The idea of The Friendly Bench began in 2018, and was first set up in Bottesford, a small village in Leicestershire.  It response to growing social isolation and loneliness of older people in the village, local people came up with the idea of a safe, accessible, mini community garden with integrated seating.  The Friendly Bench is a place for people to meet and connect with each other, a place for small community events, volunteer gardening, or simply a place to stop and rest when passing.  The group behind it set up a number of activities and events including an afternoon, big walk, a get-together and men’s get-together.  It has enabled neighbours to meet, re-connect, and link up residents from local care homes and supported housing.  It has been such a success that the group is replicating the idea, and with Lottery funding is establishing The Friendly Bench in other areas of the UK.

The Foundation has offered £5,840 to contribute towards a shortfall in funding for the administration involved in expanding the scheme.  This will help towards the set-up of an additional ten villages and towns across the country.


SWAP is based in Halifax, and offers a service to offenders leaving prison.  It works in close partnership with a range of other agencies, including supporting housing services that house the offenders it supports in a block of flats.  SWAP assists with resettlement on release, through advice, practical help, mental health support, social activities, and peer support.  The people it helps generally have multiple complex needs – primarily mental health issues, drugs/alcohol dependency, and a range of social and domestic problems.

At the Trustees’ meeting in June 2020, the Foundation offered a grant of £6,000 to SWAP.  This is to fund the Seeds of Change Project.  The Project aims to renovate two large unkempt gardens at the block of flats, and establish a working vegetable and herb garden.  A horticultural trainer will oversee the initial set-up and training of volunteers and residents, and when up and running it will be wholly maintained and run by residents and volunteers.  The gardening project will provide a useful, therapeutic and meaningful activity for residents, and help with community relations as people will see the work being done and the local area being improved and transformed.


DEED is a charitable company that works to tackle poverty, injustice and inequality and works with marginalised groups and local communities in Dorset. It runs training and educational workshops, and also specific project based around particular issues, such as around faith and ethnicity.

At the June 2020 meeting, Allen Lane offered funding of £6,000 that will contribute towards a project working with Gypsy Roma and Traveller (GRT) communities.  This will be run as a partnership project with two GRT organisations Kushi Bok and Life Changing Choices, as well as Dorset Race Equality Council. The project aims to increase understanding and cohesion between GRT and non-GRT communities through a series of activities, training, skills development and events.  Outcomes from the project include improved relations within communities; improved confidence and skills for GRT communities; and reduced isolation of, and discrimination against, GRT people locally.

Silverline Memories aims to relieve the social isolation and loneliness experienced by people living with dementia and their carers. It works to provide support that enables people to live life to the full, and helps people with dementia to find joy and to share in meaningful activities and clubs. The charity operates in Newcastle upon Tyne, and offers a wide variety of services and sessions.

At the June 2020 meeting, Allen Lane Foundation Trustees agreed a grant of £6,000 for Silverline Memories. This funding will contribute towards salary costs. At present there is only one worker, and the aim is that, alongside running activities and managing the work, this role will develop further income streams and help the organisation to grow.

Homeplus Northern Ireland works in Belfast, and assists refugees, asylum seekers and migrants who are destitute and/or homeless.  It offers a drop-in and advice centre during daytimes, and an outreach service every night of the year for rough sleepers and people who are homeless.  As well as practical support, Homeplus NI helps with advice and information for foreign nationals, on their rights and responsibilities, benefits, housing, migration, employment and provides access to public services where possible.  It is helping growing numbers of people whose asylum case is pending; who are new to the country; or who are appealing their case because it was turned down.

The Allen Lane Foundation offered a £5,000 grant to Homeplus NI at the June 2020 trustee meeting.  The funding is towards the core costs of the advice centre, including a contribution to rent and sessional support.  Around 350 destitute refugees, asylum seekers and migrants are expected to benefit from the advice centre each year.


Open Hearts Open Borders (OHOB) is a charity that grew from a grassroots project during the refugee crisis.  A group of people came together who were keen to do something to help refugees – they collected clothes, food, first aid and baby equipment, and organised the delivery of them to refugee camps across Europe. In addition, they linked up with local projects to collect and redistribute items for refugees and asylum seekers in need.  From its base in Plymouth, OHOB now works across Devon and Cornwall with around 30 designated donation points.  Items are redistributed via partner organisations across the counties.

In June 2020, Allen Lane offered a £2,000 contribution towards OHOB’s work in the UK.  This will assist the charity to continue its work in helping to resettle refugees and asylum seekers in the south west who have need of basic furniture, kitchen equipment, clothes, and/or baby items.  Around 200-300 families/individuals have been supported each year.


The Bipolar Lift works in Nottingham, and was established to fill a gap in local services for people with bipolar disorder.  It is user-led, and aims to prevent the social isolation of bipolar sufferers and give them the support they need.  The Bipolar Lift works with referral agencies, and has provided practical and emotional support to more than 100 people.

The Allen Lane Foundation has awarded a grant totalling £4,000 at its June 2020 meeting of Trustees.  The grant will fund a series of workshops and group sessions that will be facilitated and aimed at various topics – such as health, welfare and wellbeing, as well as employment, benefits and debt advice.  Outcome of the work of The Bipolar Lift are to combat isolation, reduce stress levels, and tackle potential triggers before they lead to full-blown episodes.


This is a charity that works with vulnerable and marginalised people from areas of multiple deprivation in Medway, Kent.  Based at premises in Rochester, it aims to reduce isolation and improve health and wellbeing. The Octopus Foundation runs a weekly Men’s Shed which benefits mainly older men who are socially isolated, and face challenges such as living with dementia, PTSD, autism and other issues.  The Shed operates via a carpentry workshop, and people make useful items such as bird boxes and garden planters. Attendees benefit from the social aspect of the Shed as well as meaningful activity.

A grant of £4,000 was agreed by Trustees at the June 2020 meeting.  This will contribute towards the mental health and wellbeing project, and enable the charity to expand its operations to two days per week.  The additional day will enable the Octopus Foundation to offer attendance at the Shed to younger and middle-aged men living with mental health problems, those at risk of suicide and self-harm. It has a waiting list of people referred for support.  Outcomes of the work are that the men will feel happier, with improved confidence, skills and wellbeing; they will develop coping mechanisms to help with their mental health; and they will feel less lonely and socially isolated.

UK Feminista is a national organisation that was established to support individuals and organisations to take action for gender equality.  It undertakes research, provides resources and training, influences public policy, and conducts campaigns on various issues.  Its current main programmes of work centre around tackling sexism in schools, and ending commercial sexual exploitation.  The application to Allen Lane related to its work focusing on addressing sexual exploitation.

In June 2020, the Allen Lane Foundation agreed a £10,000 grant to UK Feminista.  The funding will enable the organisation to work with, and support, victims/survivors of commercial sexual exploitation to input into public policy, through contributing to consultations and working with policy-makers.  It is vital that survivors of sexual exploitation are able to share their experiences with policy makers and input into the policy-making process. Survivors’ insights into how and why exploitation occurs are crucial to developing policy that works effectively to prevent sexual exploitation in the future.