The Benevolent Fund was set up in 1973, succeeding an existing charitable fund. It was decided that its principal aim should be to support people in trouble, particularly young offenders and ex-offenders, and other disadvantaged young people. Preference is given to pump priming new projects, especially those which are innovatory and can serve as a model elsewhere.
Projects which fulfil the funding criteria are shortlisted, and visited by a member of the Livery. These assessment visits give Liverymen an opportunity to become closely involved in the charitable work of the Company, and this may lead to a continuing beneficial relationship.
In over 40 years the fund has disbursed more than £4 million supporting many worthwhile projects.
Within prisons, the Company has supported charities which teach skills and boost prisoners' self esteem in a variety of ways; for example, using music, embroidery, counselling, letter writing; and the staffing of a restaurant to teach practical skills and to improve job prospects on release.
Projects aimed at supporting ex-offenders which have benefitted from Weavers’ funding have included practical support to assist rehabilitation, employment in horticulture, driving lessons in return for voluntary work, and training ex-offenders to run crime diversion schemes for teenagers.
Grants have also been awarded to a range of community-based projects for disadvantaged young people, including mentoring, anti-gang and drug abuse programmes, summer clubs in deprived areas, art and theatre workshops, and raising awareness of the problems of teenage pregnancy. For a number of years the Company also sponsored the annual Prison Reform Trust Lecture and now supports the Trust's Robin Corbett Award for outstanding rehabilitative work with prisoners done by a small charity or community group working in partnership with prison staff.
In addition to the principal funding criteria, grants may also be given to causes associated with the City of London, and to requests for donations to charities personally recommended by Weavers Company Members.