Rishi Sunak, chancellor of the exchequer, has announced a multi-million pound bailout package for the UK charity sector.
Charities said the announcement is a good start, but more support is needed and urged the government to keep things under review.
He unveiled £750m in new funding for charities this afternoon. Sunak committed £350m to smaller community charities, some of which will be distributed using the Big Lottery Reaching Communities fund.
Some £60m of this will be spent in Scotland and Wales, he said.
A further £360m will go directly to charities providing frontline services, including £200m to hospices and funding for organisations such as Citizens Advice.
The government will also match the money raised when Comic Relief and Children in Need hold a joint evening fundraising broadcast later in April.
The chancellor said that “one of our greatest strengths as a society is our civil society,” adding that charities “have not been forgotten”.
He said that “today the government will do our part” with what he called “a plan to support our social fabric”.
Sunak also acknowledged that the existing furlough scheme for businesses is not always suited to charities, which cannot consider “shutting up shop” when so many people need help from civil society organisations.
The government is also donating £20m to the National Emergencies Trust appeal.
Weeks of pressure
The announcement came after weeks of pressure from charity leaders and politicians across the political spectrum, who had been calling on government to provide the sector with urgent financial support.
However, the money made available falls short of the £4bn identified by NCVO as the financial black hole facing the sector. Last week Danny Kruger, Conservative MP and former government adviser on civil society, said the sector needs a package in the low billions.
In a statement, culture secretary Oliver Dowden said: "Our brilliant charities are already playing a crucial role in our national effort to fight coronavirus - backed up by an army of volunteers. We're determined to support them and match the generosity being shown by the British people.
"This package will make sure those on the front line are able to reach people who need help most, support communities and take pressure off our NHS.”
NCVO: Funding not enough to stop some charities closing
NCVO warned that some charities will struggle without additional support, and called on the Treasury to keep the level of support under review.
Karl Wilding, chief executive of NCVO, said: “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.”
CFG: 'We need a commitment to review'
The Charity Finance Group also called on the Treasury to keep the level of support under review.
Caron Bradshaw, chief executive of CFG, said: "Across the sector we have pulled together to ensure that government came forward with a package to enable charities to keep operating to support communities and deliver the services on which they rely, and although it's taken the government over three weeks to acknowledge and respond to the need charities are experiencing, this package looks like the first steps of support for those charities which are directly involved in the immediate Covid-19 response.
"However, we will be considering the detail of what’s been put forward before we can say whether the government package offers the protection the people we serve so desperately need. We need a commitment from government to review this support as the crisis continues."
Hospice UK: Unprecedented funding recognises the vital role that hospices play in supporting the NHS
Matt Hancock, secretary of state for health and social care, said: “The entire charity sector has stepped up as part of our national effort to tackle coronavirus – from helping our NHS heroes to ensuring the most vulnerable among us are cared for properly.
“Hospices have suffered a huge challenge to their funding due to the outbreak of coronavirus, but at the same time continued to play a vital role in delivering compassionate, quality end-of-life care for many people. I am delighted that this cash boost will provide further financial stability and support them to increase capacity of NHS services and provide stability as we manage our response to coronavirus.
“It’s vitally important we all continue to support our fantastic and hardworking hospices and their staff during this unprecedented time, and the whole country is grateful for the incredible work they do.”
Tracey Bleakley, CEO from national charity Hospice UK, said: “Hospice UK is delighted that the government is providing up to £200m of funding per quarter to hospices to help support the NHS and respond to the Covid-19 emergency.
“Hospices are on the frontline of providing care and support to almost a quarter of a million vulnerable people every year at the end of their lives. This unprecedented funding recognises the vital role that hospices play in supporting the NHS in its fight against Covid-19, and means hospices across the country can keep providing beds, specialist clinical care and staffing to relieve pressure on the NHS at this critical moment.
“Hospices depend on the generosity of their local communities to care for people and families affected by terminal illness. This incredible government support is very welcome but it’s still important that people continue to support their local hospice.
“Hospice UK is working with the NHS to disburse this much-needed funding as soon as possible so we can continue to protect the most vulnerable people in our country during this national emergency.”
Sir John Low, chief executive of the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF), said: “The Charities Aid Foundation knows only too well that charities on the front line are facing incredible demands for their services just as income is squeezed. This set of measures from the Treasury will offer important and welcome support for civil society at this very difficult time for us all.
“Recognising the humbling generosity of the British public right now is so vital as we rally together in the face of such a national challenge.
“Charities at the front line and all those working to support our society need help to perform their vital function bringing people together at this time of enormous challenge. They will need this type of support now and into the future as we come out of this crisis.”