Emergency fund launched for young women

27 March 2020

A fund to help economically vulnerable young women hardest hit by the impact of the coronavirus crisis has been launched today by Young Women’s Trust.

The Emergency Fund will provide relief payments to help young women aged 18 to 30 who are facing financial crisis. Young women struggling to afford essentials such as food, utilities and rent for themselves and their families will receive £150 each.

Young Women’s Trust has donated £85,000 of its own money to the fund and is seeking to raise a further £50,000 to help hundreds of the most vulnerable women in England and Wales.

The charity, which evolved from the YWCA England and Wales and was formed more than 150 years ago, has joined forces with Women’s Aid, Women’s Resource Centre and Women for Refugee Women, who will act as referral partners. The partner charities will refer women who are economically vulnerable, experiencing domestic violence and those who are living in insecure housing to the fund.

Prior to the coronavirus outbreak, Young Women’s Trust research found that 40% of young women struggled to make their cash last until the end of the month and 1 in 4 young mums skipped meals every day. Testimonies from young women since the crisis hit have revealed their fears this will get worse, unless the government intervenes further.

The fund is announced as Young Women’s Trust calls on the government to step up its emergency response to protect young women already affected by the coronavirus crisis. The charity is calling on government to increase basic benefit allowances such as Universal Credit, Carer’s Allowance and Personal Independence Payments to be paid at the National Living Wage, to halt the five-week wait for payments, and to remove barriers to refugee and migrant women accessing healthcare by ending the policy of “no recourse to public funds”.

Launching the Emergency Fund, Sophie Walker, Chief Executive of Young Women’s Trust, said:

“The government has announced emergency measures to support businesses, homeowners and the self-employed. We are very worried that thousands of young women who were left behind before the crisis, have been left behind in the response to it.

“Young women are telling us they’re fearful about how they are going to pay their rent, electricity and gas and even feed their children over the coming weeks. We want to provide immediate relief to help these young women.

“The current climate is causing financial difficulties for many, but we know from the millions who have pledged to help the NHS and their communities during this crisis, that people stand ready to help others in their time of need. We urge them to stand with us as allies to young women who are economically vulnerable at this time.”

Kira, a young woman from London, worried about what the coronavirus outbreak means for her said: 

“Before coronavirus I was on a zero-hours contract but couldn’t keep up with childcare costs, so was forced to give up work at the start of this month. I am now faced with empty supermarket shelves and can’t buy the food I need for me and my son and have had to turn to food banks for help.

“Luckily I now have permanent accommodation but I am still worried about being forced to make a choice between paying rent and buying food. I need stable work for my family but I know finding a job is going to be so much harder now the country is in lockdown. I’m what some people would call a low-skilled worker, but it now seems like we’re some of the most important workers in the country.”

Natasha Walter, Director at Women For Refugee Women:

“Women for Refugee Women works with women who have sought asylum in the UK. Many of them are completely destitute with no access to any statutory support and no right to work – even in normal times, they struggle to survive. This fund will help us to get help to some of the most vulnerable young women in the UK, who are scared right now about how they are going to feed and house themselves and their families during this pandemic.”

Vivienne Hayes, CEO at Women’s Resource Centre said:

“During this incredibly difficult time we know many young women are struggling to feed themselves and their children and keep a roof over their heads. As ever, women’s organisations are working together to step up our efforts to support women and girls who feel left behind and forgotten by many of the government’s emergency plans. Well done Young Women’s Trust for acting swiftly and effectively! Let’s see our government do the same.”