Introducing cash-based assistance discovery

Afsa Akbar
Oct 21, 2020 · 3 min read
Image of a person holding a prepaid card given for the Hardship Fund

When a disaster strikes, the Red Cross has been known to offer traditional forms of practical support such as food, shelter or blankets. What may not be known is that cash grants have been integral to the international work that the British Red Cross is involved in, supporting other Red Cross Societies and the Red Cross Movement during a crisis. In the International Red Cross and Red Cross movement, cash has been used as a humanitarian tool to support people in crisis. This is formally known as “cash-based assistance” in humanitarian circles and it has been defined as:

“the provision of money to individuals or households, either as emergency relief intended to meet basic needs for food and non‐food items or to buy assets essential for the recovery of livelihoods” (ECHO, 2009)

Cash-based assistance at British Red Cross

This year at the British Red Cross, we have increased our ability to offer cash as a tool to support people in crisis. We currently offer cash-based assistance through:

  • Destitution Fund, which has been running for approximately 10 years offering small cash grants as well as vouchers for refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants at high risk of becoming destitute
  • COVID-19 Cash-based Assistance pilot offering preloaded cash cards supporting refugees and asylum seekers during COVID-19 for a short period of time
  • Hardship Fund offering people affected by the pandemic cash cards preloaded with either a one-off payment of £120 or a grant of £120 each month for three months
  • Cash Crisis Cards for people who affected by a house fire or floods

Kicking off discovery

We’re taking a step back to look at what the future of cash-based assistance could look like at British Red Cross. Norman Mckinley, our Executive director of UK operations has set our vision to:

develop a strategically aligned and sustainable Cash Based Assistance (CBA) capability as part of an integrated support / crisis response offer in the UK as part of the 2030 strategy.

To start the work in exploring what this could look like at British Red Cross, we’re kicking off an 8-week discovery. A discovery will help us “understand the problem that needs to be solved.”

Every discovery has a goal and ours is to ‘Understand the needs of people who receive cash and people who give it.’

Having this goal will let us know when discovery is done that we begin to design a service. We’ve kept our goal high level as we’re keen to understand a range of needs from people who’ve experienced financial hardship to frontline staff working to support people in crisis. If we don’t understand the needs to give people cash, we can’t design service to give people cash when they need it.

One of the principles our team is following is to work in the open. One of the ways we’ll be doing this is by regularly blogging in the open to keep you all up to date on what we find out. Stay tuned as we’ll share our progress in our discovery.

Get in touch

If you support people who need financial help or have worked on a service offering cash-based assistance to people in crisis, feel free to get touch afsaakbar [at]

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