Life after domestic abuse: how Hospitality Action helps get damaged lives back on track 

Back in 2015, Hospitality Action ran an awareness campaign that featured celebrity chefs made up and posed to look as if they were experiencing some the challenges our recipients face in real life.

Tom Kerridge, oxygen line to his nostrils, embodied critical illness. A haunted Jason Atherton represented addiction. And Angela Hartnett wore the cuts and bruises of domestic violence.

I remember when the campaign premiered at the Cateys, that July. There were gasps of shock around the Great Room at the Grosvenor House Hotel as the gruelling images flashed up on the big screen to the soundtrack of a thudding heartbeat.

At the end of the photo shoot for her advert, Angela was able to wash off her make-up and head back behind the stove. Samantha Thompson, a catering assistant from the Midlands, didn’t have that luxury.

Samantha knows all about domestic abuse. She lived with an abusive partner for long enough for distress to spiral into depression. In time, her partner moved out, but by then Samantha, normally a bubbly and vivacious personality, felt unable to return to work.

With no income, Samantha’s money quickly ran low. Worse, her ex-partner had taken with him many of the household items they had accumulated, leaving Samantha with a broken cooker, no bedding and no curtains in her bedroom.

HA exists to help people in crisis, people like Samantha. Our grant put a working cooker back in her kitchen and curtains in her window. It also helped with general living costs. More importantly, it gave her back her privacy and her dignity, and allowed her to make a fresh start.

Samantha go in touch with us, a while later.

“Your help meant everything to me”, she told us. “Without your support I would have had a home but nothing inside. I had no money to buy these things and nowhere else to turn. Thank you.”

Crisis can hit any of us, at any time; that’s an unalterable fact that HA can’t change. But with your support, we can help people like Samantha negotiate moments of crisis in their lives.

HA Embraces Digital Technology

Imagine a world where there is no internet, email, websites, social media, mobile apps or smartphones! Could you survive?!

Well this is how HA worked in 1999 when I first joined! However this didn’t stop HA being a successful charity and helping raise money to help our people in the hospitality industry.

Technology has revolutionised our lives over the last few years but it has also played an important part in how charities function in the 21st century. Here are a few examples:

Before email, we communicated with our supporters and beneficiaries by telephone and post. Now we can communicate instantly to them wherever they are, whether they are using a laptop, smartphone or tablet! This allows people with problems to contact us confidentially, when, where and how they want to.

We can now help our beneficiaries much quicker as we can receive and transfer money instantly using online banking. This has especially helped those who need our emergency help.

When we run events we now use portable payment machines so we no longer have to rely solely on cash or cheque donations. This means our supporters have more flexible ways of making donations and we receive the money more quickly so it can go to those in need much faster. Contactless payment is great it makes it easy for people to give.

We use our website to advertise our services and events while our beneficiaries use it to complete grant application forms (rather than relying on ‘snail mail’ back in the day!). We also receive donations via our website which is a very simple and quick process.

Social media allows us to communicate quickly and directly with our supporters to raise awareness about key events and HA news.

The use of fundraising web sites such as Virgin Money Giving and Just Giving has helped people raise money individually for us. As these sites also do Gift Aid this reduces the administrative overhead for charities.

Our successful EAP (Employee Assistance Programme) scheme uses the latest cloud technology platform to provide a range of vital services to hospitality industry employees.

Technology has made a massive difference to our daily lives, but it has also changed the way charities operate for the better! HA embraces digital technology. Our new blogs are a great example of our latest foray into tech!

“Once you understand the EAP, you fall in love with it” – Sally Beck on caring for your team

Sally Beck is the general manager of the Royal Lancaster hotel, London, and a staunch supporter of Hospitality Action. Her hotel has carried HA’s Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) for the past three years. Earlier this week, I spoke to Sally about why she values the programme and what benefits it delivers to her and her team. Here’s what she told me:

“Once you understand the strength of the EAP care programme, you fall in love with it as an employer, because it’s entirely meaningful. It’s a safety net, something that Joe Public doesn’t have. It gives you the ability to call upon tangible help for your team when you can’t help them any further as a business.

We’re a caring employer. For me to pay £5 per employee to access your EAP demonstrates to our team a level of trust that when we say we always care, we genuinely do. We’re investing in the team: our team members feel they’re part of a family.

We’ve been in the Sunday Times Best 100 Companies for the last three years. I would say that being able to demonstrate that we genuinely care about the team and have put something in place to help them as an insurance is part of that. We list it in all our benefits and everyone’s got the leaflets, and we try to reiterate the EAP regularly. It builds trust, and if you haven’t got trust around your team, as a business it’s really hard to ask them to do things.

When I put the EAP in the budget, I put it in as a legitimate business expense for the future, not to be taken out if we have struggles on budgets, because I just don’t think you can give and then take away.

The EAP is part of our wider culture. I’ve got very low turnover here, and high levels of retention and engagement, and the programme is part of that story. I try not to have a blame culture, and I try to develop people as much as possible. People don’t start a job here, they start a career. The EAP is part of the joined-up thinking of being a good employer.

I’ve just recruited 161 people in six months. Were our benefits important in this process? Yes. Was our culture important? Yes. Millennials want to be sure they choose an employer that cares about the working culture and environment.

The EAP has given me a place to go when I know I’ve got team members who are struggling. I can say ‘here, have you tried this?’ If they’ve got debt issues, addiction issues, housing issues or anything else, they’ve got somewhere to go. My team all know about the EAP, but it only comes to the forefront of their minds when they’re in schtuck. That’s when we get out the EAP manual and say ‘take this, have a read. This is here for you, we pay for this for you’.

As a business leader, the EAP has helped me have meaningful conversations about people reducing their work or ending their work positively, rather than ending their career on a capability issue. We’ve started capability workshops, within the wider context of our commitment that we always care about our team’s futures. When you’re having hard discussions about an employee’s capability to work, due to cancer, mental health, disability or whatever, being able to offer flexible working plus EAP support makes that conversation easier. I don’t want to sack someone because they can’t do their job anymore. I want to look at everything I can to help them work as long as they can and as safely as they can, with the right support. The EAP allows us to work in partnership.

Knowing that HA’s care programme is there for team members when I can’t be, is invaluable. It gives me another option. Without it, at times I’d quietly have to say, ‘not my problem, I can’t do any more, as much as I care for you’. That leaves somebody vulnerable – and that doesn’t sit well with me.

And it can help with anything, that’s the joy of it.

It can be debt. We had a young apprentice chef who split up with her boyfriend, got kicked out of her accommodation, and was going to be homeless. The EAP helped her. We had another girl whose mum died and who had to take on the care of her younger siblings because she was the only bread-winner. I put her in touch with HA and again the EAP stepped in. I had a lady who, aged 30, lost her sight for three months. What did she do? She called the EAP.

A young chef recently left us for a job elsewhere, and they ran him into the ground. He wanted to return to the Royal Lancaster, and arrived back here suicidal. I rang HA and said ‘he’s not quite on our books again, yet’. They said, ‘pass him back to us, he’s one of ours’. They picked him up and helped him. He’s still alive today and I’m not sure he would’ve been without HA’s support.

You’ll have all sorts of issues on your team. We are all going to experience some of this stuff, that’s life. Even if you haven’t identified any mental health problems on your team, for example, believe me, they are there.

The EAP goes with my values. It means that I can show that we care and ensures team members get the wraparound support we can’t always provide as an employer.”

We intend to establish our EAP as an industry-standard care programme for UK hospitality. Email me at if you’d like to find out how to access the benefits Sally describes.

My first jumbo cheque – and all the good it will help us to do

On Sunday night, I joined the great and good of Lancashire society at the final night of Northcote’s Obsession season. that’s me behind the big cheque, between Craig Jackson, Nigel Haworth, Craig Bancroft and Lisa Goodwin-Allen.

Obsession is an annual series of guest chef events that’s been attracting eminent chefs from around the world cook at the hotel since 2001. It’s the brainchild of Craig Bancroft and Nigel Haworth, the two men behind Northcote’s success.

This year’s Obsession line-up drew 21 chefs boasting a combined total of 16 Michelin stars to the hotel, among them HA patron and trustee Jason Atherton, Tom Kitchin, Gravetye Manor’s George Blogg and northwest sensation Gary Usher.

Northcote has long been committed to supporting the work of Hospitality Action. For the past few years, Craig and Nigel have run auctions across the Obsession season in aid of HA. Their support, along with the willingness on the part of their industry friends to offer up auction prizes and the generosity of their guests, has yielded some big donations.

Last weekend, though, things went nuclear. At 11pm on Sunday, you could hear the proverbial pin drop, as Craig prepared to announce the grand total. The amount? £65,000.


That was a suitably big number for my first big cheque.

Let me put that in a grants context – at HA, we’re all about resolution, about making problems go away.

With their donation, we can award 650 winter fuel grants, ensuring recipients are warm, well and work-ready. Alternatively, we can pay for walk-in shower installations for 50 people needing home adaptations due to disability. For just £500, we can lay on a respite holiday for the carer of a sick or disabled relative, meaning that Northcote’s generosity could underwrite 130 such trips. Then again, it could pay for 100 victims of domestic abuse to be resettled somewhere safe from harm.

You get the point.

The fantastic amount that Craig, Nigel, Craig, Lisa and the whole Northcote team have raised for us over the past three weeks will have a direct, transformative impact on the lives of numerous hospitality professionals who find themselves in crisis.

Fundraising doesn’t have to be about big numbers. All support is equally welcome and every pound helps. Would you like to help your industry colleagues? If so, please contact me on 07919 324978 or at

Proof positive: a flourishing team makes a flourishing business.

Two chance conversations this month have driven home to me the value our Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) offers hospitality operators looking to keep employees healthy, happy and work-ready, and improve productivity.

Attending a recent industry event, I introduced myself as the manager of HA’s EAP to the gentleman sitting next to me. It turned out that he was a Head Chef from one of our subscribing companies and was full of praise for the way that the EAP had helped members of his kitchen brigade dealing with mental health and addiction issues. Ultimately ensuring these valued members of his team remained in employment.

A couple of days later a potential client called me, asking him how he’d heard about the EAP he explained that a new team member had been supported by the EAP at his previous establishment receiving counselling and a grant and had therefore recommended that his new employer should sign up to the programme asap!

Both of these conversations really brought home to me the true value of the support and advice provided by the programme to individual employees who may be struggling with a wide variety of pressures at home or work. Pressures that do impact mental health and in turn, the way people do their jobs resulting in reduced performance, lack of focus and absence. These, in turn, can lead to lost productivity and significant cost to employers.

As the recent independent Stevenson-Farmer review into mental health at work reported around 15 out of every 100 people at work have an existing mental health condition and over 300,000 people with a long-term mental health condition lose their job. This is a much higher rate than for people with a physical health condition. When you consider this alongside the current recruitment challenges faced by the hospitality industry, it seems to me that supporting employee’s mental health and wellbeing should be a top priority for every employer.

Since launching the EAP just over four years ago, HA has built up a wealth of knowledge about the challenges facing those who work in our industry and whether it’s an issue with drugs, alcohol, gambling, depression, anxiety, stress, illness, lack of work/life balance or financial pressure, we can help.

We offer a raft of services including a 24/7 helpline, access to personal counselling, legal guidance, addiction support, debt advice, parenting helpline, and whistleblowing – all for an annual cost of just £5 + vat per employee. This spring, we’ll be augmenting our EAP with the addition of an online employee benefits platform and access to a range of health cash plans. Uniquely among EAP providers, should a hardship grant be required by any recipients of EAP support, we’re also able to point them towards HA’s grant-giving team, for consideration for further support.

So why not find out more about how your team can benefit from the support the EAP already offers to almost 200 companies and over 110,000 hospitality people?

Why supporting Hospitality Action needn’t be about putting your hand in your pocket …

Seven years ago, I didn’t know Dora Somerville. Now I count her as a good friend. We’ve never met (Dora lives in Wales, I live in London), but we speak regularly on the phone. You see, Dora is my HA phone friend.

Dora is very proud of her children and grandchildren, and keeps me posted on what they’re up to. Sometimes she reminisces about her life in the WAAF during the Second World War, or about her career in catering in Manchester. She often talks about her husband Hughie, whom she lost a few years ago.

Despite her fading eyesight and mobility challenges, Dora is always stoical and upbeat. She’s wise and she’s proud. And she makes me laugh.

In return, I tell Dora about my wife, Susie, and my family. And I update her on all the people I meet, and the restaurants and hotels I experience, within the hospitality industry. Dora likes to hear about Susie’s horse riding lessons, and about our holidays in Cornwall and overseas. Sometimes she even laughs at my jokes.

Dora has the odd ‘off’ day – don’t we all – and I’ll cheer her up. Other times, she’ll offer me counsel on some issue I’m grappling with. Last year, she was sympathetic and supportive as I dealt with the loss of my mother and father.

It’s important to say that Dora is anything but lonely. Her family dotes on her and is supportive and attentive. I think our phone friendship just offers her another perspective, another point of focus. Another friend.

Growing old is hard. Family and friends pass away, the ways of life you’ve known change beyond recognition, and it’s easy to think the world has forgotten about you. Reaching out to someone elderly is a great way of reassuring them that’s not the case, that their views, memories and lives still matter.

Befriending Dora has enriched my life over the past seven years, and I’d like to think she’d say the same about befriending me.

Let’s end sexual harassment in the hospitality workplace

Last week’s President’s Club Charity Dinner at the Dorchester Hotel will be the club’s last.

An undercover investigative report by the Financial Times revealed grisly stories of sexual harassment of hostesses by the more Neanderthal element of the male-only guest list at the gala auction event, which has raised funds for a range of charities for the past thirty three years.

As a result of the report, the club has been closed and its dinner discontinued.

Accounts emerged of hostesses being “groped, harassed and sexually propositioned” and subjected to “lewd comments and repeated requests to join diners in bedrooms elsewhere in the Dorchester”.

No account was given of whether front of house staff at the hotel were also subjected to sexual harassment; but it’s easy to imagine how intimidating and degrading the locker-room atmosphere must have been for them.

The FT’s exposé came on the back of recent high-profile cases of sexual harassment in Hollywood and beyond, which have galvanised men and women across the world to disclose their own hidden, unspoken and buried memories of experiences of sexual harassment.

The prevalence of sexual harassment in our culture today is shocking. A recent ComRes survey for the BBC revealed that 40% of women and 18% of men have experienced harassment in the workplace.

The survey highlighted that flexible workers are more likely to have experienced unwanted behaviour, meaning that the problem is likely to be more acute in the hospitality industry. The presence of alcohol, and the perception among some guests that hotels, restaurants and bars are places where they can pocket their moral compass and release their inner chauvinist, only exacerbate the problem.

The 2010 Equalities Act defines sexual harassment as “unwanted conduct of a sexual nature which has the purpose or effect of violating someone’s dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for them.”

There are no circumstances where sexual harassment of any nature is acceptable. And no one should expect to be subject to any such conduct at their place of work.

If you have experienced sexual harassment at work, a good first step is to share your experiences with someone you can trust and speak to in confidence. This does not have to be someone in your organisation if the harassment has occurred at work. Speaking about sexual harassment helps explore what your options are for action. Doing this in secret or isolation is much harder and support can be very useful during this time.

As with so many other issues that affect hospitality professionals, Hospitality Action can help. It’s important to us that all employees feel safe, comfortable and uncompromised in their place of work. That’s why we offer a sexual harassment factsheet and a confidential helpline, which can help you deal with your experiences.

If your employer is a member of our EAP scheme, you can contact us to discuss your situation in confidence on 0808 802 2111 (24/7) or mail

Alternatively, non-EAP subscribers can contact our Assistance Line in confidence on 0808 802 0282 (24/7).

Don’t tolerate sexual harassment in your place of work. And don’t suffer alone.

Egg-chasers and extraordinary food – how southwest hoteliers are helping HA

In just over two months Hospitality Action will host its first Rugby Legends Dinner sponsored by Sharp’s Brewery at the beautiful Deer Park Country House Hotel in Devon. Last week I was fortunate enough to visit Deer Park for a final planning meeting. There was so much passion to support HA in the meeting, that I thought I’d convey some of it in this post.

Since June 2009 our South West fundraising board have worked tirelessly to raise funds on our behalf. From our annual Polo Day to our growing Cotswold Cycle Challenge our board members have always gone to great lengths to show their support. Richard Ball of Calcot Hotels has cycled thousands of miles and Philip Newman Hall, formally of Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, took to the sky only to jump 10,000 feet back down again, all in the name of charity.

The Rugby Legends Dinner is the brainchild of Andrew Foulkes, 2017 Cateys Manager of the Year, and Tom Ross, Operations Director, at The Pig. Both avid rugby fans and prominent South West hoteliers they have called in every favour to ensure the event is a whopping success. On the night over 200 lucky guests will enjoy a fabulous drinks reception and four course meal prepared by seven award-wining chefs including two Michelin star holder Nathan Outlaw (Restaurant Nathan Outlaw) and one Michelin star holders Paul Ainsworth (Paul Ainsworth at Number 6) and Josh Eggleton (The Pony & Trap).  Each diner will also be entertained by our guest speaker, former England player and renowned TV pundit, David “Flats” Flatman alongside a host of rugby stars including Phil Vickery MBE DL and Jeremy Guscott.

The evening will also see our legends answering questions from the crowd. The Six Nations will have just finished at the time of the event making this the perfect chance to speak to our legends about the championship. Although this is our first Rugby Legends Dinner there is already talk of a second, perhaps at a rugby stadium, in 2020!

Last year alone we spent £121,023 supporting hospitality employees in crisis in the South West, the most we spent in any region across the UK. It is only thanks to the enthusiasm, dedication and passion of Andrew Foulkes, Stuart Mathieson, Mark Godfrey, Tom Ross and Philip Newman Hall that the event is taking place and for this we are truly grateful.

Tickets to this unmissable evening are limited and I would advise you booking as soon as possible in order to secure your place! If you’d like to get further involved in our work, just like our South West Board, please don’t hesitate to give me a ring: 020 3004 5504

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.


Starting to tell Hospitality Action’s stories

Welcome to Hospitality Action’s new blog. We’ve created it to enable us to bring to life the many and varied ways in which the charity helps people who work or have worked in the British hospitality industry; and to tell the stories of the thousands of individuals and companies who give up precious time to fundraise for us.

We hope it’ll inspire you to support HA – and perhaps encourage you to reach out for support, yourself.

I was publisher of The Caterer magazine until the beginning of December, when I was privileged to succeed the incomparable Penny Moore as chief executive of HA. However, I’d been a trustee of the charity for twelve years, and I suppose I thought I knew all about its work. Trustees scrutinise the P&L, monitor monies incoming and outgoing, tick the boxes of governance, sometimes rubber-stamp a new project or direction. All important stuff, but removed from the sharp end of helping people in crisis.

I confess, I wasn’t prepared for the stirring stories I’ve heard, in the past weeks, of problems overcome and lives set back on track; the heart-warming letters of thanks I’ve read from beneficiaries for whom HA has provided a new start; or the gruelling cases where the best we can do is provide comfort for people who are never going to recover from their illnesses.

The team at HA is the fulcrum that balances the sky-divers, cyclists and cake bakers who raise funds, and the beneficiaries who need help. They help people in many ways.

One person may need home adaptations to help them to live with a disability; another a respite holiday, from which they’ll return refreshed and better able to care for a loved one.

Funerals are expensive, but we’re on hand to help bereaved people struggling to cover this cost. Financial support can kick-start the lives of people needing to relocate following domestic abuse. And a Family Day Out grant allows parents and children to enjoy a shared experience that’s far more precious than the cinema tickets and popcorn we pay for.

Meanwhile, at this time of year, our winter fuel grants ensure families up and down the country stay warm, healthy and work-ready.

This blog will bring to life the work of HA and its supporters. Where appropriate, it’ll also introduce you to recipients of HA’s support. You’ll know the companies they work for. Who knows, you may recognise or even know some of them. And that’s the point. Crisis can strike anyone, anytime. It’s not something that only affects other people’s lives. Look around the colleagues in your restaurant, bar, hotel or office. Chances are one of them is silently dealing with an issue, mental, physical or financial.

One thing’s for sure: if you find yourself in crisis, HA will be there for you.