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Lifting spirits in difficult times

The latest Zoom get together was an uplifting experience as Mark Lewis, Chief Executive of Hospitality Action, provided an insight to the amazing support provided by the charity and how the industry had rallied to help those struggling in what has become the toughest of times. Lewis explained that most of the support given was in the form of grants: “Largely the people who come to us is because they need help with a physical or mental health issue, or they’ve got an issue around poverty.” As well as helping those currently employed in hospitality, the charity was assisting people who had previously worked in the sector.

Those approaching Hospitality Action had ‘a million and one’ different circumstances, everything from needing help with funeral costs, to financial support during an escape from domestic violence or requiring modifications to their home after a life-changing illness or accident.

Mark Lewis of Hospitality Action

Jo Simovic of Umbrella Training, chairing the session, asked Lewis if he thought enough people were aware of the breadth of activity carried out by the charity. He said they were not, but the ‘crazy year’ of 2020 had not only kept them exceptionally busy but had raised the profile of Hospitality Action and resulted in more people helping to raise funds.

The world changed for not only the people the charity helps but for its own fundraising routes, particularly as events which normally provided income were cancelled. HA launched an emergency appeal. Hotel groups, supply chains, associations responded, alongside the general public who heard and saw the dramatic effect on the sector. Emergency grants were needed to help families cover the gap before Universal Credit was paid out and when Hospitality Action opened a portal for applications they received 22,000 emails in an hour. Also kept busy was the Golden Friends scheme where some 250 volunteers came forward to help with staying in contact and supporting industry retirees.

Lewis also took Zoom attendees through HA’s Employers Assistance Programme where for a small fee, £5.50 per employee per year, business owners could offer staff access to confidential, expert support including advice and counselling. “There’s never been a better time than now for employers to invest in the physical and mental health and well-being of their teams. We’re all a bit battered and bruised so this is an opportunity for employers to say to their teams ‘This is for you guys, here’s a whole suite of ways of helping yourself’.”

He revealed a little about the next fundraising challenge uniting the industry, following on from last year’s 20,000 Miles Challenge and the ‘lockdown’ recipe book by top chefs revealing what they had been cooking at home with their families. And ‘Invisible Chips’ has been launched so that when guests return to restaurants they can add the non-existent item to their food order and so contribute £1 each time as a donation to the charity.

You can see the full Zoom session on UKHA’s website.