Following weeks of pressure from the sector, the Government has announced a £750m package of support for UK charities to help mitigate the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
Announced on 8 April by Chancellor Rishi Sunak, £360 million will be directly allocated by government departments to charities providing key services and supporting vulnerable people during the crisis.
A further £370 million will be allocated to small and medium-sized charities, including through a grant to the National Lottery Community Fund for those in England, to support organisations working in local communities, including those delivering food, essential medicines and providing financial advice during the outbreak.
The Chancellor also announced that the Government will match fund public donations to the BBC’s Big Night In charity appeal on 23 April, starting with a contribution of at least £20 million to the National Emergencies Trust appeal.
“Our charities are playing a crucial role in the national fight against coronavirus, supporting those who are most in need. It’s right we do everything we can to help the sector during this difficult time, which is why we have announced this unprecedented £750 million package of extra funding. This will ensure our key charities can continue to deliver the services that millions of people up and down the country rely on.”
However, last month charity sector bodies estimated that charities will miss out on at least £4.3bn of income over the coming 12 weeks, with many facing collapse as income falls while demand and costs increase. The recent Coronavirus Impact Survey, by the Institute of Fundraising in partnership with the Charity Finance Group and National Council for Voluntary Organisations also revealed that 43% of the charities surveyed have seen an increase in demand for their services coupled with a 48% decline in voluntary income.
Commenting on the announcement, Karl Wilding, Chief Executive of the NCVO, said that while the package was an important first step, it would not be enough to stop many charities closing their doors:
“With charity shops shut and fundraising events cancelled, we estimate charities stand to lose around £4bn in 12 weeks as a result of the crisis. We have been pushing for government support because we know how many people and communities rely on the services charities provide, many of which are now at risk.
“Today’s announcement is an important first step, though it will not be enough to prevent good charities around the country from closing their doors. Even many that survive will look very different in a few months’ time, with a severely reduced capacity to provide the support that people rely on.
“At a time of crisis, charities want and need to be able to give their all to supporting people who need it most. They cannot do that if they have to suspend their work or close altogether. We know this is not something that the government wishes to see any more than we do, so we will continue to push for the support needed so that charities can keep serving the public. We would welcome a commitment from the government to review the level of this support as the crisis continues.”
Chief Executive of the Institute of Fundraising Peter Lewis also voiced his concerns that it would not be enough to safeguard many charities’ services:
“Today’s announcement of a £750m funding package to help charities maintain their vital services and respond to the coronavirus crisis is a welcome first step. It will help to provide much-needed immediate support to many charities providing essential services around the UK. It is, however, far lower than the £4 billion charities are predicting in lost income in the months to come, and is therefore unlikely to be enough to safeguard many essential services.
“We believe charities have a key role to play in getting us through this crisis and appropriate financial support from the government, alongside fundraised income, will be critical in the weeks and months ahead.
“We will continue to track the impact of the crisis on our members and the services they provide and will continue to share our insight with government as to where there are gaps in income are, and where services are under threat.”
More sector responses:
Michelle Mitchell, Cancer Research UK Chief Executive, said:
“The impact of COVID-19 on charities will be devastating, with a collective £4.3 billion fall in income expected over the next 3 months. Cancer Research UK is predicting a drop of up to 25% in income this year, and we’ve already had to make the difficult decision to cut some of our research funding and furlough at least 40% of our staff.
“Despite these significant challenges, charities of all sizes have leapt to support the country during the COVID-19 pandemic, helping health services across the UK as well as people suffering from the economic and social impact of coronavirus. Cancer Research UK laboratories across the country are offering essential equipment and expertise to help with testing, and many of our clinical experts have returned to the NHS frontline. We’re also working closely with health systems and other cancer charities to provide the best support and advice to cancer patients.
“We are still committed to saving lives from cancer. But now more than ever we need sufficient support from Government.”
Sarah Lindsell, CEO of The Brain Tumour Charity, also called for more, saying:
“We are seeing sector-wide decimation of income and disruption to the care we provide each day. The subsequent impact this has on research and vital support during the current crisis is a continuing and urgent issue.
“While we acknowledge the £750 million pledged by the Chancellor Rishi Sunak, we know this is not nearly enough to support so many vital charities at the frontline of maintaining support and care particularly for those with life limiting disease, during this crisis.
“As leaders in the brain tumour field, we acutely understand the importance of maintaining our support network for the community while they face a nationwide lockdown, disruption to their ongoing treatment, and the isolation of being separated from their families and loved ones.
“The Brain Tumour Charity stand together with the entire charity sector in calling for much more support for the vital services we all provide and to ensure that we all can continue to serve and support our communities.”
Catherine Woodhead, Chief Executive at Muscular Dystrophy UK, also commented, saying:
“The measures announced today to support charities are welcome. We will be looking at the detail as it is released, but it is essential the services provided by charities like Muscular Dystrophy UK are not overlooked. We receive no government funding for our core services, which are funded entirely through voluntary funds, so clarity on how government departments will be allocating funding is essential. The £2.8m loss to our fundraising income from the impact of coronavirus put our frontline services and charity at risk.
“We are also concerned that as a national organisation we may not be able to draw on the support that will be available through the National Lottery Community Fund to help us continue to support the people who rely on us.”
Unite National officer for the community, youth and not for profit sector Siobhan Endean said:
“The package of £750 million is a welcome first step and a recognition that the sector is reeling financially.
“But, in our view, much more needs to be done and a figure closer to £4 billion is what is needed to see the sector through the short-term crisis and to stave off charities closing and also, in the longer term, to nurse charities back to financial health.
“Charities are already announcing they are going insolvent and most charities have reserves that will tide them over for less than three months.
“We will be strongly lobbying government in the weeks ahead with cogent arguments and examples to make the case for the extension of the financial measures that we believe necessary to support charities and the many vulnerable people they help on a daily basis
“Many of those charities at risk are a lifeline for people and families in need particularly at this time of national crisis and they will certainly need them when we emerge from this frightening period.”
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