HA’s 2018 in five defining moments …

It’s a year, now, since I moved from The Caterer to Hospitality Action. I thought I’d round off 2018 by capturing my thoughts on the past twelve months. Here’s my 2018 in five defining moments.

When the chips are down, sometimes only chips will help 

Back in January, as I was trying to get my head around the sheer breadth of services our charity offers, a colleague suggested I rifle through the “thank you” file. In it, I found a note, handwritten in pencil, from a little boy called Liam. Liam and his dad had enjoyed a family day out to the cinema on us and had written to thank us. Our Family Days Out scheme gives families that are under the cosh a little ‘us’ time, a chance to regroup in the face of ongoing difficulties.

Liam’s thank-you letter hit home: for the cost of a couple of cinema tickets, some pop, a bag of chips and a ride on the bus, we’d given Liam and his dad a memory to treasure.

Liam’s story demonstrates how support can come in many shapes and sizes.

As well as Family Days Out, we run our Golden Friends scheme to keep loneliness and isolation at bay for industry retirees. We offer an Employee Assistance Programme that helps employers keep their teams happy, healthy and work-ready. We award grants to people in financial difficulty. We facilitate a phone friends scheme that provides lifelines for the elderly. And we offer bespoke counselling for a wide range of issues.

As hotelier Sally Beck said in February, once you understand what we do, you fall in love with us!

Enter Mitchell … 

By his own admission, until his life hit a bump in the road, Mitchell Collier thought he was the last sort of person HA helps. Young, healthy, forging a career at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, he felt indestructible. It turned out he was exactly the kind of person HA helps.

In early 2017, Mitchell’s health and confidence took three body blows: his relationship broke down, he was overlooked for a promotion, and he received a cancer diagnosis. HA arranged for counselling to put Mitchell back on his feet. By Spring of this year, he was back on track, and he approached us to volunteer as a case study. The resulting video drew an enormous response on social media. An HA star was born.

Too often, the perception of HA is that we exist solely to help drunk or substance-addicted chefs. Of course, we do help chefs with addiction issues, and anybody else fir that matter, and we’re proud to do so. But that’s just a small part of what we do. We help people with all sorts of problems, from all types of business, in all spheres of hospitality.

Mitchell’s generosity of spirit and willingness to act as an ambassador for HA was a crucial development. He debunked the myth, once and for all, that HA is for other people.

A social whirl for a good cause …  

Principal patron, Jason Atherton had already been running Social Sunday for three years, when I joined HA. The summer fundraising initiative across his London restaurants was his way of supporting the charity, and had already raised many tens of thousands of pounds for us.

This year, Jason and I drew a line in the sand: from 2018 onwards, we agreed, Social Sunday would be opened up to the whole industry. Our vision was to establish a date in the hospitality calendar when the industry looks to itself, and looks after its own.

The response was heart-warming. From Leith to Land’s End, hospitality operators concocted their own ways to support Social Sunday. In the end, more than 50 businesses across the country took part, raising a huge amount of money in then process.

In 2019, Jason and I plan to go nuclear with Social Sunday. Watch this space.

The mental health imperative 

In May, we marked Mental Health Awareness Week  by hosting an event at the Royal Lancaster London, to shine a light on the issue of stress in the hospitality workplace. Research conducted before the event suggested that a worrying 80% of hospitality professionals regard their job as stressful sometimes or most of the time, while 51% – over half! – described their job as being stressful most or all of the time.

The event and its ripples across social media proved – as if proof were needed – that there’s a ticking mental health time bomb under UK hospitality.

On World Mental Health Day in October, two Michelin-starred chef Sat Bains blogged for us and set a lofty goal:

“Beyond our four walls, we are fortunate to have Hospitality Action to support people in our industry through the hardest of times. Together with HA, we can break the stigmas that stop so many people asking for help and create an environment where people feel they have both the support of their line manager or a friendly ear at the end of HA’s action line.”

Amen to that, Sat. This’ll be a clear goal for us next year.

The need for help never goes away … 

Like the magic porridge pot in the children’s tale, the HA in-tray never seems to get any emptier. This winter, the delays around universal credit payments and the continuing fear, uncertainty and doubt around Brexit have sparked a steep rise in requests for support from HA.

Into 2019, we’ll move Heaven and Earth to help as many people as we can – but we’ll need your support in this. I look forward to working with you next year, to make UK hospitality a happier, healthier and more nourishing place.

Meanwhile, Happy Christmas from the whole HA team.

Do we all have charity in us?

We all have a different idea about what charity is, how we see ourselves getting involved and what we are prepared to do. Charity doesn’t always mean that you have to part with your hard earned cash. Charity also means awareness, consideration and compassion. Charity is a feeling that drives you to give, but ask nothing in return. With most people charity is that feeling of satisfaction, belonging, believe and honour. Charity involvement should be fun, it should inspire creative thinking, but can also sometimes mean hard work, physical training, sweat and pure exhaustion.

Have you found your charity and what are you prepared to do?

I joined the fundraising team at Hospitality Action last year in January. I found myself straight into the deep end, learning the job whilst running through my daily tasks and supporting an organisation celebrating its 180th Birthday year. I loved every moment of it right from the start and I still do. I believe that challenges are opportunities. Every single person we have helped gives me job satisfaction. Working for a charity, I am not in it for the money, but I am all about raising the money and raising awareness. For our beneficiaries financial help doesn’t just mean that the bills are getting paid, or they had a nice family day out or a nice afternoon tea with retired colleagues, because everyone deserves a dignified standard of life, needs a helping hand at times to boost their self-respect and confidence to empower them to continue their fight, survive and become independent again.

Everyone working in the hospitality industry should know who Hospitality Action is. If you do, spread the word, talk about us with your colleagues, look us up on our website, call us and have a chat. We are not a union, but after 181 years helping the people of our industry we have a very good idea about the kind of problems they face and more importantly, we have the solutions. We don’t just listen, we offer a plan, financial help, confidential professional advice, a get together, phone friends, HR support through our Employees Assistance Programme which is vast. We support employees and employers. We are all in it together and we have to make it work. After all, when you think about it, we spend most of our awake time working to pay for our living. We strive to find a balance and we believe in equality.

     

What really matters are the people we help, their real lives, their real problems and the difference we make. Working or retired, anywhere in the UK, any job within hospitality, we are here to offer support.

If you are reading this but don’t need support, then unite with us to make working in the hospitality industry a happy, safe and positive experience. Put a team together, run 10K, ride 40 miles, come up with your unique idea of team building activity, organise an event, donate an auction prize, join our EAP, make a cash donation, raise awareness, become a member, sign up for our newsletter, do something and have fun whilst raising money doing it, if you are a business nominate us as your charity of the year.

We have to raise the money to keep going as an organisation and fill the pot to pay out grants to those who need it and also pay for all the other services we offer. Our charity doesn’t receive government funding or many other grants. Last year we raised enough money to sustain and we spent £741,273 supporting the people in need from the industry we love.

Hospitality Action, our charity, has to make business sense to survive and continue to strive. So you see, it is a joint effort.

Take a moment, find the charity in you, what does charity mean to you and decide what are you prepared to do?

If you have charity in you we want to hear from you fundraising@hospitalityaction.org.uk

If you are a supporter, we thank you, you make our work possible! We would love to hear from you why you choose to support us.

The flicks and some chips … it’s the little things that matter

 

A friend told me at this week’s Master Innholders Hotel General Managers’ Conference, that they’d recently donated £120 for Hospitality Action – and then apologised for not raising more.

I quickly put them right. Every pound helps. For instance, it costs us just £60 to underwrite an HA Family Day Out, which gives a family needing some “us” time and some fun a trip to a cinema or a leisure attraction plus a bite to eat. In other words, the £120 my friend donated will pay for two of these priceless experiences for families connected to hospitality.

When life is challenging, a break from the norm can be transformative. Don’t take it from me, though. A little Scottish boy called Liam, whose family had enjoyed a day out on us recently, wrote to Liz on HA’s Grants team to thank her. That’s Liam’s writing at the top of this post.

He’d enjoyed HA family days out, before.

Liam’s latest day out was to the cinema. I’ll let him tell the story.

HA is so many things to so many people. A new boiler to keep the cold out, maybe, or some counselling after the loss of a loved one. Advice on safeguarding against addiction. A card at Christmas.

For Liam, it was a day out with his Dad to treasure, an afternoon at the pictures and chips on the way home.

Please don’t ever apologise for supporting HA, however modest your donation. Liam will be very grateful, and so will we.