not respond to requests for an application to be fast-tracked.

Once the application is submitted, we are only able to discuss the application with the frontline worker submitting it and the manager named on the application. If you are about to go on annual leave or you know that you will not be available within this time-frame, please do not make an application. If you have a colleague that will be taking over in your absence, then they will need to have their own separate account to be able to make a referral on behalf of your client.

COVID-19 Update

We are currently working within our contingency plan which enables the team to work from home and process applications and emails as usual. We are still hoping to process applications within 5 working days, but please be aware that sometimes there might be a delay. We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause and thank you for your patience during this time.

However, in order to minimise the risk of delays – we ask that you bear with us and only contact us with queries if absolutely necessary. When we experience high levels of general queries this does impact our turnaround time. Thank you for your patience and help at this time.  

We will update you if circumstances change.

4E. Why was my application unsuccessful?

The VRF is heavily oversubscribed and our team is small so unfortunately we don’t have the time and resources to give feedback about unsuccessful applications.

The most common reasons applications are unsuccessful are:

  • The client is ineligible eg. they are not homeless or at risk of homelessness
  • The application was made for support that VRF doesn’t offer eg. to reduce arrears 
  • Evidence was not provided eg. that the person is at risk of eviction
  • Evidence was not provided eg. that the grant will remove the risk of eviction
  • Evidence was not provided eg. that the client will be rehoused within two months (after clearing arrears to access social housing)
  • The consent form was not complete or not uploaded to the application
  • You did not use a VRF consent form
  • The case for support has not been made in the application or we have not been given enough information to make an informed decision. We need more than two sentences with general statements about the situation. You should explain what the need for the grant is, how it meets our eligibility criteria and how they will be able to avoid housing vulnerability in the future. 
  • The application is badly presented eg the client’s name is misspelled, irrelevant documents have been attached or other mistakes that may suggest the service may not provide the support the client will need for a successful tenancy.
  • The application was strong but other applications were stronger or would address more acute needs.

Unfortunately, even strong applications will be turned down from time to time.

4F. What does it mean if my grant is at "Current Stage: Offer"?

In Flexi-grant, if the status of your application is at "Current Stage: Offer" this means that your application has been successful and is waiting to be processed.

Please do not contact us during this time unless it has been more than 5 working days since you submitted your application. You will receive an email once the grant has been processed.

5. Successful applications

5A. Can you pay clients directly?

For most grants, we will not pay clients directly. We can make BACS payments to organisations or landlords. We will only pay clients directly if you can't get funds to them due to the Covid-19 lockdown. You will need to explain this in your application. 

5B. We were awarded a grant for a particular property, but due to a change of circumstances would like to use it for a different property. Is that allowed?

Yes.

5C. Does the grant have to be paid back to the VRF?

No. It is a grant not a loan. 

If any portion of the grant is unspent, this does need to be returned to us using the 'Return funds to the VRF' form. 

5D. The grant is no longer needed, how can I return it?

Yes, we can accept a grant return by BACS payment or cheque. Full instructions for returning a grant can be found in the Application Portal using the form ‘Return funds to the VRF’.

6. Evidence

6A. What evidence should I send you after the VRF grant has been awarded?

Once the funds have been spent, you must provide documentary evidence to the VRF that the funds have been used as set out in your application.

See this page for full details on what evidence we need and how to submit it to us - EF Grant Evidence

 

6B. Why is my account suspended/locked?

As stated in our terms and conditions, by accepting a VRF grant you agree to provide us with evidence of how the grant was spent. See this link for details of what evidence we need and how to upload it. If you are late submitting evidence without agreeing this with us first, or if there are queries about the evidence submitted, your account will be suspended. While suspended, you will not be able to apply for a VRF grant. You will be able to upload evidence whilst suspended, but unable to start or finish any applications.

Our policy is to permanently lock anyone who has had their account suspended more than twice in a 12 month period

6C. When will my suspended account be reactivated?

Once acceptable evidence has been submitted, we will email you to let you know your account has been reactivated.

Our policy is to permanently lock anyone who has had their account suspended more than twice in a 12 month period

Our Approach

Post Lockdown Survey


We welcome the incredible collaborative efforts taken so far by frontline workers to accommodate people during lockdown.

However, we also know that further action must be taken to ensure that you can support individuals to access much needed support and long-term housing, once lockdown measures are eased.



We would like to know what systemic and practical barriers you are currently facing, to access accommodation for the people they support.

We also want to know how you can best support individuals experiencing or at risk of homelessness, once lockdown measures are eased.

Thank you in advance for taking the time to complete this survey – the results will be anonymous.

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