Foundation expands Christmas 2020 Programmes

This December the Sir Simon Milton Foundation is partnering with Westminster City Council and local charities to help deliver gifts to those most in need over the festive period, and will:

    • deliver almost 1,000 Christmas hampers to some of the most lonely and isolated older people in Westminster
    • support some of the most disadvantaged younger people and families in need by donating a total of £85,000 of gifts, including gift vouchers and a theatre trip for 35 young carers

Christmas can be one of the most difficult times of the year for those who already face challenges or might be struggling with loneliness. This year the Covid-19 pandemic has made this much worse, with many people feeling increasingly anxious about the virus, its associated restrictions and economic challenges.

Due to Covid-19, we have had to cancel one of our most popular Christmas programmes, the Sir Simon Milton Foundation Tea Dance. For 14 years this hugely popular annual event has welcomed 1,000 older people who live in Westminster for a free afternoon of live music, dancing and afternoon tea.

In response, the Foundation has sought ways to lift people’s spirits by expanding their Christmas programmes in Westminster, to help not just the elderly but also young people facing a difficult Christmas. Working with Westminster City Council and local charities, we are running three projects in December to deliver food and shopping vouchers to those most in need in Westminster. These projects will help Carers, particularly young carers, children in care or who have recently left care, families in need and lonely and isolated older people.

Since 2013 the Sir Simon Milton Foundation has delivered over 2,200 Christmas hampers to people aged over 65, identified by Westminster City Council as being vulnerable, lonely or isolated. For the past three years they have also worked with Carers Network to provide hampers for adult Carers living in Westminster.

This year, we have increased their hamper donations even further, and in partnership with Westminster City Council will be delivering almost 1,000 hampers across the City. These will be delivered by local volunteers from the Westminster Connects team, as well as Westminster City Council staff, Councillors and Leader of Westminster City Council, Councillor Rachael Robathan.

[above] Westminster Resident, Mary Barsch, Christmas hamper recipient

The Sir Simon Milton Foundation worked with Family Lives, a charity which supports families struggling with family breakdown, debt, and emotional and mental wellbeing. They identified 28 local Carers aged 7-16 years old, who will each receive a £50 gift voucher from the Foundation.

Fatima Ahmed, Family Lives Area Manager for Westminster, RBKC & Bexley said:
"We are absolutely delighted with this generous offer from Sir Simon Milton Foundation and can't wait to see the smiles on our Young Carers' faces when they receive the vouchers. It has been a very difficult year for many with the pandemic and what a lovely way to end the year for our Young carers to buy something special for themselves; a token of appreciation for selflessly giving up their time to help support their families all year round.”

DreamArts, a London-based charity which combines creative arts and therapy services for younger people, identified a further 35 young Carers aged 9-17 years old to receive a gift. The Sir Simon Milton Foundation gift will provide funding for each of them to attend a West End theatre performance of 'Everybody's Talking About Jamie' in December, as well as a festive gift pack of books and arts supplies.

[above] Westminster City Council Leader, Cllr Rachael Robathan, and volunteers from Westminster City Council packing gift voucher donations

To help families who may be worrying about their food budget at Christmas, the Sir Simon Milton Foundation is also working with the Children’s Services team at Westminster City Council. They identified 525 local families most in need, who will each receive a £100 gift card donated by the Foundation, to help them shop for a festive meal or special present.

The Children’s Services also identified 455 Cared for Children (Looked After Children aged 0-17 and Care Leavers aged 18-26) to receive a gift. The Sir Simon Milton Foundation will donate a total of nearly £30,000 of gift vouchers to this programme, to help each child buy themselves something special for Christmas.

Councillor Timothy Barnes, Westminster City Council Cabinet Member for Children’s Services and Libraries, said:
“Christmas can be a challenging time of year for many, so I’m grateful to the Sir Simon Milton Foundation for their kind generosity towards vulnerable families in Westminster, looked after children and care leavers this festive period. The gift vouchers will raise the spirits of many families and young people this Christmas.”

Matthew Sykes, Chief Executive of the Sir Simon Milton Foundation, said:
“While we were very disappointed to have to cancel one of the highlights of our year, the Tea Dance, we were determined not to let people in Westminster down this Christmas. For many this is not a season of joy and happiness and the pandemic has made it much harder still. We hope that these gifts will raise their spirits and show them they are not alone.”