The Family Fund is a York based registered charity covering the whole of the UK and funded by the national governments of England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. The Fund helps low-income families caring for a severely disabled child or young person by providing grants that relate to their particular needs. As well as being a registered charity, the Fund is also a company limited by guarantee.
In 1973, against a backdrop of public campaigning on behalf of families affected by the Thalidomide drug, Sir Keith Joseph, Secretary of State for Social Services, and Anthony Barber, Chancellor of the Exchequer, set aside a special fund of £3m. The fund was not to be used for compensation but to help meet the gaps between the essential needs posed by caring for a severely handicapped child and the resources available through families, local communities, and the statutory services.
To administer the fund the government bypassed existing statutory agencies and approached the Joseph Rowntree Memorial Trust. The Trust accepted responsibility and £3m was credited to them on 21 March 1973. The Family Fund became operational on 2 April 1973 and was intended to run for three years.
The initial £3m funding from the Government was followed by a further £3m in 1975. At this time the Joseph Rowntree Memorial Trust and the Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) agreed to the Fund's life being extended to five years. The Government made a grant of £2.7m for 1976 and committed to a further payment of £2m for each subsequent year.
By 1978 the Government and the Joseph Rowntree Memorial Trust had agreed that the Fund would continue, subject to review, on an ongoing but indefinite basis. Subsequent funding would be negotiated on an annual basis with the DHSS and successive departments based on estimates of anticipated demand. The Trust (renamed the Joseph Rowntree Foundation in 1990) continued to administer the Fund until it became a legally independent charitable trust on 1 Apr 1996.
Full accounts of the establishment of the Fund can be found in the Report of the Joseph Rowntree Memorial Trust and the Joseph Rowntree Memorial Housing Trust (York, 1975); Jonathan Bradshaw, The Family Fund: An initiative in social policy (London, 1980); and Lewis E Waddilove, Private Philanthropy and Public Welfare: The Joseph Rowntree Memorial Trust 1954-1979 (London, 1983).
The Family Fund began as a means to help parents shoulder the practical burdens of caring for children with a severe congenital handicap. In December 1974 the requirement to restrict aid to congenital conditions was dropped, so that medical eligibility became dependent on the severity rather than the cause of disability.
The grants made by the Fund were generally of a small scale and were explicitly not compensatory in nature. They were intended to fill gaps in provision for the families of disabled children which the existing statutory and charitable bodies could not provide. Provision of a grant by the Fund did not affect entitlement to any statutory benefits.
Grants are discretionary and are made in response to applications received. Initially grants were not means tested, but by the mid 1980s a maximum level of income for recipient households had been introduced. Grants for a broad range of purposes have been made by the Fund to applicant families, to cover such costs as the purchase of laundry equipment, transportation, clothing, and family outings and holidays.
The Fund also supported a research and advisory role, both internally to inform policy decisions on eligibility and grant making and externally to Government and the social welfare sector.
Reference: Report of the Joseph Rowntree Memorial Trust and the Joseph Rowntree Memorial Housing Trust (York, 1975).
Reference: Jonathan Bradshaw, The Family Fund: An initiative in social policy (London, 1980).
Reference: Lewis E Waddilove, Private Philanthropy and Public Welfare: The Joseph Rowntree Memorial Trust 1954-1979 (London, 1983).
Reference: Eleanor M Barnes, The Family Fund and how it helps (York, 1991).