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Expect a jump in demand for services after Covid, small charities told

10 Dec 2020 News

Some small charities will face a sharp rise in demand for their services in the aftermath of the coronavirus crisis, a report has warned.

Small Charities Responding to Covid-19: Winter Update, published today by the Lloyds Bank Foundation for England and Wales (LBFEW), also raises concerns about the pandemic’s impact on the mental health of some charity staff, whose work and life balance has “collapsed” as they help vulnerable people from home. 

The findings coincide with the launch of the small charities data hub, a new website sharing information on the country’s small charities, which was created through a collaboration between charities, think tanks and academics.

An approaching 'tsunami'

The report says that many small charities saw a drop in demand for their services during the first national lockdown this spring, because other agencies, including prisons and local authorities, were not referring people for help.

It says: “However, charities aren’t expecting this to continue, and are expecting they will then have a jump in referrals once this bottleneck passes.

“Charities are also predicting the long-term impact of the crisis. They are anticipating further challenges caused by increases in poverty and financial crisis, leading to greater demand for their support.”

The report says later that charities expect “an increase in demand as lockdowns end and as the impacts of the health and subsequent economic crisis become clear”.

One homelessness charity quoted in the report says that it is bracing for “a tsunami of need to start coming through the doors” once the government’s temporary suspension of evictions is lifted.

Worries for staff supporting people 'from their living room'

The report also focuses on the mental health of small charity staff and volunteers during the crisis.

It says that “many charities have had to focus on supporting the emotional wellbeing and resilience of staff and volunteers given the pressures they were facing.

“Even in September and October, the legacy of lockdown on staff wellbeing continues to be a prominent theme, [including] concerns of burnout as they are dealing with higher levels of need for a prolonged period and working remotely, as well as the personal impact of living through a pandemic.”

The report adds: “For many frontline staff, the necessary emotional separation between work and home collapsed, as they were supporting clients through traumatic experiences from their living room.”

The report’s findings are based on information gathered from 180 small charities supported by LBFEW between May and October this year.

Falling government income for small charities

The small charities data hub uses annual accounts, survey information and government administrative data to analyse the sector. 

That analysis found that government funding for small charities had fallen by 20% in real terms since 2013-14, and that a quarter of charities with annual income under £100,000 went into the pandemic with no reserves to fall back on.

It also shows that nearly eight in 10 small charities have lost funding since the beginning of the coronavirus crisis.

Paul Streets, the chief executive of the Lloyds Bank Foundation for England and Wales, said: “Small and local charities have long been unseen heroes in their communities, providing a wide range of services and support but – as the data we are releasing today shows – they were already under financial pressure before Covid-19, with limited or even no reserves to fall back on.

“Small charities have long been at the heart of their communities but are never more needed than now.

“To ensure small charities can help people and communities to build back better, we need national and local government, alongside independent funders, to commit to providing the funding for core costs they need using grants wherever they can and not contracts.”

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