Government talking to charity leaders about support to deal with Covid-19 impact

18 Mar 2020 News

The government has said it will look at what more can be done to support charities affected by coronavirus.

It has come under increasing pressure to provide sector-specific support for charities that have warned they stand to see significant falls in income and an increase in demand due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Speaking to parliament MP Iain Duncan Smith said: “The smallest elements of the voluntary sector who have no reserves are going to lose about £400m during the course of this next few months, and they are going to be the ones that are called upon most for the support in the community to those who suffer.”

He asked Rishi Sunak, chancellor of the exchequer, to take a close look at what could be done to support the sector.

Sunak said that the communities secretary “is talking already to the voluntary sector and we stand ready to provide the support that may be required”.

Details of the package of support are expected to be announced later this week. 

Shadow Minister urges government to extend support to the charity sector 

Vicky Foxcroft MP, and shadow minister for civil society, has written to the chancellor and asked for clarity on support for the voluntary sector.

She has called on the chancellor to establish a community grant fund, defer NICs and VAT payments for charities, offer a loan guarantee for charities needing overdrafts to cover cash flow, pressure the insurance sector to cover Covid-19 under business interruption, and to explicitly extend support offered to small business to cover charities.

Charity Retail Association (CRA): 'Charity shops are significantly threatened'

CRA has written to the chancellor to ask for support as charity shops find themselves in precarious positions due to the outbreak of the virus. Many shops rely on volunteers and there is a significant drop in footfall on the high street due to social distancing restrictions.

Robin Osterley, chief executive of the CRA, said: “We have asked for government assistance to ensure that the sector can rebuild after the virus outbreak ends specifically in the form of grant funding and loans, rents and rates relief and increased funding for the wider charity sector.

“The knock-on effect of impoverishing charities is all the more significant because of the vulnerable nature of charities’ beneficiaries. If this kind of support is not forthcoming the government itself will be forced to pick up substantially greater financial costs to support the most vulnerable of our society, many of whom will no doubt in the meantime suffer most acutely. We, therefore, urge the government to make these kinds of support available in days rather than weeks.”

Catch22: 'Beyond this crisis, community and civil society organisations will need to survive'

Catch22 called on the government to relax its contract requirements for charities delivering public services.

It has sent a letter to the secretary of state for culture, media and sport, Oliver Dowden MP. It calls on government to instruct all public bodies and commissioners to relax all contractual targets for grants or contracts with voluntary, community and social enterprises (VCSEs), to pay all outstanding and upcoming invoices promptly (within a week) and to maintain open and honest lines of communication on the challenges and pressures our communities are facing.

The letter states: “We are aware that other sectors will need support, and we are not asking to be prioritised at others' expense. But throughout and beyond this crisis, community and civil society organisations will need to survive as they will be instrumental to what will have to come after.”

NCVO: 'We will ensure there is clarity from the government'

Karl Wilding, chief executive at NCVO, said that there are going to be significant announcements imminently.

Sarah Vibert, public policy director at NCVO, said: “We are continuing a fast-moving and constructive discussion with the government on a package of financial support aimed specifically at the sector. We will also ensure there is clarity from the government on how other support measures apply to charities as soon as possible.

“All of NCVO's effort has been re-focused to the current crisis and making sure charities get the help they need from the government to get through this is an absolutely core part of our work on behalf of the sector. We are grateful to be working closely with organisations from across the sector at this challenging time.”

Bond: 'It is essential that DFID allows flexibility for grantees'

Graham MacKay, chief operating officer at Bond, said: “Bond is asking DFID to urgently clarify the guidance for those who hold grants or contracts funded by DFID. The situation is impacting humanitarian and development efforts, so it is essential that DFID allows flexibility for grantees so that they can respond to the situation as it unfolds. 

“Covid-19 is also having a major negative impact on their fundraising efforts on NGOs both large and small. Given their humanitarian experience, NGOs are well placed to respond in a crisis and support the communities that they work in. NGOs are a lifeline to many people around the world living in countries with weak public health infrastructure, it is therefore critical that they have the support to tackle the virus and help us eradicate it globally.”

Mayor of London pledges £1m

Sadiq Khan has pledged £1m to the new emergency support fund to help London’s community and voluntary organisations affected by the impact of the coronavirus.


DCMS: 'We will work with the sector experts'

The government has said that it will help coordinate a major volunteering push to help support people through the COVID-19 outbreak.

DCMS is working with the civil society sector, including National Emergencies Trust, the National Council of Voluntary Organisations and the British Red Cross, on how to galvanise volunteers and coordinate help.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said: “I have been so encouraged by how the British public, alongside our brilliant charities and volunteers, are rising to the challenges presented by COVID-19 and supporting each other at this challenging time.

“I know that many people across the country are wondering how they can help those who are more vulnerable – whether that’s delivering food to those isolating or simply being around for a chat on the phone.

“We will work with the sector experts to channel this fantastic outpouring of support and deliver help where it’s most needed.”

The move follows a forum of 40 leaders from across the civil society sector last week, chaired by Minister for Civil Society Baroness Barran, where representatives from charities, disability groups, faith-based groups and the voluntary sector discussed their response plans to the Covid-19 outbreak.

Attendees included the British Red Cross, the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, Small Charities Coalition, Locality, Interfaith Network, Muslim Aid, The Scouts Association, UK Youth, Sustain, National Association for Voluntary and Community Action. 

Many charities such as FareShare and the British Red Cross are organising to support those affected by Covid-19. 

More details on the Government’s plans will be announced as soon as possible, where details will be set out on how individuals can play their part, and how larger organisations can translate their offers of support into help for those affected.

National Lottery Community Fund shares learning 

The National Lottery Community Fund has started reaching out to grantees, partners, and other vital civil society organisations to understand how it can support communities and the sector during Covid-19. The Fund aims to share what it learns over the coming period.

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