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The Fashion & Textile Children’s Trust:

22-06-2015   


 

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It’s a bit of a no-brainer. Everyone wins. The employer can be seen to be considering the wellbeing of its employees, without cost or commitment to them, merely by way of an introduction – it really is as straightforward as this, without attendant conditions. The employee has a place to go when they need it, for financial support in areas that fall through the cracks of government support. It’s entirely confidential and most importantly – the children of the parents benefit directly – the raison d’etre of the trust.

Asking for help, financial help in particular, is never easy. Today, this may sound as Dickensian as one of the trust’s former presidents, (who just happened to be Charles Dickens in fact) and an attitude of mind more befitting dark satanic mills or exploitative practices of certain overseas factories. Sadly, it’s still a prevalent mind set though the working conditions are obviously very different

The charity is focused on providing help where it’s needed so that the children of those that work in the industry, can be supported. And this help when applied judiciously can make a big difference to people’s lives in the industry.

fctc Paul Anna 1The FTCT stats and case studies are compelling to identify why FTCT’s role is vital:

“Only 8% of families in the UK with disabled children get support from their local social services.

It costs 3 times as much to raise a child with disabilities than it does to raise a child without disabilities.

61% of employees have had to take time off work to accommodate from their caring role.

An employee struggling with overwhelming problems at home may be less than 50% productive at work (the UK Govt estimates that presenteeism costs the UK economy 15.1 billion a year).

Poor mental health in the workplace cost the UK an estimated £26 billion a year.”

(Image right: Anna, FTCT Director with Paul Markevicius)

Each year FTCT gives away nearly £350k in grants to families in the industry, with a commendable 14 day turn-around from the time the completed application is received by the cases committee. In 2013-14 the support FTCT gave included families with special needs (22%); those with a disability (16%); and generalised financial hardship (39%), and many cases where the parent quit their job in order to care for their child full time.

The fact sheets stating the benefits of working with FTCT are clearly laid out in terms of costs to the employer, covering manufacturing, fashion, retail and textiles, when certain work-related situations take place, such as if an employee has to take time off work to care for a child. They list as many of the work places from A-Z that an employee can relate their circumstances to, and identify specific areas of support for education grants up to the age of eighteen, covering; specialist tutorial support, learning tools, school necessities and transport assistance. The wellbeing grants also provide funding for essential items; (white goods, bedding clothing), therapies, respite activities, mobility equipment and adaptations to the home. The grant support is allocated for a specific period of time. “We really encourage parents to call us in the first instance to see if we can help. All of our cases are discussed on a ‘case by case’ basis.”

Everyday life produces circumstances and situations beyond people’s control and it is greatly comforting to think someone may be there to channel support without judgment. As FTCT’s key points reveal – ‘financial hardship can strike anyone at any time, regardless of income. Reasons could be a sudden job loss, a relationship breakdown, domestic violence, health issues or disability which affects the parent or child.’We are after all only human.

FTCT is systematically contacting retailers and manufacturers at CEO level or similar or as Anna describes, “Where there is likely to be the most traction. The smaller the company the easier it is to get traction, because it’s a more personalised operation.” The challenge is often one of finding someone to champion the cause who has sufficient seniority to make a difference. (Probably a vital pre-requisite in all cases). And professional ethics dictates that permissions are sought and secured at each step before FTCT can gently go about the task of informing an employee base of the support options available and how to apply.

Key trade shows are attended to raise the profile of the trust: Textile Forum & Fabric Show, Pure London, Meet the Manufacturer and others where the audience profile is a good match. Getting on the programme is key to be able to not just make a case, but to further legitimise a more automatic take up of the service. Door stopping the C’ level speaker profiles of all these event programs would probably make a difference. But it’s a relatively small team – working the exhibition floor, the conference programme, and the visitors would spread many organizations thinly. At present it’s Anna Pangbourne, director, Janine Pounder, Marketing and Comms Manager and Dora Joldersma, Grants coordinator, with two more full time admin and finance people. Perhaps there’s a case to be made for students of fashion and textiles colleges to lend their bandwidth support to help integrate communication between industry and FTCT?

The trustees are very active, says Anna and includes an impressive line-up from key brands including: Meg Lustman, Chair, CEO, Hobbs; Anne Horton Director of Retail, J E Beales Ltd; Eric Musgrave Editorial Director, Drapers; David Shepherd COO Trading, Arcadia; Mike Trotman CFO, T.M. Lewin, as well as CVUK, M&S and Karen Millen. “The number one focus is how to make sure our message gets through to employees. We also need to communicate how companies can help with fund raising,” says Anna. Janine, responsible for marketing and comms said “we do everything we can to make it easy to work with FTCT – we do the legwork for them.” There’s a lot of high profile visits lined up with John Lewis and Chester Barrie in the coming weeks and it’s hard not to be optimistic on behalf of the team and the dedication and enthusiasm Anna and Janine inspire. “We may be a small team, but we are nimble and very responsive. We want to encourage companies to put us on their internal staff newsletters – we don’t want to be a faceless charity. Our focus is entirely on the employees and helping their children.”

FTCT is simply an effective mechanism for helping fashion and textile workers and their children. It is astonishingly easy to implement. The challenge is how to enable early adoption by the companies they approach, to engage senior management efficaciously. The goal is to try and get in front of the workforce – the factory floor if you like, as visibly as possible. Finding ways of contacting the workers representatives, who can be legitimately approached on behalf of the colleagues they have been appointed to represent. It’s a different hierarchy of contact but perhaps more sensitively in tune to the needs of their fellow workers – as peers.

Where and when FTCT works it is often exemplary – Fashion Enter along with many retailers too is one such example and there are many, many good examples. Jenny Holloway, CEO of Fashion Enter says, “FTCT is an unbelievable resource for helping people in our industry. It has helped our own staff and cannot speak highly enough of the invaluable role it plays. I implore all employers in our industry to get behind and work with this amazing trust, for the good of their employees and their children.”

FTCT is a trust, it just happens to be a registered charity, but the mission focus is all about the employee benefit, at no cost to the employer regardless of the one, or many other charities it chooses to support. In other words – not mutually exclusive.

Building brand loyalty from within an employee base is something an employer can’t buy– but having it empowered through collective staff activity is tremendous motivational medicine. So the question, however many different ways one wants to put it remains: why wouldn’t you work with us? The only answer should be ‘because you haven’t asked us yet’.

By Paul Markevicius

www.ftct.org.uk




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