WHO ARE WE?
We are a group of people in Lambeth, who came together during the Covid-19 pandemic to support people who live in the borough. At different times this group has coordinated smaller mutual aid groups across Lambeth to help their neighbours with shopping and picking up prescriptions. Since 2021 we’ve focused on sharing a Solidarity Fund to help people meet rising costs of living.
WHAT IS MUTUAL AID?
Mutual Aid is what people do to support each other. It is helping through acts of solidarity, without relying on governments or institutions. It can take many forms, from street kitchens, to writing letters to prisoners, to what we’re trying to do: community response to a pandemic and the inequality behind it. The term was popularised by Peter Kropotkin in his book Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution.
WHAT IS A SOLIDARITY FUND?
A solidarity fund is a way of sharing money neighbour-to-neighbour, without the administration of a charity. According to data released by Trust for London, 30% of people in Lambeth live in poverty, alongside people who are incredibly wealthy. We think this is wrong, we believe in redistribution of wealth, and a Solidarity Fund is an easy way for those who have more to share with those who have less. The ongoing pandemic and worsening fuel crisis make this need for redistribution more vital than ever.
ARE YOU A CHARITY?
No. No one involved in Lambeth Mutual Aid is paid for what they do, and we don’t have a hierarchy: we collaborate as a community. Charities do amazing work, but they are also not allowed to be political, whereas we are clear that we are trying to work towards a different society: one in which the root causes of inequality are challenged and properly addressed. A solidarity fund isn’t a solution to this – but it is a small step we feel able to take right now.
HOW ARE YOU ACCOUNTABLE?
Charities have boards of trustees who scrutinise what they do – but we know from various scandals within the charity world that these don’t stop bad practice. Instead of trustees, we work from trust, but more importantly with transparency. Our solidarity fund is held by Accountable via the Social Change Nest Community Interest Company, on a platform called Open Collective, which allows anyone to see what donations are coming in and what grants are going out.
We ask people applying for money for proof of address, but that information is deleted as soon as it’s been checked, to respect people’s privacy. We also ask people applying for money for bank details, but we can only put money in, not take any out.
WHO DO YOU GIVE GRANTS TO?
We give up to £50 to people who contact us directly via email, asking only that they provide proof of address. We’re keen to support those who have No Recourse To Public Funds, but we avoid asking intrusive questions or requiring people to prove that they ‘deserve’ the money. We also want to support people who might not have a proof of address, and so offer to meet in person if that will make the fund more accessible.
We also give individual grants to people referred to us by Lambeth-based community groups that we’ve built up a relationship with, including Lambeth Larder, Rastafari Movement, and Repowering, and support those organisations as well with bigger grants of up to £500 to enable them to reach more people without the burdensome admin of application forms.
HOW DO YOU PREVENT FRAUD?
We realise that working from trust makes us vulnerable to fraud: that’s why we ask that people provide a proof of address, to at least be sure that the money is reaching our Lambeth neighbours. No one can receive more than £50 in any one 30-day period, and we track all the account numbers we give grants to, to avoid repeat requests.
THIS IS AMAZING, HOW CAN I DONATE?
We’re glad you think so! On our Open Collective page there are lots of options for donating: regular monthly donations help us ensure we have a consistent income, so we can keep the fund sustainable, but one-off donations are also really helpful. And whether you can give £1 or £1000, every donation means so much to us and enables us all to support our neighbours.
THIS IS AMAZING, CAN I GET A GRANT FROM YOU?
If you live in Lambeth and are struggling with the costs of living, you can request up to £50 per month. We are working on a new system to give out grants. For now: to request a grant of up to £50 please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Either way, you’ll need to provide a proof of address, or else arrange for us to meet you in person. We work from trust and ask that you don’t take advantage of this: there are a lot of people in Lambeth who need support, and every fraudulent request prevents us being able to do that.