Rachael Brown is Impact Monitoring Officer at Back on the Map and told us more about how they have used the Sunderland Gift Card to support service users:
“Back On The Map is a charity passionate about enhancing the quality of life of people living in Hendon in the East End of Sunderland. Over the past 10 years, Back on the Map has managed to deliver targeted intervention that is strengthening the social and economic fabric of a part of Sunderland that faces significant challenges.”
What support does Back On The Map offer its service users?
“In the last 10 years, Back On The Map has supported over 4500 residents, and 700 families. Hendon is one of the most deprived areas of the country and the support we offer to service users is diverse, from job clubs and woodwork shop, to our community pantry and our 87 properties which give local families good quality, warm and secure homes.”
What are your key support objectives?
“As a charity, we have been able to access the Household Support Fund for the benefit of our service users. The criteria for the Household Support Fund changes each time. One allocation was to support people in receipt of certain benefits, however, the latest fund was to support working people on low incomes, giving them a little extra to help during the cost of living crisis. We tend to use Asda gift cards to distribute the Household Support Fund money to our service users, but we really wanted to find an option that kept money in Hendon, supporting our objectives to help local people and the local community.”
Why did you choose Town & City Gift Cards?
“The Sunderland Gift Card can be spent with over 200 businesses but our aim was to keep the money we were distributing through the Household Support Fund in the hyper local area of Hendon itself. We spoke to three local traders; a butchers, a bakers and our local shop, and asked them if they would join the Sunderland Gift Card so they could accept the cards when they were distributed to our service users. They signed up to accept the card and we then committed to ordering £10,000 of Sunderland Gift Cards. Even though, in theory, the cards could be used in any of the 200 businesses in Sunderland, we directed service users to our 3 local Hendon shops, using stickers to signpost these businesses. We receive monthly reports from Sunderland BID on how the cards are used, and what is fabulous is that almost all were spent with those three shops in Hendon. The fact that these businesses were within walking distance was especially helpful for residents who didn’t drive.”
What was your experience of using Town & City Gift Cards?
“The way it worked for us was that when the Household Support Fund money was allocated, we would invoice Sunderland Council for £10,000 and I would order the Sunderland Gift Cards online. The cards would arrive locked, and I would then contact Town & City Gift Cards to let them know to unlock the cards. Service users were invited into the centre to pick up their card, with £100 allocated to a single person and £25 for every additional person. This was also an ideal opportunity to tell them about additional services available in the community. I’d also show each service user how to check the balance of their gift card using the website or QR code that features on the card. That’s really handy for people as they always know how much is left on their card. With the Asda gift card, they just have to try and remember or take a note.”
What feedback have you received?
“We’ve had amazing feedback on the Sunderland Gift Card. Working families were so grateful to receive the card. At Christmas, service users used the card to buy meat for Christmas lunch. Our local shop H Jones & Son is especially popular for people to spend their cards, as they can buy the things they need like milk, bread and tinned goods. The reports show that service users are spending a little at a time, so they might spend £20 on essentials each time they need them. This time, the Household Support Fund was for working families who are in need but who would maybe feel embarrassed about needing help. The Sunderland Gift Card is something they feel comfortable using and it’s a great thing. Many of the people who work in our local shops have had support from Back On The Map in the past. Using the Sunderland Gift Card helps our service users, helps our high street and keeps local people in jobs. The Household Support Fund will be issued again and we plan to use the Sunderland Gift Card again, plus to distribute other funds.”