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Charities grateful for Treasury hand-out, but warn: it’s not enough

09 April 2020


The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, during a media briefing in Downing Street on the coronavirus, on Wednesday

The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, during a media briefing in Downing Street on the coronavirus, on Wednesday

CHARITIES have welcomed financial support from the Government, announced this week. But they warn that it is less than a fifth of what they will lose in the first three months of the pandemic.

Front-line charities, which have seen a rise in demand for their services just as their means of funding have dried up, called the offer “a sticking plaster” and “a drop in the ocean”.

On Wednesday, the Treasury announced that charities will receive a total of £750 million in cash grants, to help them to continue their work during the Covid-19 pandemic.

A statement from the Treasury said that £360 million of the £750-million package would be allocated directly by government departments “to charities providing key services and supporting vulnerable people during the crisis”. These include hospices and organisations that support victims of domestic abuse.

Small and medium-sized charities will receive £370 million. This will “support those organisations at the heart of local communities which are making a big difference during the outbreak, including those delivering food, essential medicines and providing financial advice”.

For charities based in England, part of the £370 million will come via a grant to the National Lottery Community Fund, which gives money to organisations that help their communities.

The Government will also make a £20-million donation to the National Emergencies Trust Appeal, as well as promising to match-fund the total donated by members of the public during the BBC’s Big Night In charity appeal on 23 April.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, said: “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.”

The Treasury statement also pointed out that charities are able to draw on existing support for businesses, such as the deferring of VAT bills, the year-long freeze on business rates for any shops they have, and the 80-per-cent contribution to the salaries of furloughed staff.

The announcement was made just as some of the UK’s biggest charities, including Cancer Research and Marie Curie, warned that their services and research could be severely curtailed by the blow to their finances.

Cancer Research said in a statement on Wednesday: “The impact of Covid-19 on charities will be devastating. Cancer Research UK is predicting a drop of up to 25 per cent 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 per cent of our staff.”

The chief executive of Barnardo’s, Javed Khan, warned on Wednesday that the charity sector was in desperate need of more support.

“We’ve seen analysis that says the charity sector stands to lose about £4 billion in the first three months of this crisis. As welcome as the current government package is, £750 million is not much more than a sticking plaster on a major wound. It’s not enough to prevent many charities from going to the wall.”

The chief executive of the Children’s Society, Mark Russell (Podcast, 3 April), said on Wednesday: “Any help from the Government is a step in the right direction and we need to see the finer details of this package. But on the face of it the cash support announced is a drop in the ocean compared to what charities desperately need to continue supporting some of the country’s most vulnerable people in these worrying times.”

There would be huge costs to cover the country’s social-care needs if charities collapsed.

Mr Russell continued: “The Chancellor acknowledged that charities supporting vulnerable people cannot simply stop their work, so it was disappointing there was no announcement that furloughed frontline staff will be allowed to continue to volunteer. We need to step up our response and mobilise not mothball our fantastic staff right now. We would implore the Government to do more before it is too late.”

Cancer Research concurred: “This package is a significant first step which will help many charities continue their vital work through these challenging times. But this pandemic is having a profound impact on our life-saving work, so we are joining other charities in asking Government to review the level of this support as the crisis continues.”

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