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Opportunities missed & charities ignored: Sector response to the Budget

Melanie May | 4 March 2021 | News

The charity sector has not been listened to by the government with yesterday’s Budget failing to deliver the support it needs, members of the #NeverMoreNeeded coalition have said.
The coalition, which represents thousands of social change organisations and charities across the UK and includes among its members the Chartered Institute of Fundraising, the DSC, NCVO, ACEVO and the Charity Finance Group, issued a statement saying:

“This government has today made the deliberate choice not to listen to the collective voices of over 1000 civil society organisations who wrote to the Prime Minister and Chancellor asking for emergency support.
“Millions of people and causes served by charities across the country have been the hardest hit, but today the rising tide of need against reduced capacity to meet it has been ignored and the services they rely on remain at risk of disappearing. Far from being ‘fair’ as the Chancellor claimed, this Budget overlooks those hardest hit and left behind.
“To date this Government has made £407bn available to ‘support the jobs and livelihoods of the British people’ and yet just a tiny fraction of that has been used to safeguard tens of thousands of charitable services the British people rely on.
“Once again, charities are left to make the most of schemes designed for businesses such as the Job Retention Scheme which are not able to be used by those who need to scale up delivery to meet demand.
“Right now, a year into this pandemic, the emergency is not over and people are suffering. The government’s ambitions to ‘level up’ and ‘build back better’ will simply not be delivered by its constant focus on business alone as the solution – right now it urgently needs to recognise and support the social sector.”

In a similar vein, the DSC‘s own response also drew attention to what it feels is a lack of understanding and valuing of the sector’s role by the government.
Jay Kennedy, Director of Policy and Research at DSC, said:


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“Once charities close down, and cut or mothball services, they won’t be around to help rebuild the country and address the devastating aftermath of this crisis – whether in mental health, education, or the myriad social needs of people young and old.
“It’s certainly not for want of trying. We and our colleagues in the #NeverMoreNeeded campaign thank you, dear reader, for helping us to put every conceivable argument, data point, and message to the Government we can think of.”

It is asking charities to keep signing its open letter, to stay tuned for further action here, and to keep telling their stories at the hashtags #RightNow and #NeverMoreNeeded.
Charity Finance Group’s CEO, Caron Bradshaw OBE, said that it had been initially encouraged by the Chancellor’s words of recognition of the extraordinary hardship so many people are now facing, and that there were some bright spots in the Budget. However, she said, overall it was a missed opportunity:

“The government has once again failed to recognise the vital role civil society plays in protecting and supporting those same people.
“The Chancellor has failed to repair the safety net used by millions of our citizens every day, despite us very clearly laying out why an Emergency Support Package and longer-term support measures are needed #RightNow.
“Deliberate and continued refusal to support social change organisations delivering public benefit leaves our sector precariously balanced on the cliff edge of rising demand and reducing income.

She added:

“There are few bright spots in this Budget that we must acknowledge. The extension of the furlough scheme until September 2021 will come as a relief to many. But as we have come to expect, a failure to engage in amending this scheme – in order to support continued delivery of services – leaves the sector having to decide between mobilising or mothballing.
“The additional money for domestic abuse survivors, and mental health services for veterans, as well as the additional funding for the arts and culture sectors, is a start, but pales into insignificance when stacked against measures to boost business. This is yet another example of a failure to value the contribution to the economy and society delivered by our sector.”

Ecclesiastical Insurance’s Angus Roy drew attention to the fact that charities had not been granted an exemption from Insurance Premium Tax (IPT), despite lobbying.
He said:

“We’re disappointed that the Government has again chosen not to make charities exempt from Insurance Premium Tax (IPT). This, combined with the lack of a dedicated support package for the sector, could be the final nail in the coffin for many charities after such a dreadful year.
“Charities have stepped up to support those most in need and have worked tirelessly in our communities throughout the pandemic. The money saved by not paying IPT would free up vital funding for charities and help increase their impact.”

The Charity Retail Association welcomed the measures in Budget 2021 to support the retail sector’s recovery but expressed concern at the lack of support for the wider charity sector and the lack of clarity on access to the new Restart Grants for larger charity retailers.
Robin Osterley, its Chief Executive, said:

“The boost for retail in today’s Budget will help support the financial recovery of charity shops and their ability to raise much-needed funds for charities. The introduction of Restart Grants and an extension of the business rates holiday for retail are vital foundation stones that will help charity retailers bounce back from the dramatic setbacks of the past year.”
“The Restart Grants will provide welcome support to many charity retailers, but it is a major disappointment that it is still not yet clear whether and when the UK Government will reconsider the continued application of old EU state aid caps which mean that larger retailers will not be eligible for the Restart Grants”
“Whilst there is much in the Budget to be welcomed from a retail perspective, it is disappointing that the Government are yet to introduce a renewed emergency funding package for charities who are struggling with an increase in demand for their services at the same time as they have lost income due to lockdown restrictions.”

Key points from yesterday’s Budget are summarised here.
More sector views: