Income down by £19m at Save the Children UK after Covid hits fundraising and retail

20 Jul 2021 News

Save the Children UK’s retail arm made operating losses of just under £4m last year, while overall income fell by £19m, according to its annual accounts.

The accounts show that the charity’s overall income dropped by 6% in the year to December 2020, mainly as a result of falling fundraising and retail income. Overall spending was down by 8%.

The accounts were filed with Companies House last week and also reveal that Save the Children UK dismissed a member of staff last year after allegations about the emotional mistreatment of a child.

Income down £19m

The charity’s income dropped by around £19m in 2020 compared to 2019, from £307m to just under £289m. Total expenditure fell from £309m to £283m.

Amid what it called the “challenging economic times” created by Covid-19, Save the Children UK’s shops and online retail operations lost £3.9m, compared with a £1.5m profit last year. Nearly all charity shops in the UK closed completely for several months in 2020 during successive national lockdowns, including Save the Children UK’s 125 stores.

The charity’s fundraising income from events fell by £2.4m, at a time when activities across the country also had to be cancelled due to lockdown rules.

The accounts show that the charity furloughed 250 staff during the year, and claimed £1.3m from the government scheme.

By the end of the year Save the Children UK employed 913 members of staff, up slightly on the year before.

Selling investments

Financial losses from retail and fundraising were partially off-set by rising income from corporate donors and falling staff costs.

Save the Children UK also sold £4m of its investments in order to boost its cash balances during the year, from a portfolio worth around £38m.


The accounts show that one Save the Children UK employee was dismissed last year for gross misconduct, after an investigation into the emotional mistreatment of a child. The behaviour of another employee was “addressed in line with [the charity’s] code of conduct” after concerns were raised about inappropriate text messages sent to a former volunteer.

One person working for an external agency had their contract with the charity terminated after they showed an inappropriate image to a colleague, and one investigation into alleged sexual harassment in the workplace is ongoing.

Save the Children UK received 380 complaints in 2019-20, the majority of which related to delays in processing donations. The report said that “in almost every instance, these errors were quickly remedied”.


Writing in the report, Kevin Watkins, who was chief executive of Save the Children UK until last month, said: “Covid-19 severely disrupted our plans for the year. 

“Many of our staff were furloughed. Our shops were closed for significant periods and events were cancelled, which affected our fundraising. Lockdown meant that most staff had to transition to working from home.” 

Watkins added that, “despite everything, we were able to achieve some extraordinary results” and paid tribute to staff who he said went “way went beyond the call of duty”.

The charity announced last week that Watkins was being succeeded as chief executive by Gwen Hines, the charity's former executive director of global programmes.

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