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Supporting 1,275 engineers through life’s challenges: Our impact in 2020-21

Last week we launched Foothold’s 2020-21 annual report and accounts. And having been able to support more engineers and their families than ever before this past year, I feel there’s no better time to show our appreciation for our incredible Foothold community, who help us make great things happen every day.

The results I’m about to share are not just our achievements – they belong to everybody who’s ever supported or been supported by us.

By sticking by and looking out for one another, we’ve kept our community going through some of the most difficult and challenging times we’ve ever had to face.

So as you read about all the things that were made possible by our community in 2020-21, just remember that we all had a role to play. You’ll find there’s plenty we can all be thankful for, together.

See more of our impact here.


Easing the pressure for the engineering community

There’s a song from the millennium that I have always been fond of: ‘Life is a rollercoaster’. And whilst, fittingly again, the lyrics focus on falling in love, I think many of us would agree that the title couldn’t be more relevant to everything we’ve experienced over the last two years.

Here at Foothold our purpose is to ensure that no engineer or their family faces life’s challenges alone. In common with many charities, we found that, throughout 2020-21, the global engineering community was facing huge pressures – from financial issues to concerns around their physical and mental health and wellbeing.

And just like many other organisations in our sector, during the first quarter of 2020-21 we were still providing emergency grants to help people cope with the financial challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Here’s what one recipient of one of our 362 emergency grants had to say about how it helped him cope during an incredibly difficult time:

I put in a request for support and to my surprise, Foothold said they were able to help with an emergency grant! It was brilliant news and such a relief to have some breathing space financially. The money will help with our day-to-day living expenses until I can work again. The £1,000 grant will definitely make a difference to our family and is very much appreciated.

– Amir, 2020

Financial support to help make ends meet

2020-21 also saw us putting into action the work we had done on tailoring our longer-term support to individual families’ circumstances based on Minimum Income Standard (MIS) levels.

MIS is calculated by surveying members of the public about what goods and services are required by different types of households to meet their needs and participate in society, and costing up this ‘basket of goods’.

MIS does not claim to be a poverty threshold, but almost all households officially defined as being in income poverty in the UK (having below 60% of the median income) are also below the MIS. MIS is also used globally to assess standards of living, and that’s why we use MIS levels as one of our eligibility criteria for financial support.

But what does that actually mean? Well, currently the MIS work suggests that a single person needs about £50 per week for food, whilst a family with two children needs about £46 a week to cover the costs of clothing and a working couple need £86 for transport.

Our regular grants help to cover these essential costs, and more importantly don’t come with any strings attached about how our community members use these funds, offering the opportunity for them to regain a small element of control back into their lives.

Foothold helped me meet my living expenses and I’m so grateful for that. With Foothold’s support, I can meet my family’s needs and my kids can smile again.

– Annika, 2020

Between these programmes and our one-off and care and disability grants, in 2020-2021 we spent £1.5m on financial awards for 440 engineers and their families across 33 countries, a 17% increase on our 2019-20 spend – enabling us to support even more engineers to take back control.

And we’re really thrilled that 82% of people responding to our feedback surveys said that we had made a great deal or a lot of difference to their daily lives, up 19% on 2019-20.

Wellbeing support to overcome life’s challenges

Although our original charitable objective focuses on the relief of poverty, we are aware that unexpected life events such as bereavement, illness, redundancy or relationship breakdowns are sometimes all it can take to push any of us into situations that become difficult to escape.

So in 2020-21, we continued our focus on increasing the health and wellbeing of our community – delivering over 23,000 sessions of health and wellbeing advice across a variety of topics, to help maintain our community’s resilience should their circumstances suddenly change.

This included the launch of our Wellbeing Hub designed by Rightsteps and supported by a three-year collaboration with Gattaca Plc. It provides 24/7 information, resources and structured self-guided support on topics such as mind, body, behaviour and money matters.

With almost 200 people already having joined the hub in the first three months, it’s well on its way to delivering our target of 1,000 sessions in its first year.

Improving health with expert sleep support

Another new type of support we started offering for our community was our webinar series focusing on all things sleep related, with 650 people joining us for sessions such as ‘The science of sleep’ and ‘Things that go bump in the night’. These webinars were very well received, with an average rating of eight out ten for helpfulness.

Further support was provided through our partnership with Sleepstation, with five out of ten of those accessing the support seeing their sleep move to a normal pattern following a course of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy – Insomnia (CBTi).

Here’s what community member Adrian had to say about the programme’s impact on his health and wellbeing:

The restricted sleep pattern has changed my days. I am waking up less and for a shorter time during the night. The enforced ‘no sleep’ during the day and earlier starts have given me back a lot of daytime. The reason I enrolled on the programme was to regain control, and that is what I have achieved. For me, there was an instant change as soon as I started the plan. Not quite magical, but a big difference. I’m really pleased with the outcome, thank you.

– Adrian, 2020

Helping our community regain control over their lives

Throughout this rollercoaster of a year, a feeling of control is something we have been striving to help our community achieve. Whether it’s through the tools available on our Wellbeing Hub or the direct support we offer, regaining control has a real impact on people’s lives, and no more so than around issues of mental health.

We are really pleased that our relationship with Anxiety UK saw 55% of people who were referred for therapy achieving a reliable recovery, 6% higher than with similar NHS interventions.

Foothold is funded by engineers for engineers, and as demonstrated by the thousands of people we supported this year, we all need a little support from time to time.

Our annual report and accounts for 2020-21 is testament to our impact as it ripples through the stories told by our community, reaching out to reassure others that Foothold can help you and your family get a grip on life’s challenges.

Your Foothold is here.


See how our support made a real difference to engineers and their families here.


Help us to keep supporting the engineering community

In 2020-21 we supported 1,275 engineers and their families to get a grip on life’s challenges, and this year we’d like to help out even more of our community members. Foothold relies on the generous donations of our supporters to fund our vital work, so please consider donating to us or leaving a gift in your will. You can also find out all the ways you can get involved with Foothold here.

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