Dear Friends,

We hope you are all keeping well and safe. We are living in unprecedented times. As Covid-19 spreads across the globe, impacting on each and every one of us, it disproportionately affects the most vulnerable who are often more susceptible to major infection complications and dependent on others for their care and support.  The impact of Coronavirus has amplified the strain on a sector that was already stretched to near breaking point as a consequence of twelve years of austerity.

Less than six weeks ago our Communities were starting to process the devastating and shocking findings about our founder’s abusive actions. Now our Communities have been working around the clock to respond to this new crisis on skeleton teams.

While it’s too early to accurately cost and evaluate the full impact of these crises, we’re beginning to see significant strains on our already stretched resources that are likely to increase over time. 

Our model relies on our highly valued live-in assistants, many joining us from outside the UK. When they leave us, they help spread our values across the world.  A live-in assistant costs approximately £10,000 less than a live-out assistant. We lost 20 in just one week when the German government called its citizens home as a consequence of the pandemic. Many new assistants can no longer join us due to travel restrictions and difficulties processing visas.  

Next year, Brexit brings in new immigration laws. While we are developing a strategy to minimise their impact, this will make live-in recruitment harder and put our leadership pipeline at risk.  

We’ve had to spend money to ensure our members remain safe. Additional management has been needed to dramatically alter our services, rotas and policies. Agency costs have risen sharply in response to absences and losing live-ins, costing us over £20,000 this month in our Edinburgh Community alone. Significant sickness pay has been incurred as many assistants have self-isolated to keep our Communities safe.   

We’ve offered more training in response to high turnover. We’re providing additional 1:1 support and have developed new resources and activities to enable our members to live-well and respond to mental health issues and behaviours that are amplified during this period of isolation.  We’ve invested in more technology to enable homeworking and keep Communities connected.  We’re providing crucial external support for our leaders to help them deal with palliative care if necessary and the deeply felt impact of both the Coronavirus and Jean Vanier inquiry.

We’re losing valuable income at the time we need it most. This includes £60,000 due to the cancellation of the London marathon and more through our inability to conduct outreach at churches, schools and universities. A decrease in donations is expected as some of our valued partners themselves face greater financial uncertainty.  

While this time brings us a host of challenges, it also reveals a window of opportunity. As we shift from founder-led to mission-led, we are called to unite around a common vision that reinvigorates our historic values while adapting to the rapidly changing realities that L’Arche faces today. This crisis has also awakened the public to the critical role that organisations like ours have in valuing our most vulnerable. 

I was moved by this quote by Chelsea Dianne that so aptly reflects how L’Arche’s deepest values are manifesting in society in response to the crisis:

"And then the whole world walked inside and shut their doors and said we will stop it all. Everything. To protect our weaker ones, our sicker ones. Our older ones. And nothing. Nothing in the history of mankind ever felt more like love than this."

In a strange way this period has reminded us of our intrinsic interdependence on each other. While we are physically isolated, it has highlighted our fundamental human need to be connected.

I have been deeply touched by the ability of our Communities to find creative ways to ensure that we remain emotionally and spiritually present to each other at this challenging time. 

I call on all of you, our valued supporters to help us keep the heart of L’Arche alive for many years to come. Thank you!

Loren Treisman
CEO/National Leader, L’Arche UK


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