Over one-third of London’s child poverty charities at risk of closure due to coronavirus

31 Mar 2020 News

Around 40% of child poverty charities in London will be forced to close within six months if coronavirus means they cannot raise the funds they planned to, according to new research by The Childhood Trust.

The study surveyed 65 child poverty charities in London, collectively supporting 184,000 children and young people.

The Childhood Trust is urging the government to provide support for children's charities during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Nearly 90% of the charities reported that they are certain that vulnerable children will go hungry due to the loss of free school meals, a shortage of staple foods and the loss of parental earnings during the coronavirus outbreak. 

Of those surveyed, 89% said there is an urgent need for emergency funding and other financial support from the state.

Some 42% of the charities anticipate losing up to £50,000 in funding due to the coronavirus, with nearly a quarter anticipating the loss of over £100,000.

The new research also reveals that vulnerable children will likely be more exposed to harm, as 57% of charities believe the impact of Covid-19 will leave vulnerable children at risk of abuse or exploitation.

An increase in vulnerable children and families is also a concern, with 66% of the charities feeling unprepared for the influx of children and young people they feel will need support due to the crisis. 

Laurence Guinness, chief executive of The Children’s Trust, said: “The stark comparison between the funding decline in charities and the vast increase in children who are going to need support is hugely worrying. 

“Evidence from our network of over 200 funded charities highlights that the impact of this crisis is being disproportionately experienced by children whose lives are already challenged by poverty and its attendant hardships. For many of these children, the crisis is exacerbating chronic anxiety, stress, inadequate diets, domestic violence, loss of peer support and rapid mental health deterioration.”

Guinness added: “After a decade of austerity and cuts to services for children, the support that small, grassroots charities provide for children throughout London is more important than ever. The economic impact of Covid-19 is an existential threat to many charities’ ability to provide support once this crisis subsides. We need the government to step in and provide specific charitable support immediately.”

Massive increase in demand at Scotland’s largest children’s charity

Aberlour Child Care Trust, Scotland’s largest children’s charity, has experienced a 1,100% increase in applications for its Urgent Assistance Fund over the past seven days.

It has thanked the public for donating more than £88,000 in just over a week, following an urgent appeal launched on 18 March.

Liz Nolan, deputy director children and families at Aberlour Child Care Trust, said: “We’ve received applications from all over Scotland from struggling families telling us that they can’t afford to stock up on essentials, and when they go to the shops there is nothing there because of other people panic buying.

“We’re also experiencing an increase in domestic abuse-related requests for support where mothers and children have been forced to flee their homes, leaving all belongings behind. Meanwhile, other vulnerable families who are now at home for extended periods of time simply cannot afford the extra gas and electricity.”

The Aberlour Urgent Assistance Fund makes cash payments to families that are struggling, helping them pay for a range emergency needs. The charity has warned that many families were already at breaking point and that their finances will now be further impacted by the virus.

Children's charities launch emergency appeals 

Other children’s charities across the UK are also launching emergency appeals due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Rainbow Trust Children’s Charity is launching an emergency appeal asking the public to help ensure its family support workers can continue providing vital services for families with a vulnerable child. 

The charity has seen its income drop, fundraising events cancelled and two charity shops close. 

It currently receives no government funding and “is facing the very real concern that it will not be able to continue supporting the 2,500 vulnerable families it currently helps”.

Rainbow Trust’s chief executive, Zillah Bingley, said: “Our family support workers are doing everything they can to help during this crisis. Amongst the most vulnerable families we help are those with children undergoing cancer treatment, organ transplant patients and many with compromised immune systems. 

“Many are classed as the most at-risk people who have now been told to self-isolate for 12 weeks to shield themselves from being exposed to the virus.  

“For these families they have nowhere else to turn. Any other means of support they had has disappeared”.

Action for Children has also launched an emergency appeal to help vulnerable families.

Action for Children carried out telephone interviews with workers representing 60 of its frontline services across the UK, including children’s centres, services for disabled children and young carers, as they struggle to support families in increasingly difficult conditions. 

Nearly two-thirds said they did not think the government was doing enough for children during the coronavirus outbreak.

Carol Iddon, deputy chief executive of Action for Children, said: “The coronavirus crisis has exploded into the lives of vulnerable children and families at a time when millions were already struggling to keep their heads above water – and now are terrified of going under.

“Action for Children’s frontline staff, who were running unofficial foodbanks to help those at risk of going hungry before the outbreak, are overwhelmed by the sheer desperation of frightened families who fear they can’t afford to keep children and babies warm and well fed. Some are even donating food from their own cupboards to help keep families from going under.”

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