Dear Rt Hon Robert Buckland MP,
By Dr. Theo Gavrielides RJ4All Founder & Director
15 Dec. 20
A recent study compared how much people working in the private, public and charitable sectors boast about their achievements. Obviously, those working in the voluntary sector came last. This is not surprising. We do what we do as part of our civic duty as most of us make our work … our life. We don’t distinguish the time that we put for ourselves and families from the time we put for others. They are all the same! Although the results of this survey were not surprising, they were helpful as they forced me to look back at what we have collectively achieved this year, and pause for a minute. That minute left me full of gratitude and humility.
2020 has been a special year in so many ways. COVID19’s unprecedented health and socio-economic impacts can only be compared to what followed World War II. As we watched the death toll rise day by day, those of us working in the charitable sector felt double frustrated and lost. The government’s social distancing measures meant that we either had to find new ways of responding to our communities’ needs or accept defeat and either shut down temporarily or indeed close.
At RJ4All, we felt that we had to raise to the challenge. We closed our office and quickly set up a voluntary, home-based infrastructure that simply allowed our staff and volunteers to continue our charitable services. We simply could not watch the spiralling effect of COVID19’s consequences whether these related to health or other socio-economic and educational challenges. We also knew that if we don’t raise to the challenge now, our founding restorative justice values of equality, power sharing, respect and dignity would be betrayed.
But with suffering, inequalities and death, I have also seen our communities coming together like never before. Funders collaborated to coordinate a response to the crisis, while we saw our volunteers increasing by 120% just in 6 months. I could not be more proud of my team. Despite the many challenges, it is without doubt that 2020 has been the strongest year so far for our charitable institute.
We were honoured to have received the Highly Commended Award for the Best Charity in the 2020 Southwark Business Excellence Awards. RJ4All also received the ESC Quality Mark, signifying that all our policies are compliant with European standards for safeguarding, volunteering and work placements. Moreover, we were one of the 2020 Top 100 social enterprises in the UK (NATWEST SE100), while the Cabinet Office asked us to apply for the Queen’s Awards for Enterprise.
A huge thank you to the team, the Board, the Patrons, our funders and supporters. A personal thank you to you who is reading this blog. As you read our 2020 Impact Report, please consider joining us as a member, volunteer or just supporter. We need more people like you in these times of solidarity and change. Happy new year from the RJ4All family.
Watch this video to discover our current priorities and future plans.
By Sandra Jøgensen
Throughout the years, the Erasmus+ programme has benefitted a lot of people across Europe, including individuals and organisations from the UK. Erasmus+ is an EU funded programme made to support education, training, youth, and sport in Europe. The aim of the programme is to promote growth, employment, equity and social inclusion in Europe through the mentioned fields which are considered essential for the promotion of common European values, social integration, enhancing intercultural awareness and understanding as well as creating a sense of belonging to the same community among the European citizens. Erasmus+ also promotes the inclusion of people with disadvantaged backgrounds such as newly arrived migrants.
Another aim of the programme is to empower young people to actively participate in society and shape the democratic life in Europe by enhancing their skills and competences as well as providing them with professional skills that are required by the labour market in an attempt to enhance employment across Europe. Thus, this programme is considered an investment in knowledge, skills, and competences that benefits both individuals, organisations, and society as it contributes to growth, equity, prosperity and social inclusion in Europe and beyond (European Commission, 2020, p. 5).
Through the Erasmus+ programme, young people will be provided the opportunity to study, volunteer or gain work experience through training or internships abroad. Through these opportunities they can develop new skills, gain international experience, and enhance their chances of employment in the future. It also provides staff of educational institutions and civil society organisations the opportunity to teach or train abroad which contributes to enhancing their professional practice, creating an international network and gaining new perspectives and ideas. Lastly, the programme also presents organisations the possibility to collaborate with international partners to share best practice, enhance innovation, and offer new opportunities to young people across Europe.
The programme is funded by the European Union, meaning that participants will be covered financially by the European Union when joining the programme which is what makes it possible for many people to go abroad either to study, volunteer or work, as they do not have to worry about how to cover their living expenses in a foreign country. Furthermore, the funding also makes it possible for various projects to be carried out in collaboration with European partners (Erasmus+).
In practice, all this means that the Erasmus+ programmes offers many benefits for both young people, professionals, and organisations, though many of the benefits are often mentioned in relation to young people.
The opportunity to go abroad either to study, volunteer or train is a great experience for young people. It enhances both personal as well as professional skills, as studying, volunteering or working abroad brings with it a lot of useful knowledge and positive experiences such as testing and learning knew professional skills, gaining more knowledge and awareness of other cultures and their way of doing things, creating new friends and a new network, learning new language skills, and gaining new perspectives on things. Furthermore, by challenging yourself to be in a new an unknown situation, you will surely develop a lot of interpersonal skills and become more mature, independent, and confident as you also learn more about yourself and what you are capable of (Erasmus+).
All these experiences and skills empower young people and contribute to a positive development of their competences. This experience will also benefit young people in the future as it will help them develop skills that are invaluable when seeking employment in the future. International experiences look good on a CV and can help you stand out from the many applicants as many employers regard international experience significant when recruiting new employees (Araujo, 2020). Actually, research has found that people who have had an Erasmus exchange have enhanced employment possibilities and find work more quickly after graduation (Cole, 2018).
However, individuals are not the only ones enjoying the benefits of the Erasmus+ programme. The programme also enhances the connection the UK has with the rest of Europe, as many international students make use of the programme to be able to study in the UK. These students contribute to the international community and diversity present at many of the universities across the UK. In addition to this, these students also make a large economic contribution through their spending in the UK. Lastly, these students help strengthen the international connections of UK as they spread their knowledge about the UK, meaning that the programme also enhances the international promotion of the UK which could lead to further economic and political benefits (Cole, 2018).
Following Brexit, the future of the Erasmus+ programme and its implications for the UK are still unknown. Until the end of 2020 the Erasmus programme has continued to apply for the UK in the same way as before the UK opted for leaving the European Union. However, the government has yet to decide whether the UK will continue to be part of the programme after leaving the EU, as they state that they are open to participating in certain elements of the programme on a time-limited basis, if the terms are in line with UK interests (Reuben, 2020).
However, the government is also considering replacing the Erasmus+ programme with a domestic alternative that will continue supporting international exchange. That being said, it will be difficult to reach the same benefits through a national programme, thus implicating that many of the mentioned benefits of the Erasmus+ programme could potentially be lost to the UK and the UK citizens (Reuben, 2020).
This could be a fatal blow for UK universities as many foreign students may not be able to or want to come to the UK to study without any financial support. This could lead to economic issues, as the economic contributions from exchange students will be heavily reduced. Furthermore, it will make it more difficult for UK citizens to have the opportunity of going abroad and gain the skills and positive experiences which this entails. It will make it especially hard for citizens with a disadvantaged background as they may not receive the necessary support through another programme and can therefore lose the opportunity of going abroad due to their conditions, thus resulting in a more unequal society.
In general, it may also imply that young people will have difficulties gaining the necessary experience to enhance their job opportunities or will not be prepared for working in an international setting. This especially applies to students of language degrees where studying or working abroad is a compulsory part of the degree, meaning that many students may refrain from choosing language studies in the future if they do not have the economic means to finance a stay abroad by themselves. By limiting the opportunities to gain professional skills through international exchange and experiences, the labour market could also suffer and make it harder for the UK to compete with other international companies who may have more experienced and diversified employees (Fazackerley, 2020). Thus, the withdrawal of the UK from the Erasmus programme could have major consequences, both for the citizens of the UK but also for the society.
As a Danish citizen, I have personally gained a lot of benefits from the Erasmus+ programme. It has provided me both with the possibility of volunteering for an organisation in another country as well as studying and doing an internship abroad as part of my university studies. All these experiences have made me gain a lot of interpersonal as well as professional skills and, overall, just given me some amazing experiences in different countries where I got to know amazing friends and learn new things every day. I would not want to be without all these experiences as they have given me so much and I would encourage everyone, who has the opportunity of going abroad through Erasmus, to utilise it.
However, without the funding from the Erasmus+ programme, I probably would not have been able to go abroad so many times and gain so many positive experiences that have contributed immensely to the person I am today. I would therefore be very sad if the young people of the UK miss out on this amazing opportunity to develop themselves both professionally but also personally. Therefore, it is important to make the government aware of what the withdrawal from the Erasmus+ programme really means, both to individuals but also to the society.
Araujo, C. (2020) 10 Benefits of the Erasmus Exchange Program. Eurosender. Retrieved November 3, 2020 from: https://www.eurosender.com/blog/en/10-benefits-of-erasmus/
Cole, J. (2018) Why Erasmus is important for students. Russell Group. Retrieved November 3, 2020 from: https://russellgroup.ac.uk/news/the-importance-of-student-exchange/
Erasmus+. About Erasmus+. Retrieved November 3, 2020 from:
Erasmus+. Why take part? Retrieved November 4, 2020 from:
It is no surprise that being in isolation has had an immense negative impact on people’s mental health. Yet, as lockdown restrictions ease, how will mental health be affected? For some, being able to go out and meet up with friends and family will bring joy and excitement, but for others it can bring severe anxiety.
After nearly 5 months of staying inside, it can feel strange to go out into public spaces. We have gotten so accustomed to staying inside that it feels almost unnatural to go back to work, to a restaurant, or to a loved one’s house. It is also very probable that people will feel anxious, nervous, or even stressed about resuming activities they were once so used to due to the worry of contracting Covid-19 and passing it on to others. Moreover, it can be overwhelming to keep track of all the ‘right’ things to do when it comes to going out, including wearing facemasks, making sure to stay around 2 metres apart from others and sanitising frequently.
Young people and those experiencing mental illness are especially vulnerable when it comes to the pandemic. For people with mental illnesses such as social anxiety disorder, social situations are tough enough without having to add the fear of getting infected. YoungMinds reports that young people will need extra mental health support after lockdown as many of them are experiencing anxiety about life ‘returning back to normal’. Adding on, data from the Mental Health in the Pandemic study shows that 32% of young people and 31% of people with pre-existing mental conditions in the study’s sample still feel hopeless as lockdown rules are relaxed.
It is clear to see that Covid-19 is greatly affecting people’s mental health, both during lockdown and after it. With so much uncertainty going around, it is important to take care of oneself and others. Practicing meditation, keeping in touch with loved ones, and seeking support if needed, are all ways to cope with anxiety surrounding ‘the new normal’.
Posted by Lara Riad.
The message from government over the past 5 weeks has been to “Stay Home,” “Protect the NHS” and to “Save Lives”. These measures have been seen as crucial in the fight to overcome coronavirus. However, for over 300,000 people in the UK, following this guidance is not easy, and for some, it is impossible. There are an estimated 320,000 homeless individuals in the UK. 2019 data suggests that on a “typical night”, 4,266 people were estimated to be sleeping rough on the streets of England (Homeless Link, 2020). During the coronavirus pandemic, this puts those without permanent housing in a unique and dangerous position, and leads to the question: how can homeless people possibly be expected to stay safe during this crisis?
Much of the advice and guidance provided by the government is only applicable to the general population. Measures such as staying home, keeping good hygiene practices and social distancing can prove to be almost impossible for those with unstable housing situations. According to the homeless charity Shelter, for “thousands of families with children currently stuck in cramped emergency B&Bs and hostels, it can be almost impossible to follow NHS isolation guidance” (Shelter, 2020).
Those residing in crowded temporary housing are not able to socially distance from others, and if one individual in the residence were to contract Covid-19, it puts everyone in the building at high risk. Furthermore, those sleeping rough, are unable to “stay at home”, distance from others or maintain hygiene like regular hand washing. This is not only a problem for physical health, but also for mental health, as the anxiety and fear of being infected is likely to be heightened in crowded situations or when living on the streets.
One’s housing situation itself is a social determinant of health, with homeless individuals being more susceptible to health complications because of poor nutrition, compromised immune systems and an increased level of respiratory disorders (Crisis, 2020). Those who sleep rough have a life expectancy 30 years lower than the average person (Office of National Statistics, 2018). Homeless charities are becoming increasingly concerned, that as well as being at higher risk, those without permanent housing may struggle to access the health services they might require during the pandemic (Shelter, 2020).
Despite government measures to ensure that all rough sleepers are housed in appropriate emergency accommodation during the coronavirus pandemic, there are a number of challenges that the homeless population still face. Unfortunately, not everyone without a home is eligible for the scheme. Those with certain immigration statuses, such as refused asylum seekers or those who have not formally applied as homeless to their local councils cannot benefit from this measure. This once again leaves a section of society unprotected in this uncertain time.
Maintaining the physical and mental health of all people during this pandemic is paramount. It must not be forgotten that the homeless population still make up part of our society and it must be ensured that they are not excluded from social, economic and health policy.
Post by Rebecca Mutsatsa
Crisis. (2020). Crisis Emergency Fund. Retrieved from Crisis : https://www.crisis.org.uk/get-involved/in-this-together/?meganav=1
Glenton, J. (2018). Research shows that many rough sleepers have experienced some sort of trauma in their lives. Retrieved from Riverside: https://www.riverside.org.uk/rough-sleepers/
Homeless Link. (2020). Rough sleeping. Retrieved from homeless.org: https://www.homeless.org.uk/facts/homelessness-in-numbers/rough-sleeping/rough-sleeping-our-analysis
Office of National Statistics. (2018). Deaths of homeless people in England and Wales: 2013 to 2017. Office of National Statistics.
Shelter(2020, Mar 17). Shelter Press Releases. Retrieved from Shelter: https://england.shelter.org.uk/media/press_releases/articles/shelter_responds_to_3.2_million_emergency_support_for_rough_sleepers_during_coronavirus_outbreak
Wall, T. (2020, Apr 12). Cramped living conditions may be accelerating UK spread of coronavirus. Retrieved from The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/apr/12/virus-hitting-hardest-modern-equivalent-victorian-slums
The Lancet. (2020). Covid-19: a potential public health problem for homeless populations. The Lancet, 5.