Cambridge Aid is a registered charity (No. 204327) and a point of last resort for those in desperate financial need within Cambridge and its surrounding villages.
We offer financial help to individuals and families in need, whilst the referring organisation may be dealing with the underlying causes of distress. The grants give comfort, provide basic essential needs and help to maintain dignity.
Cambridge Aid seeks donations from various local organisations, trusts, charities and individuals. The funds are administered by voluntary Trustees who meet fortnightly to consider applications for support which are submitted on behalf of individuals or families. We are recognised as offering a rapid and flexible response with minimal overhead costs.
You can view our Annual Reports and Accounts via this Charity Commission link.
Cambridge Aid’s history dates back to 1880, when the Cambridge Charity Organisation was formed to replace the existing Cambridge Mendicity Society to relieve poverty.
The moving spirits were Henry Sidgwick, famous philosopher and economist, and his wife Eleanor who was sister to Arthur Balfour and became the second Principal of Newnham College. There was strong membership from the Cambridge Colleges, from local churches and the town (especially the Poor Law Guardians). The first Chairman was the Master of Pembroke College.
A Sub-Committee met weekly for the practical work and a salaried agent was employed for home visits (this was before Social Services, the NHS, and other agencies existed). Help included grants of money, pensions (this was before State pensions and benefits were created) and repayable loans. The Rules of the Society stated that needy wayfarers could be given bread to eat on the premises.
In 1917, three charities were established at St Andrew’s Street; the Cambridge Central Aid & Charity Organisation Society for the purposes set out above, plus the Cambridge & County Surgical Association and the Invalid Children’s Aid Association (the latter two eventually became redundant with the development of the NHS and Social Services after the Second World War). There were extensive subscribers (about 250) from both Town and Gown, including famous names like Darwin, Rouse Ball and Keynes.
In 1920, the title ‘Cambridge Central Aid Society’ was adopted.
The Citizens’ Advice Bureau (CAB) was established on a national basis in 1939, and shared accommodation with the Society, and this has continued right up to now (though the CAB is now much bigger).
In 1952 and 1960, there were grants from the City Council, but we have only received one further grant from them of £13,000 in 2016. By 1973, there was no longer representation on the Committee from the Colleges or churches; there were some Councillors, but no men! There was no longer a salaried secretary, and all officers were and are honorary. Currently, several of the Trustees are existing or former voluntary advisers with the CAB, and others have extensive experience in the health and charitable sectors.
This is a highly summarised version of a valuable history of the Society prepared by Janet Stein in 2003. There is much historical information on the Society in the County Records Office at Shire Hall.
In 2019, we changed our name to Cambridge Aid.
In 2022, Paul Ray, the Treasurer, was awarded a British Empire Medal in the Queen’s Birthday Honours. It was “For Services to the Community in Cambridge”, which highlighted his current role with Cambridge Aid, also his past work as a CAB advisor and as the Chair of Camrowers, and for being helpful in Meldreth.
"I want to say a huge big thank you to Cambridge Aid for all the funds you have given the families and individuals throughout the year.
It has made such a difference to many families - not just for the essentials, and I can’t tell you how often people have been in tears as the gesture is so poignant for them. The money will definitely make such a difference to the families this year."
- Financial Inclusion Officer
Cambridge City Council
Thank you. "
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