Our Response to the COVID- 19 Crisis, by Richard Hone

Dear Sir and Brother,

Following the joint statement issued by UGLE and MCF in late March in relation to the Covid-19 outbreak, the two organisations have been working closely to put in place a comprehensive response to support people and charities affected.  In addition, the MCF has stepped up the support offered to families and individuals from the masonic community struggling at this time. 

The purpose of this update is to confirm that theMCF continues to operate as usual during these unusual times and that, through new home working arrangements, the charity remains available and committed to support people across all Provinces, Metropolitan Grand Lodge and beyond.

Enhanced business as usual

It is important to stress that normal business has already been enhanced by the MCF.  We have increased our support to the masonic community as many people face reduced income, redundancy or the loss of a loved one.  We have put in place new processes that will offer immediate financial support to households in need.  Additional support is also being offered to families with children that are now home educating and isolating, to ensure their studies can continue, and families and friends remain socially connected through technology.  The MCF-funded Counselling Careline is available to support those Freemasons and family members requiring mental health support over the telephone.  Lessons learnt from the 2008 financial crash taught us that many Freemasons delay in asking for help, therefore we are already planning for a substantially increased demand next year and beyond.

Beyond the masonic community, the MCF has signed up to a sector-wide initiative that commits us to be understanding and sympathetic to the charities we are currently supporting as they respond to falls in funding, staffing and volunteering that will affect the support and services that they can offer.

£1M allocated to Regional Communication Groups

UGLE has formed a Covid-19 RCG Group, comprising representatives of the nine Provincial regional groups across England and Wales plus Metropolitan Grand Lodge.  The Group is chaired by the Grand Secretary David Staples and the MCF is represented by our Chief Executive David Innes.  The Covid-19 RCG Group is tasked with identifying and recommending a wide variety of local projects that could be replicated, potentially on a national level. 

The MCF has provided £100,000 to each RCG to enable it to respond to Covid-19 specific causes in its local communities. This £1million of funding is not required to be matched from Provincial charitable funds and is available now.  We have already received over 50 applications and approved grants for many projects, including for the production and provision of PPE to front line staff and support to food banks.

£500,000 allocated to all Provinces and Metropolitan Grand Lodge

An additional £500,000 has been made available to Provinces for local initiatives requiring funding that do not gain approval from the £1million Covid-19 RCG Group fund. An allocation of £10,000 for each of the 48 Provinces/MetGL is available for these requests, with the remaining £20,000 to be allocated as considered appropriate.  In most instances we expect this to be directed towards local charities working at the front line.

£250,000 given to Age UK to help the isolated elderly

The MCF is working closely with one of its key partners, Age UK, through an additional grant of £250,000, to enable them to provide emergency funding to local Age UK branches and to extend their services within the elderly communities across England and Wales. This grant will help them to provide advice, information and befriending services to fulfil the current increased demand. All Provinces can expect to benefit from this increase in Age UK’s activities.

We are also speaking to Age UK about how we can invite our network of Visiting Volunteers, and potentially the wider masonic community, to become telephone befrienders to lonely and isolated older people, or carry out other local activities such as delivering prescriptions and food parcels.

Discussions are also underway with other key MCF partners to explore whether further support can be provided in response to Covid-19 to their target groups.

A Covid-19 Relief Chest Appeal with up to £1million from MCF

As you will hopefully be aware, through UGLE and the Craft, a Freemasons’ Covid-19 Relief Chest Appeal has been launched to raise funds for local and other activities taking place now and in the future.  The MCF will match all donations received up to £1million. Over £100,000 was raised in the first week.  Once the £1million allocated to the RCGs has been distributed, funds raised through this Appeal can be used thereafter.

It is hoped that all Freemasons will be willing to make a one-off donation to support this national initiative.  It has been agreed in principle that donations received from those Provinces currently in Festival, over and above an individual’s existing and planned Festival giving, will count towards their Festival total.

New Matched-Funding and Festival Province grants

As part of our core Charity Grants programme, from 1 April new Matched-Funding and Festival Province grants became available that will enable Provinces to access further funds to support local charities operating on the front line that are most important to them.  Although not originally anticipated to be used in response to the Covid-19 outbreak, these funds can be used in this way.  These two new initiatives amount to almost £1million for local charities across all Provinces.

In addition to offering practical support where needed as outlined above, we will also seek to gain local and national headlines through these activities that will highlight the generosity of the masonic community and help transform the image of Freemasonry in the public consciousness.  To achieve this the MCF is working closely with UGLE to maximise coverage of these activities and we would encourage all our Members and the freemasons in their communities to spread the word.

As you can see from the above, the MCF has put in place a very significant amount of additional support to help those most in need during these unprecedented times.  

Thank you for your ongoing support.  I hope that you and your families are safe and well.

Yours sincerely and fraternally,

RW Bro, His Honour, Richard Hone QC,

President of the Masonic Charitable Foundation

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