Hestia: End of Year Report

1 January 2021

This year, Merchant Taylors' Foundation gave a donation of £5,000 towards Hestia's COVID-19 response for their modern slavery and domestic abuse services, which has helped to ensure that many vulnerable people have continued to receive much-needed support during this crucial time. Below, Hestia share an end-of-year update to Merchant Taylors.

All of us at Hestia would like to reiterate our deepest thanks for your donation. 2020 was always going to be a special year for us at Hestia, it has been 50 years since our founding in 1970. We could not have predicted how different it would be – primarily, of course, because of the all-encompassing impact of COVID-19.

We have now come to the end of an extraordinary year for all of us – a year of challenges, difficulties, and in some cases, tragedies, but also a year of opportunities, successes, and new learnings. At Hestia, we have weathered the storms only with the support of generous supporters, and as one of our kind donors, we wanted to update you on our activity as we come to the end of 2020 – and look ahead to 2021 and beyond.

A smiling woman with red hair greets a mother and her daughter as she opens the door


Over the last year, your donation has helped us to support over 15,000 adults and children across London. This included helping 3,000 victims of modern slavery recover from their experiences, accommodating 150 ex-offenders leaving prison and supporting them to rehabilitate into society, engaging almost 1,000 adults with mental health support, and assisting 2,800 victims of domestic abuse. Of these, 360 children and 804 adults were given a safe space to recover in one of our refuges.

This year, 620 staff and more than 1,000 volunteers supported our work – the highest number of volunteers Hestia has had before.

In 2020, we won four awards for supporting people to live a life beyond crisis; opened 11 new services for vulnerable people and opened the only Approved Premise for female ex-offenders in London.

In addition, we continued to lobby for the forthcoming Domestic Abuse Bill to better reflect the specific needs of children, through our UK Says No More campaign. We released our Underground Lives report Homelessness & Modern Slavery in London, which found that nearly one in ten people sleeping rough in London have been exploited in modern slavery.

We also expanded Everyone’s Business, our programme of work with employers committed to tackling domestic abuse, with the launch of a new employee’s portal and the inaugural Everyone’s Business Award.

Finally, we launched six new mental health crisis services (Havens/Cafes) in partnership with the East London and Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trusts.

Our Response to COVID-19

When lockdown was announced in March, we consulted with our clients, and knew that we would have to make significant alterations to keep them safe while continuing the services that they relied upon. These alterations included protecting our high-support accommodation services to ensure that they remained fully staffed (including 24-hour services where appropriate).

We launched an emergency appeal to allow us to better support our service users, for example, by delivering emergency food supplies or purchasing IT equipment for children in our refuges so they could continue to engage at school.

We recruited an additional 170 volunteers to support isolated service users through telephone befriending or delivering emergency supplies and we secured support from external funders to ensure our digital offer could support service users who were isolated and who needed bespoke skills training to use the available technology.

We also ensured that we were looking after the health and wellbeing of our staff and volunteers, by supporting all staff who needed to shield, self-isolate, or socially distance to do so, acquiring personal protective equipment (PPE) from a range of suppliers for staff and service users, and increasing the emotional support available through access to external counselling. Fortunately, the people in our refuges were able to stay there, counting as one household for the purposes of social mixing.

With the ongoing support of our donors, we were able to keep all our services open and even opened 11 new services between March and November, including two emergency domestic abuse refuges, an emergency modern slavery safe house, and an ex-offender service.

One of our most important achievements this year was the rollout of Safe Spaces. Early on, Hestia recognised that lockdown was resulting in increased reports of domestic abuse as victims were trapped at home with their abusers. We saw a 40% increase in people trying to access our domestic abuse refuges and a 50% rise in usage of our Bright Sky support app.

In response, Hestia’s UK Says No More campaign worked with the General Pharmaceutical Council, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society and retailers such as Boots, Superdrug and Morrison’s to create Safe Spaces in their pharmacy consultancy rooms. With pharmacies some of the only businesses open, they were one of the few places that a victim might be able to access to get support discretely, without alerting their abuser.

We are immensely proud that one in four pharmacies across the UK are now Safe Spaces. Online Safe Spaces have also been provided with the Royal Mail, with pages of information and resources available to those experiencing domestic abuse. The scheme continues, and we intend to grow the service by including more partner organisations across the country.

When we asked our clients, 93% of 3,200 respondents confirmed that they were happy with the support they received from us during the pandemic. We are immensely pleased to have been able to help so many people at this difficult time, while recognising that there is always room for improvement in our services.

I was with my partner for nearly four years. He had been abusive before the pandemic but when lockdown started it became so much worse.

While others looked forward to having some time at home I was dreading it. I knew that it would mean that I would have no chance to escape the physical and emotional abuse.

My partner would wait until I was asleep and then he would punch and scratch me. I wanted to leave but I was worried there was nowhere to go. Eventually I told a friend what had been happening and she said, “pack a bag and leave now, just get out.”

I called the National Domestic Abuse Helpline and they found me a refuge at Hestia. Arriving at the refuge I felt very safe. I’m having weekly key work session with the staff at the refuge and it’s helping. We have coffee mornings and I get to discuss how I’m doing over a cup of coffee. It makes me feel at ease.

I know it’s not easy to leave but my advice to other people suffering abuse is to get help as soon as you can.

Now I’m starting to recover, I want to get back into work as soon as I can and get back into fitness. I want to start working on my mental health. I’m looking to the future.

Three young girls smile as they draw with a female adult looking over their work

Looking Ahead

As a supporter of Hestia, you will naturally want to know what our financial situation has been in this most difficult year, and what our projections for the future are.

2020 has certainly been challenging, with the economic impact of COVID-19 and the lockdown affecting charitable income, and increasing expenditure as we put measures in place to actively respond to the crisis. We have been enormously grateful and humbled by the generosity shown by our donors, which has helped put us in a more stable position as we enter 2021.

As such, we do not anticipate that our risk reserves will fall below the 110% requirement set by our trustees, giving us a cushion against unexpected adversity. Moreover, much of our income for the next financial year is already in contract. We do not expect this to change significantly as the services we provide are still vitally needed by local authorities. Fundraising will therefore be a key priority for us in 2021, in order to safeguard our income, protect our services, meet surges in demand, and respond proactively to any further challenges raised by COVID-19 and its aftermath.

For example, we know there are growing concerns around the mental health of people in our services as COVID-19 continues and lockdown returns in force for many. As such, we have commissioned detailed analysis into the mental health of our service users, which will be completed next year. We will also be developing our digital services further, to offer a growing online base of support to supplement our face-to-face work. Our goal is to continue to respond creatively and innovatively, so our services are always up to date and responsive to the needs of our clients and the changing world in which we live.

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