Westminster Befriend a Family

Look Out for Our Fantastic AUCTION


Look Out for Our Fantastic AUCTION

Tuesday 9 October 2018

Look out for this year’s fantastic charity auction raising money for Westminster Befriend a Family and hosted by our friends at Forster Chase. The auction takes place at the M Restaurant, 60 Threadneedle Street, London EC2R 8AY.

Forster Chase specialises in the global life and pensions market as well as protection and healthcare, and has very kindly chosen to support Westminster Befriend a Family, as one of two charities, with the proceeds from its annual charity fundraiser and city networking event.

Great, great prizes

Some of the great prizes on offer include:

  • Three-ball golf at the Royal Mid Surrey Golf Club
  • A three-course meal for two, including a glass of prosecco on arrival and a bottle of wine with the meal at Fescobaldi in Mayfair, and
  • A meal for two with wine at Tibits vegetarian restaurant in Mayfair

And two of the bigger prizes up for grabs include:

  • FOUR executive seats at the Manchester United vs Chelsea game on 27 April, 2019








And FOUR-ball golf at Queenswood Golf Club, including caddies and lunch.



Even if you know nothing of football, you’ll know that Man Utd and Chelsea are two of the biggest clubs in the world and match tickets are extremely hard to come by, more so if they are tickets for executive seats. While Queenswood Golf Club, in Ottershaw near Chertsey, is one of the most exclusive clubs in the country.

Alongside the auction will be a raffle with more prizes available, such as a tour of the Denbies Vineyard in Dorking, Surrey; three NOW TV sticks with passes; tickets for the Comedy Store and a tour for four of Fullers Brewery.

So come and join us for some great music, drinks, nibbles, a raffle and a charity auction and have a fabulous evening of good humour and revelry. www.mwinestore.co.uk/shop/forster-chase-at-m-restaurant. See the invitation: Invitation 091018 WBAF


Community Really Does Matter

Blanka, her husband and their three young children have lived in temporary accommodation for almost nine years. They’ve experienced many difficulties living like this, not least of which is the overcrowding and safety concerns. But for Blanka more challenging still was the simple lack of community.


Family life suffers when there’s no community

She and her family found it hard to form a strong social network with other families on the estate. New families were always moving in and out, and the high turnover made it almost impossible to sustain any kind of friendship and develop a community spirit.

This is in stark contrast to the community Blanka experienced while growing up in her native Poland, where children would be in and out of each others homes, run around and play together while their parents could socialised, take a break and get whatever help and advice they needed. Blanka became more and more concerned that her young family were missing out and would never get to enjoy the benefits of a strong community and she was keen to turn this around.


Creating strong community bonds

Through her involvement with Westminster Befriend a Family (WBAF), Blanka was able to slowly create that strong community bond she so craved. By taking part in many WBAF programmes, such as the twice-weekly mothers’ coffee mornings, the annual family Christmas party and the occasional special family fun day out, Blanka got to see the same families on a regular basis and build close friendships with other mothers in similar situations to herself.

Westminster Befriend a Family was also able to help her find regular swimming lessons for her children, which as well as helping them overcome their fear of the water, increased their self-confidence and helped them find and make friends with other local children.


“I feel blessed”

Supporting Blanka over the years has helped her find the confidence to alleviate the isolating home life her family was experiencing. “Westminster Befriend a Family and the other families supported by the charity have truly become my community and the community for my family,” she said. “I really do feel exceptionally blessed.”


Bonded Together Again

They almost disintergrated

Nadia’s family was at risk of completely falling apart after suffering domestic violence followed by a very painful divorce.

As a mother of four, all under nine years of age, Nadia was struggling with depression and finding it extremely difficult just talking to her children, one of whom has special needs.

A WBAF befriender called Lisa, who had Positive Parenting training, was assigned to help Nadia regain her confidence and reconnect with her children.

She met with the family two or three hours every week for six months and was gradually able to help Nadia better understand her children’s needs and communicate with them. Lisa played with the children and helped them with their homework and joined the family on fun days out so the whole family were able to share enjoyable experiences together and bond.

In giving Nadia lots of emotional support and a listening ear, Lisa was able to help her unburden herself of a lot of the negative feelings she had about her marriage breakdown. Lisa also steered Nadia towards making use of local services – housing services, health clinics and playgroups – that helped her improve her living situation and family life and reduced their isolation.

At the end of the six months there was trust between all five members of the family. Nadia was talking to her children more; she was more confident in herself and in her parenting skills; she found better ways to cope with situations and make important decisions that showed she was now more in control.

Nadia said: “With Lisa’s help I am now more aware of things. She taught me so much about young children, how to see them and experience them. She taught me how to cope and take care of myself and my family. We were near to breaking point but Lisa brought our family back together so I can now properly take care of myself and my children.”

#UncoverWestminster – Housing

Buck Palace housing

It is a well-known fact that London is an expensive city to live in, but what is lesser known is that the rents in the capital are increasing faster than anywhere else in the country. In London, the average age of a first time buyer is now 38 years old, which is higher than the national average.

In Westminster there is a chronic housing problem, caused by a lack of affordable housing. This has led to 30% of housing in Westminster being overcrowded, as defined by the government. This is the third highest rate of overcrowding in the country and is significantly higher than the London and England averages of 17% and 7% respectively.

In 2011 the average cost of renting a 3-bedroom property in Westminster was £700 per week, while the Housing Benefit for a 3 Bedroom property was capped at £340, meaning those without alternative sources of income or financial aid cannot sustain regular affordable rent payments.

The number of families accepted as “homeless” by Westminster council has increased by 86% between 2010/11 and 2012/13. Even so, only half of applications made were accepted in 2012/13. This is put down partially to applications that do not provide enough supporting evidence, demonstrating that applicants need help with applying.

Our befrienders offer services to alleviate stress that a family may be experiencing in terms of housing, alongside offering support with filling in housing benefit applications which is especially useful for those whose first language is not English.

Although the London housing crisis is not unknown, the severity of it is often underplayed so we need to #UncoverWestminster to raise awareness of the struggles that poverty presents in terms of housing and continue to build affordable homes throughout London so that every adult, child and family has somewhere that they can call ‘home’.

#UncoverWestminster – Education

Big Ben education


Only 27% of 16-year-olds on free school meals achieve A* to C grades at GCSE, compared with 54% of their peers. This suggests that the over one million children who are eligible for free school meals because their family income is £16,040 or less, are more likely to do worse at school. These children are also less likely to go into further education; in 2007, only 6% went on to do A-levels, and out of 80,000 15-year-olds who claimed free school meals in 2002, only 45 made it to Oxbridge.

Westminster is particularly affected by child poverty, so it is no surprise that 34% of 19-year-olds in the borough lack level three academic qualifications, for example a-levels. In Westminster 40% of secondary school pupils receive free school meals. That is over twice the England average of 15% of pupils in all state secondary schools in 2011.

There is a cycle in which poverty as a child leads to lower educational achievement and lower educational achievement then leads to poverty as an adult. However, children who receive positive early education are less likely to experience the negative impacts of having parents out of work. Problematically though, children in low-income families are less likely to receive an early education. It has been found that families are the most important factor in determining a child’s educational achievement, which suggests that it is crucial for families to have access to the support needed to help them improve their children’s education. This support will improve children’s’ educational attainment, and then go on to improve future employment opportunities and quality of life. This is why at Westminster Befriend a Family we offer practical help with schoolwork and problems at school, as well as supporting parents; to try and break this cycle so that no more children, or adults, have to live in poverty.

In Westminster 71% of primary school pupils first language is not English, this is over four times the average in England. There is a clear agreement among education and linguistic experts that teaching in the language that children have used from birth, their mother tongue or first language, offers the best chance of educational success. This is why at Westminster Befriend a Family we offer children, and their parents, the chance to socialise in English through a range of weekly community-based sports, arts and educational projects. Evidence has been produced to indicate that where school language is not used in children’s daily lives, it can tip the balance towards total exclusion from learning; so we are aiming to help include English in their everyday lives so that every child can effectively make use of their right to an education and to end the poverty cycle.

This begins to show the importance of breaking the poverty cycle and the shocking impact that education can have on children from disadvantaged families. We need to #UncoverWestminster to raise awareness of these issues and to make sure every person, adult and child alike, has the chance to reach their full potential during their education through receiving a positive education experience and being provided with the support they need to achieve their goals. Poverty is not just about a lack of money but also about a lack of opportunity.