A donation of over £61,000 from Lincolnshire Freemasons will support the Linkage Community Trust in its work to help people with learning difficulties to get into work

The £61,236 grant, which comes through the Masonic Charitable Foundation, will allow the Trust and the University of Lincoln to work with partners from the statutory and voluntary sectors to create an online support tool that, over the next few years, is expected to help hundreds of users develop Individualised Career Action Plans.

Linkage has been committed to supporting individuals with a learning disability and or autism to develop their independence for more than four decades. Although much progress has been made in many areas such as social integration, independent living and education, access to employment remains a huge challenge. Linkage sees employment as a key to independence and a major contributor to health and well-being.

Rex Richardson, Director of Care Services at Linkage, said: 'Getting people with autism and/or learning disabilities into employment can be complex and challenging. To do it successfully requires a planned and personalised approach, with all partners working together to achieve an identified and shared goal.

'Research shows that the benefits of employment for people with autism or learning disabilities can be immense, improving independence, well-being, reducing isolation and promoting better mental health - as well as providing many employers with a loyal and productive employee.'

It is estimated that there are around 7,500 individuals with autism in Lincolnshire. Data on employment figures for people with autism in Lincolnshire is limited, but national figures suggest only 15 per cent of adults with an autistic spectrum condition are in full time employment.

Mr Richardson added: 'We’re very grateful to Lincolnshire Freemasons for their generous support. This project is about bringing together organisations who share our commitment with the University of Lincoln to develop individualised career development plans which are comprehensive and efficient, which can identify their strengths and support them and employers in enabling disabled individuals to gain employment and to make an important contribution to the workforce.'

Graham Ives, Provincial Grand Master of Lincolnshire, said: 'We’re very pleased to be able to help the Linkage Community Trust, which is doing outstanding work supporting people with learning disabilities find employment. This not only provides enormous benefits to the job seekers, but also to local employers who obtain loyal and productive employees.'

Supportive sailors in Lincoln have transformed a £25,000 Tercentenary donation from the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF) into a specialist pontoon and a safety boat to transform the way it can help disabled people on to the water

The sailors are members of Hykeham Sailability, a charity launched in 2009 to provide sailing opportunities for disabled people in Lincolnshire, but at that time the group had no boats, equipment, sailing expertise, volunteers, or even potential members.

Led by non-sailing Keven Roberts, who sadly passed away in 2016, the group has secured thousands in funding, inspired and trained numerous volunteers and instructors and worked tirelessly to establish what is now a thriving, vibrant sailability club.

Hykeham Sailability is part of the national RYA Sailability programme, which supports disabled people in learning to sail and sailing regularly. The group’s aim is to give both adults and young people the freedom and confidence to get out on the water.

Lincolnshire Freemasons Walter Cook, Worshipful Master of Doric Lodge No. 362, and Terry Wallhead, from Witham Lodge No. 297, have visited the club to see the equipment bought with the MCF grant.

Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge

13 June 2018 
Report of the Board of General Purposes

Minutes

The Minutes of the Quarterly Communication of 14 March 2018 were confirmed.

The Minutes of the Annual Investiture of 25 April 2018 were confirmed.

Death of a former President

The Board had learned with great sadness of the death on 14 May of RW Bro Anthony Wilson, PSGW, who served as a member of the Board from 1995 to 1999 and again from 2001 until 31 December 2017, during the last thirteen and three-quarter years of which he was its President.

Annual dues

2019: The Board recommended that the annual dues (including VAT) payable to Grand Lodge in respect of each member of every Lodge for the year 2019 shall be:

A

A Resolution to this effect was approved.

Fees

2019: The Board recommended that the fees (exclusive of VAT) payable for registration, certificates and dispensations should be increased in line with inflation to:

Registration

A Resolution to put this into effect was approved.

Contribution to the Masonic Charitable Foundation

Under Rule 271 of the Book of Constitutions Grand Lodge must fix each year the annual contribution payable to the Masonic Charitable Foundation. After consultation with the Trustees of the Masonic Charitable Foundation it was agreed to recommend that for 2019 the annual contribution would remain at £17 in respect of each member of a Lodge in a Metropolitan Area or a Province, or in England and Wales that is unattached.

A Resolution to put this into effect was approved.

Prestonian Lectures

(I) 2017 The Grand Design

The Lecturer, Dr J.W. Daniel, had informed the Board that in addition to the four official deliveries to Lodge of the Grand Design, No. 6077 (Surrey); Worcestershire Installed Masters’ Lodge, No. 6889 (Worcestershire); Old Elizabethans’ Lodge, No. 8235 (East Lancashire); and The London Grand Rank Association, the Lecture was also delivered on seven other occasions throughout the Constitution. The Board expressed its thanks to Bro Daniel for the considerable time and effort he has spent in this connection.

(II) 2018 A Good Workman Praises his Tools: Masonic Metaphors in the Ancient World

The Prestonian Lecturer for 2018 is C.P. Noon. Four official Prestonian Lectures for 2018 have been or will be given under the auspices of: Stuart Lodge, No. 540 (Bedfordshire);

Durham Lodge of Installed Masters, No. 4441 (Durham); Derbyshire Lodge of Installed Masters, No. 8509 (Derbyshire); and Berkshire Lodge of Enlightenment, No. 9946 (Berkshire).

(III) 2019

The Board had submitted a nomination to the Trustees of the Prestonian Fund and they had appointed Michael Karn as Prestonian Lecturer for 2019. Bro Karn stated that the title of his Lecture will be English Freemasonry during the Great War.

Arrangements for the delivery of the Lectures to selected Lodges will be considered by the Board in November and applications are now invited from Lodges. Applications should be made to the Grand Secretary, through Metropolitan, Provincial or District Grand Secretaries.

The Board desired to emphasise the importance of these Lectures, the only ones held under the authority of the Grand Lodge. It was, therefore, hoped that applications for the privilege of having one of these official Lectures would be made only by Lodges which are prepared to afford facilities for all Freemasons in their area, as well as their own members, to participate and thus ensure an attendance worthy of the occasion.

Grand Lodge of Albania

The Board reported to the Grand Lodge in March that the conduct of the Grand Lodge of Albania, in particular in relation to Kosovo, was giving rise to disharmony with other European Grand Lodges, and recommended that the Grand Lodge suspend relations with the Grand Lodge of Albania. The suspension of relations appears to have had little or no effect on the conduct of that Grand Lodge, and the Board therefore considered that it had no alternative but to recommend that recognition be withdrawn from the Grand Lodge of Albania.

A Resolution to this effect was approved.

Erasure of lodges

The Board had received a report that sixteen Lodges had closed and had surrendered their Warrants. The Lodges are: First Lodge of Light, No. 468 (Warwickshire); Ryburn Lodge, No. 1283 (Yorkshire, West Riding); Captain Coram Lodge, No. 2737 (London); West Cheshire Lodge, No. 2977 (Cheshire); Lodge of Israel, No. 3170 (KwaZulu-Natal); Home County Lodge, No. 3451 (Surrey); St Ann’s Lodge, No. 3691 (London); Sincerity Lodge, No. 4424 (North Wales); St John’s Lodge, No. 4779 (Yorkshire, West Riding); Federation Lodge, No. 4807 (Warwickshire); Constancy Lodge, No. 6359 (Yorkshire, West Riding); Onward Lodge, No. 6528 (Cheshire); West London and Electric Lodge, No. 7404 (Middlesex); Frizington Lodge, No. 8082 (Cumberland and Westmorland); Concord Lodge of Monmouthshire Provincial Grand Stewards, No. 9010 (Monmouthshire) and Humanitas Lodge, No. 9261 (Middlesex).

A recommendation that they be erased was approved.

Grand Lodge accounts for 2017

The Audited Accounts of Grand Lodge for the year ended 31 December 2017 were approved.

Election of Grand Lodge auditors

The re-election of Crowe Clarke Whitehill LLP, as Auditors of Grand Lodge was approved.

The Library and Museum of Freemasonry

Grand Lodge received a talk by Dr Vicky Carroll, Director of The Library and Museum of Freemasonry.

List of new lodges

List of new lodges for which warrants had been granted by showing the dates from which their warrents became effective

26 April 2018

9962 Sewa Lodge Sierra Leone and The Gambia
9963 Phoenix Lodge Yorkshire, North and East Ridings
9964 Artemis Lodge Sussex

Quarterly Communications

A Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge will be held at noon on Wednesday, 12 September 2018. Subsequent Communications will be held on 12 December 2018, 13 March 2019, 12 June 2019 and 11 September 2019.

The Annual Investiture of Grand Officers takes place on 24 April 2019, and admission is by ticket only. A few tickets are allocated by ballot after provision has been made for those automatically entitled to attend. Full details were given in the Paper of Business for December Grand Lodge.

Supreme Grand Chapter

Convocations of Supreme Grand Chapter will be held on 14 November 2018, 25 April 2019 and 13 November 2019.

Published in UGLE

A mile in my shoes

For Freemason Mark Ormrod, the battlefield injuries he sustained proved to be a springboard to reinvent his life. But not all veterans respond the same way. Peter Watts finds out how, thanks to masonic funding, Combat Stress provides psychiatric support for ex-personnel

Christmas Eve in 2007 began with an ordinary patrol for Mark Ormrod, a Royal Marine on tour in Afghanistan. It ended with Mark in a coma and undergoing a life-saving operation after an improvised explosive device was triggered, leaving him without both legs and an arm. 

As a triple amputee, Mark found that Freemasonry provided some of the support he needed to get on with his life, having been initiated into the Royal Marines Plymouth Lodge, No. 9528, in 2008 while in a wheelchair. Today, Mark has prosthetic limbs and is an author, mentor and motivational speaker. He credits Freemasonry with providing invaluable support at a difficult time. 

‘It’s a really important part of dealing with stuff in life, having people around you as friends and brothers,’ he says. ‘It was very reassuring to know I had people who were encouraging and empowering, and as I progressed through the lodge it helped in terms of confidence and leadership. It’s helped holistically, in all areas. I also like the fact that we work with charities. That’s very fulfilling – being able to help other people is very rewarding.’

One of those charities is Combat Stress, an organisation that supports veterans with mental health issues. With increased pressure on the NHS and more former servicemen and women suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) following gruelling experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF) has awarded a £60,000 grant to Combat Stress to fund a community psychiatric nurse operating in the southwest of England, where Mark now lives.

For David Innes, the Chief Executive of the MCF and himself a retired British Army officer, there is a vital need for masonic support. ‘One of the core areas that the MCF supports on behalf of Freemasonry is helping as many people as we can who are suffering from social isolation and social exclusion – people who are not able to participate in society for a wide variety of reasons,’ says the former member of the Corps of Royal Engineers who reached the rank of Brigadier. 

‘If we can help those suffering from PTSD or mental health issues come to terms with the challenges they face, it gives them a chance to make something of the rest of their lives. Combat Stress does some fantastic work in this particular field.’

MENTAL HEALTH FOCUS

The MCF was particularly impressed with the focus Combat Stress gives to veterans with mental health issues, operating dedicated services from three regional hubs. ‘They are very focussed on helping those suffering from mental health issues – that is their core business. It’s what they are particularly good at, and they have a very good structure,’ says Innes. ‘The statistics they produce show that, in the vast majority of cases, they allow individuals to make significant improvements so they can get on with their lives.’

Combat Stress will celebrate its 100th birthday in 2019, having been founded after the First World War to support soldiers returning from the trenches. Today it offers clinical care so former servicemen and women have the tools and mechanisms they need to cope with their conditions. Care comes in a variety of forms, from occupational therapy and group counselling to a six-week residential course. 

The community psychiatric nurse funded by the MCF grant will provide support to around 500 ex-personnel. ‘The nurse will cover Cornwall, Devon, Somerset, Dorset and Bristol,’ explains Kirstie Tong, the trusts and foundations manager at Combat Stress. ‘In 2017, in the southwest, the community psychiatric nurse did 72 assessments for veterans with combat stress and 10 other assessments, and had 47 one-to-one appointments, 90 group contacts and 51 support-group contacts. The MCF grant will contribute towards a large part of the salary of this nurse until 2020. We are hugely grateful for the MCF and its continued support, which makes our work possible.’

Mark Ormrod didn’t require the support of Combat Stress as he recovered but recognises the importance of this type of work, particularly for former members of the armed forces, who may see mental health issues as a sign of weakness. ‘Although I’ve not worked with Combat Stress, I know it offers counselling, residential care and therapy,’ he says. ‘There’s a lot of stigma in the military with regard to mental health. People don’t always like going out and asking for support, but if it’s serious, you can point them towards the professionals at Combat Stress.’

OPENING UP

This stigma is slowly beginning to disappear. Tong says that while veterans of the Falklands War take an average of 15 years before contacting Combat Stress for support, a veteran of Iraq or Afghanistan will do so in three years. That is unquestionably a positive thing, but it also means that Combat Stress faces increasing pressure on its services. ‘We have seen a 143 per cent increase in referrals in the last decade,’ says Tong. ‘We now support around 3,000 veterans across the armed forces each year and have 2,000 referrals. Around 80 per cent have PTSD and have experienced multiple traumas in their combat career.’

As Innes acknowledges from his own experience in the Corps of Royal Engineers, the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan were particularly traumatic: ‘Many of the men and women we are supporting now will have seen service in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the intensity of those operations was ferocious.

‘People will have been exposed to events that, to be honest, are simply horrific,’ he says. ‘We are seeing an increase in PTSD as a result of those operations. Providing support to organisations like Combat Stress is vital. We are lucky today, because more is known about mental health than 40 years ago when I joined the army. It is discussed more widely, but soldiers still don’t tend to talk about things like that.’

Mark has found he can talk about his experiences with the Freemasons, who have provided him with an important support network after he left the friendship of the Royal Marines behind. ‘It filled that space, very much so,’ he says. ‘It’s the camaraderie, the brotherhood, the sense of belonging. Having that other family outside of your own, good people that you can rely on. I’m a little bit surprised at how important it’s become. What I love is that I have three children, I have three limbs missing, I have a full-time job, I travel a lot, and if I can’t make a meeting, I never get made to feel bad. They always say family first, then work, then lodge. That has allowed it to become a big part of my life. It’s never felt like hard work.’

A veteran’s story

David is a Royal Air Force veteran who started experiencing stress after leaving the armed services. After he had a stroke, he began to have anxiety attacks. 

Eventually, David contacted Combat Stress for advice and began to attend community group sessions. 

‘The groups are great,’ David says. ‘We are all different ages and from different walks of life, but in many ways we are all the same and experiencing the same things. ‘It’s made a huge difference to my happiness. The Combat Stress sessions help me better understand why I feel the way I do. 

‘In the military community we tend to think “just get on with it”, and unfortunately this might put people off seeking help. I’d say to others: listen to those close to you. You owe it to them to at least make that call to Combat Stress. You can be anonymous, but just talk to someone.’

Standing proud

Mark Ormrod is still feeling the effects of the landmine he stepped on 11 years ago. 

Quick action from his fellow Marines, and an innovative procedure carried out aboard a Chinook helicopter en route to the hospital, saved his life.

Mark woke up in Selly Oak Hospital, Birmingham, with both legs amputated above the knee and his right arm amputated above the elbow. The first triple amputee in the UK to survive the Afghanistan conflict, Mark was told by doctors he would spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair. Mark, however, decided to use his setback as a springboard for growth and reinvention.

He is now a motivational speaker, a peak performance coach and the author of the autobiographical Man Down. He has not used a wheelchair since June 2009.

Published in Features

Food for thought

With funding from the Freemasons, Magic Breakfast wants to give underprivileged children in the north west of England the right ingredients to start their day

'In the sixth richest economy in the world, you’d think this couldn’t possibly be happening. But it is,’ says Carmel McConnell, founder of the charity Magic Breakfast.            

Nearly one in five children in the UK suffers from food insecurity, according to Unicef, meaning their families lack secure access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food. ‘And the government’s own figures say that at least half a million children are waking up in homes where there isn’t any food,’ McConnell adds. This means that, until lunchtime, these children are at school without the energy and nutrition they need to learn effectively. ‘That isn’t a good thing for the child, the school or the country.’

McConnell used to run a consultancy in the City of London, but it was while carrying out research for a book that the true extent of food insecurity among British children hit home. She set up Magic Breakfast in 2003 with the goal of providing fuel for learning. 

‘In terms of thinking about the world that we want to build, you want people who are going into jobs with the right skills; you want people to have the chance for a good education,’ she says. ‘It seemed to me that a good breakfast would be a small part of the jigsaw that would really make quite a big difference.’

FUEL FOR LEARNING

Magic Breakfast now feeds more than 31,000 children every weekday morning, and partners with nearly 500 schools and pupil-referral units to provide a healthy breakfast that includes porridge, bagels, low-sugar cereals and fruit juice. It’s a meal that meets the school food standards set out by the Department for Education.

In order to qualify to partner with the charity, schools must have a student population in which 35 per cent or more are eligible for free school meals, or in which 50 per cent or more have qualified for free school meals at some point in the last six years. The schools must also contribute some food, such as spreads for bagels and milk to accompany the cereals. 

Critical to the work of the charity is that the meals are offered in such a way that the children in need don’t face any sort of stigma. ‘I wouldn’t go and get a bagel if I had to show I was poor to get it,’ McConnell says by way of example. As a result, the breakfasts are available to all students and often run alongside homework clubs. ‘For children who might be coming from very difficult or abusive homes, it’s a welcoming place that means they can have some time to do what they need to do and they’re settled in time for the start of the school day.’

‘Children now start the day having had a healthy breakfast and time to socialise and chill, meaning they are emotionally and physically equipped for the day ahead,’ says Fiona Pickering, headteacher of Windsor Community Primary School in Toxteth, Liverpool. ‘Our free breakfast club is absolutely vital for our school.’

As successful as the charity has been, there is more work to do, with some 300 schools on the waiting list. It’s one of the reasons that Magic Breakfast has been selected by the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF) to receive a £28,000 grant that will be used to provide meals to 400 children at six schools in the Liverpool and Merseyside area.‘

In the same way that we support children and grandchildren of Freemasons when their families are facing hardship, we also work to support disadvantaged children and young people more generally,’ says MCF chief operating officer Les Hutchinson. ‘One thing we became aware of was that getting access to enough healthy food is fundamental to a child’s chances of having a good quality of life and going on to be successful as an adult.’

DRAMATIC IMPROVEMENT

Two particular pieces of evidence contributed to the MCF’s decision to support Magic Breakfast. The first was a 2017 Unicef report that found that children who are exposed to food insecurity ‘are more likely to face adverse health outcomes and developmental risk’, and that food hardship is also linked with ‘impaired academic performance, and is positively associated with experiencing shame at being out of food, and behavioural problems.’

The second was evidence showing how effective Magic Breakfasts could be. A 2016 study evaluated by researchers at the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) and the National Children’s Bureau found that, over the course of an academic year, year-two children in schools with a breakfast club made two additional months’ progress in reading, writing and maths when compared with a similar group at schools that didn’t receive support from the charity. 

Furthermore, a 2015 study published in the Journal of Public Health Nutrition found that 84 per cent of schools reported improved educational attainment among pupils who attended breakfast club. Some 96 per cent reported increased energy levels/alertness and 95 per cent reported improved concentration levels.

McConnell’s corporate background has taught her that statistical evidence is useful in convincing would-be donors that their contributions will make a difference. However, she points out that the wider problem has not yet been solved. If anything, it may be worsening.

AN EYE ON THE FUTURE

About 30 per cent of British children are living in income poverty, according to household data published by the government, and IFS projections suggest this is set to rise to 37 per cent by 2022. The difficulties facing many children all over the country have been highlighted by recent BBC reports in which one teacher spoke about how she saw children ‘filling their pockets with food’ because they didn’t get enough at home. Another noticed the unhealthy ‘grey skin’ and ‘pallor’ of some children relative to their peers from wealthier families. 

‘It’s something that I feel strongly about,’ McConnell says. ‘You get people from schools saying: “We had this little boy coming in. He was getting excluded and was always in trouble. We thought he was just naughty, but it turns out that his mum has to get up early and go to work. He’s got a younger brother who he has to get ready for school and there’s no food in the house.” No wonder he arrives cheesed off.’

There are problem areas all over the country, but the situation can be particularly severe in former industrial areas where the economy is weaker. Liverpool, which is the target of the MCF grant, was ranked the fourth most deprived local authority area in the 2015 Index of Multiple Deprivation. ‘We can’t let these kids be the ones who bear the brunt of these economic problems,’ says McConnell.

To that end, Magic Breakfast will count on the generosity of donors such as the masonic community and seek to build and maintain relationships with any businesses and brands that can lend a helping hand. The case that McConnell will continue making to prospective partners is that it’s not just about the children the charity helps – communities and, indeed, the nation can benefit. ‘We face a stark choice,’ she says. ‘We either get behind this generation of young people, or we will end up squandering a huge amount of human talent.’

Canine connection

A dog can help an autistic child feel less stressed and make everyday activities a bit easier. Aileen Scoular explains how a grant from the MCF to Dogs for Good is allowing more families to feel less isolated

Two years ago, BBC drama The A Word opened viewers’ eyes to the challenges faced by families coping with autism. Children and adults diagnosed with autism will see, hear and feel the world differently from their peers and can struggle to engage. The condition is more common than many realise, with The National Autistic Society revealing that there are around 700,000 people on the autism spectrum in the UK, including children and adults of all ages. 

Autism touches families, too, and the condition is part of daily life for some 2.8 million people. One charity that fully understands the impact autism has on parents and carers is Dogs for Good. The Oxfordshire charity trains highly skilled assistance dogs to help adults and children with disabilities, as well as therapy dogs to work in communities and schools. 

Dogs for Good trained its first autism assistance dog in 2007, and, more recently, the charity has developed a successful programme called Family Dog Workshops. These intimate sessions provide advice and support to parents of children with autism, allowing them to learn how a pet dog could benefit the whole family. As workshop leader Duncan Edwards explains, ‘We want owning a dog to be a positive, energising experience.’

Without specialist support, autistic people and their families are at risk of feeling isolated; autism can also cause severe anxiety that may affect an individual’s ability to engage in daily life. While there is no cure, expert support can help children and their families day to day – something that was backed up in research undertaken by Dogs for Good and the University of Lincoln in 2014. Not only were children with a family dog calmer, happier and less likely to have a meltdown, but within just 10 weeks of getting a family dog, parents also showed significantly reduced stress levels.

A LIFE-CHANGER

‘We have always been convinced that dogs can have a positive effect on the family dynamic,’ explains Peter Gorbing, Dogs for Good’s chief executive. ‘Just being able to take the dog for a walk gives you, as a parent, permission to leave the house and give yourself some space. And the silly things that dogs do can diffuse tension and make the whole family laugh together.’

The experience of parents who have attended Family Dog Workshops is testament to the value of the programme. Jacob’s family had a Labrador called Sam when mum Liz attended her first workshop. The experience was transformative: ‘I just couldn’t believe it when the instructors went through what they could teach us and how it might help Jacob. I sat there and cried because I knew it could be life-changing.’

Teenager Harry’s life has also been improved immeasurably by the introduction of the family dog, Barnaby. Now 15, Harry spends much less time alone, and the most positive result has been the family’s change of focus. Harry’s mum, Ceri, says, ‘Having a dog has benefited all of us – but particularly our daughter, Beth. Our world isn’t all about Harry any more; it’s about Barnaby.’

Kath, another workshop participant, echoes Ceri’s sentiments. Kath’s son, Mitchell, was diagnosed with autism as a toddler, and their family life has been transformed by an excitable cocker spaniel called Maggie.

‘Having Maggie has opened up more opportunities for us as a family than I could possibly have imagined,’ says Kath. ‘So much of our life is focussed on Mitchell, who’s an only child, and that puts a certain amount of pressure on him. Having a dog in our lives takes away some of the focus and reduces that pressure.’

From a practical perspective, owning a dog helps children with autism in many ways. Key benefits include companionship and motivation, encouraging children to develop regular routines and empowering them to try new things. Dogs can help in the development of motor skills – throwing a ball or teaching tricks, for example – and can act as a friendly role model. Even learning to say hello can be a big step.

‘Mitchell has never really understood the need for greetings and salutations – like hello and goodbye – so we’ve had to coach him in the past,’ explains Kath. ‘But the first day I picked him up from school with Maggie, he climbed into the car and straight away said, “Hello, Maggie.” That was a huge leap forward.’

‘I was considering an assistance dog, but I quickly realised that what we needed was just a happy family dog’

BREAKING NEW GROUND

Gorbing from Dogs for Good acknowledges that the programme has been a richer source of success stories than he ever imagined. ‘So much credit must go to the families,’ he says. ‘We provide the advice, but it’s up to the families to make dog ownership happen. And I’m delighted and grateful that so many have.’

The success of Dogs for Good brought the charity to the attention of the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF), and, in December 2017, the Charity Grants Committee awarded a grant of £60,000 over three years. 

‘Autism appears to be much more prevalent than it used to be because the rates of diagnosis have changed,’ explains Andrew Ross, chairman of the Charity Grants Committee at the MCF. ‘My guess is that nearly every family within the masonic community will have some contact with autism, even if it’s not within their own family.

‘Parents of children with autism are working hard to deal with a very challenging condition, so the simple idea that owning a dog can really help many families – by having a calming effect or by helping a child to engage with the outside world – rather caught the committee’s imagination.’

For a small charity like Dogs for Good, the grant will go a long way. ‘We have to deliver on what we promise and meet our beneficiaries’ expectations, so a significant grant like this allows us to plan ahead with confidence,’ Gorbing says. ‘In future, we hope to offer Family Dog Workshops to even more parents. We’re thinking about how to offer online learning opportunities. We’re hugely grateful to the MCF for enabling us to continue what has turned out to be a genuinely groundbreaking programme.’

The three-year grant from the MCF means that a committed, sustained relationship can develop between the MCF and Dogs for Good, and the Charity Grants Committee will receive regular reports on how the money has been used. ‘It’s good to know that we’ll be able to look back in three years’ time and see the difference we have made to a large number of families,’ says Ross.

Mitchell’s story

Kath explains how autism affects her family’s life, and why a cocker spaniel called Maggie has changed things for the better.

‘Mitchell is cautious by nature, but since we got Maggie a year ago, he has become much more confident – it has been incredible to watch. Throwing a toy for Maggie means he now understands the concept of taking turns, and that has helped him to become more relaxed around other children. His teachers are noticing the positive changes, too.

‘Originally, we were concerned about logistics, and that was where the Family Dog Workshops and the after-care support were so helpful. My husband, James, and I love dogs, but we knew we had to get it absolutely right. Initially, I was considering an assistance dog for Mitchell, but I quickly realised that what we needed was just a happy family dog.

‘For example, where Maggie really helps is with transitions. Even a simple transition from the TV to the dinner table is hard for Mitchell, and he needs some sort of activity in between. Now, Maggie acts as a welcome distraction. She has also boosted Mitchell’s confidence in open spaces. 

‘Up until last summer, we were having to carry Mitchell around – he’s nearly six now, so that was becoming physically difficult. But when Maggie’s with us, Mitchell often runs ahead with her. Having a family dog has been great for me, too. I was driving everywhere and doing very little exercise. Now, I take Maggie for a daily walk, which gives me some head space and blows the cobwebs away. 

‘The Family Dog Workshops were so comprehensive and relaxed, but the most important thing I learned is that there are no rules – different things work for different families and different dogs. I originally thought I’d do lots of puppy training and have this calm, placid dog, and instead we’ve ended up with a complete whirlwind! But that is perfect for Mitchell. Having Maggie bouncing around is ideal for a little boy who just needed to be brought out of himself. I honestly can’t imagine family life without her.’

A place for missing men

With bereaved men often finding it difficult to seek emotional support, hands-on initiatives like DIY workshops are providing sanctuaries where they can open up. Steven Short finds out how the MCF is helping in the hospice care sector

When a partner or family member dies, those looking after them not only have to say goodbye to the person they’ve lost, but also to their own identity as a caregiver. Many people have made great sacrifices to look after a loved one, often over months or years, and as this responsibility ends it can bring a sense of ‘Who am I now?’ as well as questions about the future. 

At the same time, the bereaved can often feel cut adrift from those around them – and the support they experienced leading up to the death – at a time when they perhaps need it most, facing the practicalities of sorting out funeral and financial arrangements.

Hospices across the UK have, for many years, been accompanying people on this difficult journey. And the masonic community has long supported the incredible work they do – more than £12 million has been donated towards the operating costs of hospices throughout the country. Over time, it has become apparent that women are much more likely than men to seek out care and support, and that there is a need for programmes tailored to men who are bereaved, caregivers or coming to terms with their own illness. In response, a number of unique initiatives – such as ‘man sheds’ ­– have been developed to help these ‘missing men’.

A NEW WAY OF FUNDING

Historically, the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF)’s support for hospices has been via small grants across all Provinces. However, the MCF has determined that funds should be directed to where they’re needed most, helping to plug gaps in service provision and make the biggest impact. Working with Hospice UK, some of this year’s MCF grants will focus on bereavement support services.

‘We are constantly looking to improve our grant-making,’ says Katrina Kerr, head of charity grants at the MCF. ‘Our hospice grants in recent years undoubtedly made a tremendous difference in the palliative care sector, but over time it became apparent that we could direct the funds so generously donated to us by the masonic community in a more effective, strategic way.’

Due to the spike in births after the end of the Second World War, a generation of baby boomers is entering its seventies, meaning that now is a good time for Hospice UK and the MCF to be thinking about palliative care and bereavement support.

Karl Benn, head of grants at Hospice UK, agrees. ‘In the past year, hospices have supported around 46,000 people – adults and children – in coping with the death of a loved one,’ Benn says. ‘So there is clearly a need for bereavement care. We also talked to our members, who agreed that this was an area we should be focussing on.’ 

Benn and his team have worked with the MCF to develop and oversee the application process as well as the awarding of the first £150,000 allocated for grants through the new programme. ‘It was heavily oversubscribed,’ he notes. ‘We received applications for £1.5 million, so making our final allocations was really difficult.’

Grants were ultimately awarded to innovative bereavement support projects at hospices in seven Provinces, namely Staffordshire, East Kent, Sussex, Warwickshire, Essex, South Wales and West Lancashire, and in London. These focussed grants were in addition to £450,000 awarded in small grants last year to support 245 hospices under the former programme. Later this year, a further £300,000 will be available to fund the bereavement and support programme, with an additional £300,000 awarded in the form of small general grants as the new programme is introduced gradually over the coming years.

‘Terminally ill and bereaved men are very often reluctant to access traditional support’ Kathy Birch, Princess Alice Hospice

REACHING OUT TO MEN

Among the initiatives are several focussed on supporting men through the bereavement process. These will be hands-on, practical initiatives, where men can, in Benn’s words, ‘do some DIY, or work on renovating furniture – something they can get involved in rather than sitting around a table talking about feelings, which isn’t right for everybody.’ 

Martlets Hospice in Hove, for example, will run a men’s allotment project, while St Mary’s Hospice in Ulverston will introduce a ‘Make Do and Mend’ initiative. At the Princess Alice Hospice in Esher, Surrey, a Man Shed project is underway. The Man Shed, which will also be trialled at other hospices, offers the opportunity to engage in practical activities and learn skills while receiving ‘shoulder to shoulder’ support. 

‘We had noticed at the hospice that the number of bereaved women who were coming forward to us for care and support outnumbered men by three to one, and so we sought to identify a new way to address this unmet need that was right on our doorstep,’ says Kathy Birch, day service programme lead at Princess Alice. ‘We wanted to reach out to the missing men within our communities, including bereaved husbands who have lost their sense of purpose, men who are caring for their partner and need someone to talk to, and men coming to terms with their own terminal illness.

‘Terminally ill and bereaved men are very often reluctant to access the traditional family-support offering, such as formal counselling or listening. Our data on those who seek care and support within a “traditional setting” certainly backed that up,’ Birch continues. 

Kerr from the MCF agrees. ‘Men can find it more difficult to build social connections than women. It’s an unfortunate reality that men are less likely to share concerns about health and personal worries.’

The knowledge that men can find it hard to open up, especially in a formal face-to-face setting, inspired the team at Princess Alice to create the Man Shed programme. Birch says, ‘Our missing men can come together and put their skills and energy to use with a high degree of autonomy while talking to others who may be in the same situation and getting the support they need to face the future.’

A SPOT FOR SHEDDERS

The Man Shed idea originated in Australia, and Princess Alice is one of only a few hospice-based Man Sheds in the UK. As the name indicates, the shed at Princess Alice is a building consisting of a DIY workshop and a communal lounge. It was officially opened in June 2016, and within a month the hospice had 13 ‘shedders’ (patients, carers and bereaved relatives) involved in the project. By January of this year, that figure had risen to 112. Of those, 85.7 per cent are men, reflecting the need for spaces where they are able to cope in their own way. 

At the Man Shed, shedders produce everything from bird boxes and chopping boards to bespoke memory boxes, which are then sold to raise yet more invaluable funds for the hospice. Shedders and project leaders also have come up with innovative ideas to help patients of the hospice, including a special raised cupholder that allows people who use a wheelchair to take a drink without having to bend over. They have also made a mobile trolley for the hospice library and benches for the garden. 

‘I have cancer and I am a regular at the Day Hospice’s weekly social group,’ says one shedder. ‘I’ve recently started to visit the Man Shed and have made some smashing friends. When you walk in it feels like the sun has come out and the heaviness is lifted from your shoulders. Talking to people who know what you are going through really helps.’ 

Two teenage boys recently attended the Man Shed when their father was terminally ill, as he wanted them to learn vital skills while he could still be there. ‘Freemasons are fortunate to have a network of brethren around them for support during difficult times,’ Kerr says, ‘but not everyone is so lucky. Our grants will help to improve provisions for members of wider society.’

The Masonic Charitable Foundation has developed specialist knowledge and expertise in order to give more targeted support to beneficiaries, as Chief Executive David Innes explains

When HRH The Duke of Kent, Grand President of the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF), visited our offices at Freemasons’ Hall earlier this year, I was delighted to introduce him to our team and explain what we have achieved so far as a charity. 

With around 5,000 members of the masonic community and hundreds of local and national charities supported each year since our launch, I am confident that the MCF has become the type of organisation that we hoped to create, supporting people from all walks of life with a wide range of needs.

GETTING SMARTER ABOUT WHAT WE DO

One of the benefits of forming the MCF has been the opportunity to develop specialist knowledge and expertise, rather than spreading our resources across many areas and limiting our impact.  

With this in mind, we have made an informed decision to focus our energies and resources more intelligently and become smarter at what we do. From now on, our Charity Grants programme – historically referred to as ‘non-masonic giving’ – will target funding where it is most needed. Over the next five years, our grants will focus on two groups that we know the masonic community is keen to support: the young and the old. 

Some of our grants will fund charitable projects that create the best start in life for disadvantaged children. Others will go to charities that help to reduce isolation in later life and support older people to actively participate in society.

FOR THOSE WHO NEED IT MOST

Research has shown that the early years of a child’s life are crucially important to their health, well-being and success as an adult, while our growing and ageing population means that the number of older, potentially lonely people is increasing. 

By focussing our funding within these overstretched and underfunded areas, our new grants programmes will, over time, help to address these issues in your communities across all Provinces.  

Our support for hospices has also been updated to focus on grants for innovative and in-demand projects that target specific changes in the palliative care sector. This year, grants have focussed on bereavement care services. 

All of our programmes will involve partnerships with some of the country’s leading charities, including Age UK and Hospice UK. These organisations have a wealth of expert knowledge in their respective fields that we can draw upon to ensure we reach the parts of society where people need us the most.

While we strive to improve the way that we tackle society’s big issues, the well-being of Freemasons and their families remains paramount. We’ve been working hard to make sure the masonic community knows who we are and what we do, and recent figures suggest that the message is working. We are giving more, to more people: the number of grants awarded is up by 9 per cent and the amount we spend to support Freemasons and their families has increased by 19 per cent.

None of this would be possible without the generosity of Freemasons, and their family and friends. Thank you for your support.

‘We have made an informed decision to focus our energies and resources more intelligently’

Tuesday, 12 June 2018 00:00

Reaching out to help homelessness

Homelessness is on the rise, with more than 300,000 people  in Britain homeless today – that’s one in every 200 people

It’s easy to presume that a person is only homeless if they’re sleeping under a worn-out sleeping bag in a shop doorway, wondering how they’ll afford their next meal or hot drink. The reality is that homelessness is a complex and misunderstood crisis. 

‘The vast majority of homeless people are actually families or single people who are not sleeping rough, but instead are living in temporary, poor-quality accommodation such as B&Bs or hostels, harming their health and well-being in the process,’ explains Vicky Hines, Birmingham hub manager at Shelter UK, a charity dedicated to fighting homelessness.

‘Homelessness can feel very isolating, especially when temporary accommodation is far away from a person’s local community, support networks and friends. Children can find the whole experience hugely traumatic, and we’ve seen how seriously this can impact their education and harm their overall life chances.

’Recent reports reveal that 30,000 single-parent families were made homeless in 2017, according to Shelter – that’s at least 30,000 children that found themselves without a stable place to call home. Since 2016, the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF) has given more than £300,000 to charities fighting homelessness across England and Wales; this includes a recent grant of £60,000 to Shelter Birmingham. 

‘We have specialist local hubs at key locations across the country,’ Hines says. ‘This includes Shelter Birmingham. Thanks to the MCF’s funding, we can now fund an expert advice worker to reach hundreds of people in the local community who are in danger of homelessness or threatened with repossession.’

The MCF has also tackled homelessness within the masonic community. Ronnie, a Freemason and a successful head of recruitment, lost his home after personal addictions took control of his life. 

‘My life was in turmoil – you couldn’t make it up,’ Ronnie says. ‘Everything came tumbling down and I ended up living in a tent in a wood for eight months. I was drinking heavily to keep the cold out at night and was in a bad way. In desperation, I moved into a rental property without any funds or deposit. I hoped I would be able to get some urgent support from the government, but it took so long that I faced being evicted.’

A Visiting Volunteer from Ronnie’s Province helped him through this difficult period. ‘He got in touch with the MCF on my behalf, and within 48 hours, an emergency grant was paid into my landlord’s bank account to cover my deposit and rent for a year. The MCF gave me the breathing space to get my life back on track. I’m eternally grateful.’

If you are a member of the masonic community and you are facing a personal crisis, please get in touch with the MCF as soon as possible. Call 0800 035 60 90 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Tuesday, 12 June 2018 00:00

Five ways you can support the MCF

The Masonic Charitable Foundation has come up with five simple ways you can support its work, helping it to make an even greater impact on your behalf by building better lives for Freemasons, their families and the wider community

Relief is one of the fundamental principles of Freemasonry, with all masons pledging to support those who are less fortunate than themselves. However, working out the best ways to support others effectively can be a challenge in itself – how should you put your charitable nature into practise and make a real impact on wider society?

Talk about the MCF

The Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF) can only support those who know about it, so telling your friends and family about the MCF’s work is a great way of reaching out to those who may be eligible for support. Whether you mention the MCF’s financial grants for Freemasons and their families; the Advice & Support Team, who can offer practical guidance; or the MCF’s funding for local and national charities, every conversation gives one more person the option of getting in touch should they need support.

Organise a social event

Whether it’s a quiz or a curry night, a raffle or a race, social events are a brilliant way of raising money and supporting the MCF – not to mention fun for all involved. Donations to take part in a quiz or sponsorship for a race are just a couple of ways of effectively raising money at an event. Whatever you arrange, all donations should be voluntary.

Ask for resources

The MCF has created a range of leaflets that explain the support on offer for both the masonic and wider communities, as well as a biannual magazine called Better Lives. Next time you’re in your lodge, have a look at any leaflets on display. If you think they may be running low or out of date, get in touch with the team at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit www.mcf.org.uk/resources. This way, anyone who picks up a leaflet will learn about the most up-to-date ways that the MCF can help should they need financial, health, family or care support.

Use Gift Aid envelopes

The MCF’s Relief Chest Scheme offers Gift Aid envelopes, which are an excellent way to increase the value of your donation to the MCF by allowing it to reclaim the tax back at no additional cost to you. Ask your Lodge Charity Steward or Secretary for MCF Gift Aid envelopes in which to donate via the Relief Chest Scheme. All you need to do is fill in the front of the envelope and hand it back to your Lodge Charity Steward.

Leave a legacy

Remembering the MCF in your will is a way of carrying out one final act of kindness. Your legacy could provide high-quality care for older members of the masonic family; give independence to people who need mobility equipment; advance groundbreaking medical research; or create educational opportunities for disadvantaged children. If you would like to learn more about leaving a legacy to the MCF, visit www.mcf.org.uk/legacy.

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