Charities and COVID-19 – what help is available?

Published by Peter Barton on 18 May 2020

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Last updated 18 May 2020

The charity and not-for-profit sector was, to a certain extent, left out of the Government’s various aid packages announced when the COVID-19 pandemic began.  In early April, whilst recognising that the proposed package would not be sufficient to match every pound of funding that will be lost due to this pandemic, Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, pledged £750 million to the sector, in addition to the general business measures that already help charities.

The £750 million is targeted to help frontline charities across the UK, specifically including hospices and those that support domestic abuse victims.

  • £360 million has been directly allocated by Government departments. This aid will assist in particular:
    • Hospices, which are obviously in great demand at present;
    • St John’s Ambulance;
    • Charities supporting victims, including domestic abuse;
    • Charities supporting vulnerable children;
    • Citizens Advice to increase the number of staff available.
  • £370 million has been made available to small and medium-sized charities, to support those organisations in local communities that are making a big difference. Examples given are those delivering food, essential medicines and providing financial advice. A grant will be made to the National Lottery Community Fund for those charities in England.
  • The Chancellor also announced that a minimum contribution of £20 million would be made to the National Emergencies Trust appeal. He pledged that the £20 million would be increased to match fund whatever the public donated to the BBC’s Big Night In charity appeal on 23 April, if this exceeded £20 million. In fact, the appeal raised an amazing £33,555,005 so the match funding doubled this figure to £67,110,010.  The first £47 million has been allocated equally to Children in Need and Comic Relief.

The Government’s hope is that tens of thousands of charities will benefit from these cash grants, enabling them to meet increased demand as well as continuing their normal day-to-day activities.

The Government will work “at pace” to identify priority recipients, with the aim of such charities receiving financial help in the coming weeks. The hope is that the application system for the National Lottery Community Fund grant pot will become operational within a similar timescale.

This announcement in April by Rishi Sunak built on previous announcements, including:

  • Deferral of VAT bills.
  • No business rates for charity shops next year.
  • Government support for furloughed workers, representing 80% of staff wages (up to £2,500 per month).

The Chancellor concluded his speech with the following words:

“Two short weeks ago I spoke of the need for kindness, decency and the sort of neighbourliness that is at the heart of these charitable and community efforts. The normally invisible connections between us have, in recent weeks, become more apparent. For most of us, we spend our lives oblivious to these connections, these bonds, and how our behaviours, however small, can have a dramatic effect on others.

But these bonds are not invisible for our local charities.

  • For the volunteer keeping victims of domestic violence safe.
  • For the outreach worker helping a rough sleeper find a bed, or
  • For the support worker manning the phones to help stave off the heart wrenching loneliness so many of our elderly relatives and friends will be experiencing right now.

These connections might be hard to see, but they are there, and they are strengthened by our compassion for others. Charities embody this like no other organisation.  And their lesson is that the simplest acts have the potential to change lives. At this time, when many are hurting and tired and confined, we need the gentleness of charities in our lives.

It gives us hope. It makes us stronger. And it reminds us: we depend on each other”.

These words sum up the charity and not-for-profit sector perfectly. Keep up the good work!

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