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Opinion: Our charity is nearly 200 years old, but we are as relevant as ever

Written by Neil Lovell
24/08/18

A charity’s offering has to be one that people need and want so how can a nearly 200-year-old occupational charity remain relevant to a sector that continues to innovate and transform the way we experience print on a daily basis?

As the UK’s only dedicated occupational charity for the printing, paper, publishing, packaging, and graphic arts sectors, we help people of all ages through a range of support: one-off and regular financial grants, two sheltered homes for people who have retired from the sector, and signposting to specialist services.

We are in the unique position of working across two extremes from supporting people facing financial and emotional crises to championing the sector to inspire a new generation of young people to look at the diverse career opportunities on offer.

Engagement

Within the context of a dynamic sector, we wanted to hear from our beneficiaries about the impact our grants have to help inform our future activities.

Through an engagement programme of interviewee-led, semi-structured interviews, and surveys with beneficiaries, we looked at three areas of intervention: our regular and one-off grants, sheltered homes, and annual Print Futures Awards for people aged 18 to 30 years.

Headline findings

Analysis of the information gathered has given valuable insights into what is seen as existing good practice and aspects to consider for our future direction and focus.

Beneficiaries and residents of our sheltered homes made it clear that our empathy with their needs is what makes our support have such an impact with 95 per cent of those interviewed rating the application process five out of five.

While our key message is ‘here to help’, the evaluation also revealed a need for a greater awareness of our support. In analysing 20 beneficiaries’ relationship with the charity, 29 per cent had heard of the charity before applying for assistance, 85 per cent said they were not aware of our wider support and 87 per cent said they would like more information.

Our sheltered homes supporting independent living have a positive benefit, with 100 per cent of the 15 residents taking part in the evaluation saying they feel safer, 93 per cent feel happier, and 60 per cent feel less isolated since moving in.

Alongside our welfare work, the report identified our increasingly vital education work encompassing our Print Futures Awards and education initiatives with sector partners as well as the opportunity for us to take on an increased role helping to create direct pathways into employment for young people.

Building on the initial findings, we will move away from measuring our impact solely by the number of people we help and adopt a layered approach to measure high value interventions as well as softer, more personal outcomes, such as signposting to support services that are just as important.

Clear messages from the research are the importance of innovation in the sector and our own operations, and the value of direct contact. We are exploring ways to reach retired workers and their families, together with people in the workplace for whom access to independent advice and guidance is important, support current employees through sector changes, and help position the sector as a great place to work for future generations.

Neil Lovell is the chief executive of The Printing Charity



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