We know that colleagues want to work for a business that supports them to make a positive and meaningful impact in their communities. That's why we provide support and tools for colleagues to engage in a variety of ways.
Our Volunteering and Matched Funding Policy helps all colleagues across the Banking Group to take part in volunteering opportunities. Colleagues can take a full day’s paid leave to volunteer for a community organisation or charity of their choosing, and additionally, we offer a number of Company-led opportunities to colleagues through our Social Impact Programme. There's no limit on how much Company-led volunteering colleagues can take part in.
Taking literacy from the classroom into the workplace
Throughout the pandemic Vanquis Banking Group has continued to support the National Literacy Trust’s Words for Work programme, which helps young people from disadvantaged communities develop the communication skills they need to reach their potential.
Our colleagues have delivered online events to support secondary students with interview preparation and answer questions about their roles from primary school children. We’ve also helped distribute hundreds of books, tool kits and resource packs to food banks and community centres for young people who don’t have access to digital resources.
Social Impact Programme Manager Cathy Prior said, “We’re passionate about making a difference in the communities in which we’re based. These resources help young people develop their communication skills, as well as their confidence and career aspirations. Our investment helps us build a diverse pool of talented future colleagues while allowing our existing colleagues to get involved and develop their own skills.”
Senior Project Manager for Words for Work at the National Literacy Trust Alice Handelman-Pedroza said, “The Words for Work team is hugely grateful for the ongoing support from Vanquis Banking Group. The Banking Group has also encouraged lots of fantastic volunteers from within the organisation to volunteer their time and help us deliver the programme to broaden hundreds of children and young people’s horizons.”
National Volunteers' Week 2021
In June, we celebrated National Volunteers' Week - a time to say thank you for the contribution millions of people make across the UK through volunteering. In June we celebrated some of our volunteers on our social media channels.
During 2020, for obvious reasons, some activities had to be put on hold. But despite the challenges of lockdown, our colleagues spent 509 hours volunteering during work time for good causes - scroll down to read some of the things our colleagues had to say, along with some case studies from the last year.
Focussing on what's important
“I feel happy when I can help others, we’re all so busy in everyday life that we don’t have time to think or breathe sometimes. With volunteering, it gives me that time to reflect on what I have and how fortunate I am with the opportunities I’ve had and the chance to work hard to achieve my goals. It allows me to focus on what’s important.”
Rita Patel, Vanquis Bank
"Not only did Vanquis Banking Group give me the time back to volunteer and help my local PTFA run a digital campaign to promote and support their annual scarecrow trail; we raised so much money that the company match funded the full amount of £500 to the school, which was the last bit they needed to fund an outdoor classroom. The kids have absolutely loved it!"
Rebecca Kelly, Brand and Content Lead
“Hopefully we helped the young people gain a new perspective on working life and the different career routes individuals can take. They had the chance to engage their communication, problem solving and creativity skills during the session. It was great to get involved and make a difference.”
Sam Wooller, CX Comms Manager for Moneybarn
Volunteering Through the Year
Vanquis Banking Group offers a number of Company-led opportunities to colleagues through our Social Impact Programme, and there's no limit on how much Company-led volunteering colleagues can take part in.
Some examples of volunteering opportunities that colleagues can participate include:
- Community Foundation grants panels;
- developing employment skills;
- developing literacy skills for the workplace;
- reciprocal reading;
- school business enterprise days; and
- mental health first aid.
Colleagues can also take part in community team challenges. Not only do these provide valuable resource in the community, but they also help colleagues to develop key interpersonal skills, such as communication and leadership, which they can apply in their work environment.
Our matched funding programme continues to be popular with colleagues, who tell us that being able to fundraise for the organisations that are close to their hearts is important to them. We provide matched funding up to £500 per person each year and, in 2021, colleagues’ causes benefited from matched funding of £9,938.
Volunteering Case Studies
This year, 25 colleagues took part in 6 grant panels giving 175 volunteering hours during work time.
An important element of our community foundation partnerships is the opportunity that we have to engage colleagues in the decision making process, which helps us to allocate funds in the communities where we operate, and where our colleagues work and live. Their own lived experience, local knowledge and diverse perspectives mean they can add real value and introduce another layer of insight to our funding. This approach also provides a helpful lens through which to develop a better understanding of the issues that exist in the communities where our customers live and work, and how the voluntary sector is addressing the challenges.
Colleagues take time to review applications before meeting as a panel to discuss each of the applications and decide collectively which organisations will receive grants.
In 2021, due to social distancing restrictions, we continued to conduct our grant panels online, with the exception of the panel for the PFG Manjit Wolstenholme fund which took place in person in November. We held a total of six grant panels to allocate funding in 2021, with a total of £307,000 in grants awarded to 51 small voluntary organisations.
It was lovely to work with Moneybarn…. I appreciated the depth of feedback from each of the panel members. We were very impressed.
Jacqui Scott, CEO, Hampshire and Isle of Wight Community Foundation
I found the grant panel really insightful. It gave me a whole new level of understanding in terms of what we are doing in our communities and how we’re really helping to make a difference. I’d encourage anyone to participate in future, discover some of the great causes we support and play a part in the decision making process.
Clare Holding, General Manager, CEL
For many, December is the most wonderful time of the year. However, for those living in poverty, this is when the financial strains of the winter period hit the hardest. We asked colleagues to support vulnerable families through our partnership with School-Home Support. This campaign complemented our year-round work with School-Home Support (see page 59) to reach the most vulnerable children over the festive period. Colleagues were invited to either make a donation to School-Home Support, which in turn attracted matched funding, or to purchase gifts online which were then distributed by School-Home Support direct to children most in need at the following schools:
– Brompton Westbrook Primary School – Chatham;
– Byron Primary School – Chatham;
– Grafton Primary School – Islington; and
– One In A Million Free School – Bradford.
Thank you so much to PFG for making the children we work with smile this Christmas. We know so many children will wake up to no presents under the Christmas tree, and you have helped us change this for over 145 children!
Helen O’Brien, School-Home Support Senior Partnerships Manager
Books can often be a luxury many families can’t afford for their children. Children living in poverty have been hardest hit during the pandemic and being at home meant they had less access to books and learning resources. To celebrate World Book Day in March 2021, colleagues were encouraged to donate books and book tokens to disadvantaged pupils of all ages, teaming up with our partner School-Home Support (see page 59) to make sure that donations reached children in the communities where our main offices are based.
We were so very grateful for the wonderful donations of books that we received – it really has made a difference to our school stock and has helped to bolster much-wanted reading materials for our classrooms, corridors, and our new book bus library. It has transformed lives as our children are developing reading as their new favourite pastime!
Sue Mason, Head Teacher, Brompton Westbrook Primary School
During the first lockdown, the National Literacy Trust were able to support over 300,000 children and young people with printed writing materials and books and over 500,000 with access to high-quality digital literacy resources.
Here at PFG, we were able to print and deliver resource packs to local foodbanks who then provided copies to digitally excluded families. This need continued with each lockdown. We know that 1 in 11 children didn’t have a book at home, many families could not access online learning, and 30% of low income households have bad or no broadband connection. Alongside this, it’s now well understood that lockdown impacts negatively on wellbeing.
To support literacy and wellbeing in disadvantaged communities during lockdown, the charity focused on three key areas:
1. delivering high-quality programme content for teachers to support the delivery of online learning and in-school teaching for vulnerable and key workers’ children through literacytrust.org.uk;
2. providing reading resources and activities for parents through
3. giving digitally excluded children and young people printed resources to support their learning, distributed through their Hubs and partnerships.
In addition, we were able to work with the charity to adapt their Words for Work programme, which provides young people with the communication skills they need for the workplace, so that it could be delivered digitally. Moreover, colleagues volunteered online to help deliver virtual CV masterclasses.
"We are so grateful for PFG’s support over the last year. Their partnership helped us immediately respond to school closures, giving us flexibility to adapt our programmes for home learning and digital delivery. They even helped us print and distribute literacy packs across Bradford, ensuring families using local foodbanks could access learning resources and activities to do at home. We look forward to continuing our support for isadvantaged children, young people and families in our shared communities."
Jonathan Douglas CBE
Chief Executive of the National Literacy Trust
Across the UK roughly 4 in 5 adults have a low level of numeracy, but just what do we mean by numeracy?
Numeracy is not always taught in the classroom: it means having the confidence and skills to use maths to solve problems in everyday life. For instance:
- at work – understanding spreadsheets and data;
- in managing our finances – setting and keeping to a budget, understanding interest rates, understanding the financial implications of borrowing money, working out how much money to put into a pension; and
- as parents – helping children with homework, playing board and puzzle games with children.
As a financial services business, we have a responsibility to make sure colleagues are explaining our products to customers correctly and we want our customers to understand the terms of products they are signing up for, too. To do that, they need basic numeracy skills.
In 2020, we were once again lead supporters of National Numeracy Day. The day looks to raise awareness of the importance of numeracy and helps people take steps to improve their skills. In the midst of lockdown, National Numeracy were able to adapt the day to run as an online festival. More than 50,000 people signed up to improve their numeracy skills during May 2020.
With many parents finding themselves in charge of home learning, there has never been such a stark need to empower children and adults to get on with numbers so they can fulfil their potential.
In light of this, National Numeracy wanted to support parents, carers and teachers with the challenges of remote learning and for every family to know that they can help their children with maths without having to be an expert. So, they launched some free online resources and activities that focus on helping parents, carers and teachers support children to develop number confidence and a positive attitude to maths.
Becoming a numeracy champion in the community
We are also working with National Numeracy to trial its new Becoming a Numeracy Champion training: Maths, Money and Mindset, for those who work in community-facing roles and who regularly communicate directly with clients or provide support to members of the community. The aim of the programme is to tackle the issues around maths anxiety in the UK and how low number confidence can impact on someone’s ability or willingness to engage in conversations about maths and money.
"It’s 100% made a difference to my work already – much more than expected. It really changed the way I look at programme design and think about how our services can be more suitable for people with poor numeracy. We can’t continue to not think about that when we design our services. I learnt that numeracy is not just a niche issue, it’s a huge issue that impacts so many people’s lives."
Community Partner Participant, Becoming a Numeracy Champion in the Community workshop
Our Community Foundation partnerships provide the perfect opportunity for colleagues to input into the decision making process around how our funds are allocated in their local communities. Panel volunteers spend time reviewing funding applications and then sit as a collective group to discuss and agree which organisations will become the grant beneficiaries.
This process enables us to access the local knowledge that our colleagues have, helping us to make better-informed decisions. It also gives them valuable insight and a good understanding of the issues that exist in the communities where our customers live and work.
In 2020, because of the social distancing restrictions that were in place, we held eight online grants panels to help us allocate funding. This worked well for the Community Foundations and for all of our colleague participants.
"I enjoyed being on the panel. It felt good to contribute… everyone listened to each other and there was some healthy debate. It’s so important for people to participate as there may be ideas that others have missed, so these can be shared and everyone’s opinions heard."
Aarati Kapoor, Complaints Quality Monitor, Vanquis Bank
"The panel gave me a greater appreciation of the diversity within society and a glimpse into the amazing work that is taking place. I had a real sense of responsibility, by contributing to decisions on funding. Everyone on the panel wanted to make a difference."
Rebecca Todd, Internal Audit Manager,Provident Financial plc
Through our long-standing partnership with Bradford-based Participate Projects, we were able to provide ad-hoc skilled volunteering support for local voluntary organisations in direct response to Covid-19.
Charlotte Nasey, Group Employment Relations and Policy Senior Manager, was able to use her expert knowledge to support a local charity to review their HR policies. They needed to understand the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on their own HR practices and workforce. Charlotte said: “It was fantastic to be able to use my legal skills and advise a business in my local community. I felt like I made a real difference and the charity were so grateful for my help.”
Sue Taylor, Group Data Protection Officer, helped a local community centre to review their data protection policies. The pandemic meant that their processes and service delivery had to adapt and they wanted to ensure they were managing their data in line with guidance. Sue said: “This was a great opportunity to apply my knowledge and experience in a different context to support my community. It’s important to me to give something back and this felt like an ideal opportunity to do that.”
Colleagues from across the Group were involved in the delivery of the National Literacy Trust’s Words for Work programme which provides young people with the communication skills they need for the workplace. A group of secondary school students took part in a virtual CV masterclass where they learned about the purpose, content and power of a well-written CV.
In addition, a group of primary school students took part in a virtual Words for Work – Dream Big session which helps to develop their literacy skills whilst raising aspirations and challenging stereotypes through a variety of interactive play and skills-building activities.
"By hearing from the volunteers, the young people were not only able to collect top tips for developing their own standout CV, but also learn about the importance of an up-to-date CV throughout their careers." Hannah Hedges Project Manager, Words for Work
National Literacy Trust
"I would like to thank you tremendously for the opportunity you have given to the children from a deprived area in Bradford. Many children wouldn’t have the opportunity usually to talk to professionals and ‘interrogate’ them about their lives and jobs. They have enjoyed learning about different jobs and careers."
Teacher, Westbourne Primary School
Despite school closures colleagues were still able to help raise aspirations of young people through virtual activities such as careers talks, mock interview practice sessions, lesson take-overs and work insight days.
"It’s rewarding being able to share your experiences and put our younger generation at ease about their future. It felt empowering doing something I’m extremely passionate about."
Amber Gibson, Learning and Development Advisor
"I felt proud to take part and I would like to do this again. I feel ambitious and it has given me a new lease of motivation to keep volunteering and building upon my current skill set."
Tuesday Freeman, Specialist Support Agent, Vanquis Bank
During the summer some of our colleagues played virtual hosts to Year 11 students in Bradford as part of a national Work Insight and Skills Week organised by SMBP. SMBP is a charity which provides an innovative programme, bringing together large corporate organisations and professional sports clubs to remove barriers, develop skills and provide experiences to sixth
form and college students from disadvantaged backgrounds. The programme helps build aspirations and inspire them to pursue a career in a profession that they may not have previously considered.
Usually, the event we deliver as part of the week is held in our Bradford head office, but due to school closures and lockdown restrictions the event was delivered online. Colleagues volunteered to deliver presentations and workshops on a range of legal and professional
topics to inspire the young people who attended.
"Team Provident rose to the challenge of providing a virtual Provident Financial Day this year.
The day provided the students with a great insight into the workings of a large corporate organisation and will hopefully help to broaden their understanding of the different career
opportunities available to them which they shouldn’t be afraid to seek out. We were also able to share our Blueprint behaviours with them and show them how these could equally apply to
them, as they should be hungry for better, act like it’s their own and seek out and take opportunities in life as they come along. This day hopefully gave them ideas, thoughts and inspiration as they start to map out a career path for themselves."
Mary Preston, Group Lawyer
A child who can read is set up for life – not just because they do better at school and have better job prospects, but also because they are happier and more confident about their place in the world.
That is why in 2021 we teamed up with the charity Innovations for Learning, which targets struggling young readers from disadvantaged communities. Its flagship programme, TutorMate, harnesses technology to enable volunteer tutors to give children vital reading support from their workplace or home using an online platform.
During the 2020–21 academic year, 26 PFG volunteers supported 28 children through the programme in London and Bradford. As a consequence, children have benefited from 62 hours of one-to-one reading time and (for those receiving TutorMate in the 2020-21 academic year) progressed by two levels in their reading.
We are hugely grateful to PFG for its support of the TutorMate programme, both financially and through its fantastic volunteers in London and Bradford. Not only did its volunteers continue to support children during the challenging months of the pandemic and school closures, but we were delighted that an increased number of volunteers have signed up for the 2021-22 academic year. The children we support have fallen behind due to Covid-19 school closures and the need for the vital reading practice the volunteers will provide has never been so great.
Emma Bell, Executive Director, Innovations for Learning
The children who are reading with the PFG volunteers return from their sessions feeling proud and happy. The reading confidence that I have seen grow in these children is wonderful. It is a testament to the relationships that the staff at PFG have forged with these young minds. I see real progress in the students’ reading ability as the TutorMate platform complements classroom reading extremely well.
Emma Austen, Year 1 teacher, Earlsmead Primary School