The government has rejected Labour demands to increase the amount of emergency coronavirus funding for charities.
Answering questions from MPs yesterday, Oliver Dowden, the secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport, said that the government will “do everything that we can to support charities”, but refused to commit extra funding to the sector.
Dowden was responding to Labour’s new shadow DCMS minister, Jo Stevens MP, who said charities “want to hear an explicit commitment from him that further funding will be announced before it is too late and charities go to the wall.”
She said: “Vulnerable people are relying on them for support, and the government must not them down. Can he guarantee that?”
The minister referred Stevens to the Treasury’s £750m funding pledge to charities earlier this month, as well as the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, which funds the furloughing of staff, and measures allowing organisations to defer the payment of VAT. However, he did not guarantee any additional money.
Funding eligibility for small charities
In answer to a question from the Conservative MP Bim Afolami, who warned that “the next few weeks and months are looking very difficult” for small charities in his area, Dowden said that government officials and the National Lottery Community Fund “are finalising the eligibility criteria” for community charities who need to apply for emergency funding.
He promised to inform parliament as soon as this work had been completed.
It is 10 days since some charity leaders first raised their concerns that small charity funding could be “bogged down in weeks of bureaucratic wrangling about detailed criteria”.
Call to secure domestic abuse funds
The Labour Party has also called on the government to ring-fence £75m in new funding for domestic abuse charities.
Labour’s shadow Home Office minister Nick Thomas-Symonds said the money should come from the £750m charity package the government has already announced, and should be fast-tracked to frontline voluntary organisations.
‘Too much time has already been lost’
Thomas-Symonds said: “It is clear that domestic abuse is increasing rapidly during the lockdown, and we need the government to act urgently and support frontline services.
“Our society must not turn its back on some of the most at-risk people in this crisis. Too much time has already been lost and action is needed now. Labour’s plan would deliver £75m to the frontline rapidly, to help keep women and children safe from abuse.”
The call comes after the charity Refuge released data showing that contact with its domestic abuse hotline increased by 49% in the first weeks of April compared with the average before the pandemic began.
Government minister Vicky Atkins, speaking on the BBC Today programme this morning, said that announcements on funding for domestic violence organisations and other large charities will be made “very, very shortly”.