The Quaker Social Action (QSA) has won the Guardian Charity Award for its work against funeral poverty in east London.
Beating almost 1,000 other entries, the QSA is now one of five charities to have won the award, after it was commended for its work in saving the bereaved money on funerals to avoid the debt spiral.
Since its creation in 1867, the QSA has created a series of innovative services including the rent guarantee scheme and a financial literacy programme, and has current projects ranging from life coaching for vulnerable people to working with east end estates to organise street parties so residents can meet their neighbours.
QSA won the award for the achievement of its funeral care project ‘Down to Earth’ – a mentor-led project that supports people living on a low income, and often already struggling with debt, to arrange an affordable funeral for their dearly departed. In just two years it has saved its clients over £100,000 in funeral expenses and helps around 200 people each year to save over £1,000 on the average funeral.
Judith Moran, director of the charity, said she felt “totally overwhelmed and tearful” at the “brilliant news”.
“Funeral poverty is a really important subject but gets so little attention. We have found it hard, like many other charities, to raise money for this project, but we know that we make such a big difference for those who are desperately struggling to afford a funeral.
“The Guardian believes in ‘Down to Earth’ and that is amazing. The judges have honoured our efforts. This is a real boost to the team and the volunteers who have worked so hard.”
Caroline Diehl, judge of the awards and chief executive of the Media Trust, added: “Funerals are often a subject that people don’t like to talk about, and through using clever branding and offering emotional and practical support, the Quaker Social Action charity has had a great impact in their local community.”
As well as a cash prize, each of the charities wins a support package from the Foundation for Social Improvement, including advice and training; a media package from Media Trust; and a year’s free membership of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO).