Thank you for the eleven positive (and one negative) response to my post yesterday about pensioners donating their winter fuel allowance (WFA) to sustaining 16-18 year old students who will, from next year, lose their Educational Maintenance Allowances (EMA).
I said I wanted 500 expressions of support by Friday so I’m not exactly on track, but those who have responded are keen so I am hoping for a tipping point in the next fifty hours. Any help gratefully received
In the meantime I have been exploring the idea a bit more with various friends. Here are some new angles:
My friend who understands the technology of the Department of Work and Pensions tells me there is no way Government could simply redirect WFA on request. Apparently its ancient mainframe system just doesn’t have this adaptability.
So, the best way to proceed is probably to give pensioners a simple on-line, or downloadable paper, form which they send to their bank. The form would ask their bank to pay £250 to the holding charity on a date soon after the WFA is paid in to their account by the Government. This is on the assumption that the pensioner has their pension and WFA paid directly into their bank (which is surely the case with the vast majority of better off pensioners). What I haven’t yet ascertained is whether all the WFA payments go in on the same day or in a very condensed period – this would obviously make it easier.
The next issue concerns distribution and administration. The simplest thing here would be to know the current distribution of EMAs in terms of the number of students going to each college and school. The funds collected from pensioner donations would then be redistributed to the schools and colleges on exactly the same basis, leaving the institution to decide how best to use the money to help low income students. It is vital therefore that we get support and access to data from the Department for Education. Donating pensioners could also indicate whether they want their local college to contact them in relation to opportunities for mentoring or reciprocal contribution of time and muscle power from the benefiting students.
For reasons of reassurance and credibility there is general agreement that it would be good to launch the idea with a pledge bank type threshold (i.e. it is only when 100,000 pensioners have agreed that the letters and forms to the bank get sent).
Another friend who advises companies on thought leadership thinks that if the scheme got off the ground a major corporation might come in and offer to match fund the donations.
One kind commenter has already offered to help with the web-site and I am now looking for a bright, politically savvy, volunteer to spend a few days working on the details and lobbying Government.
Whether or not the RSA stays involved (something I will have to ask my Trustees and Fellows) I sense this really could happen. If anyone wants to tweet about it or set up a Facebook page or online petition please feel free.
We shouldn’t underestimate how far our societies have pulled apart. Yet there is hope for renewal, says Anthony Painter. The question is not whether we come together – but how.