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Georgina Hill: We cannot let charities be a scapegoat in the fallout caused by coronavirus

01 Jul 2020 Voices

Georgina Hill warns that charities, which have seen their incomes plummet, risk being made a scapegoat for government failings

On 8 April the government announced £750m of emergency funding for charities. With the announcement of this pandemic-pocket money, the sector was tasked with providing UK citizens the “gentleness”, “connections” and “simplest acts [that] have the potential to change lives”. 

Charities contribute over £17.1bn each year to the UK economy. A one-off sum of £750m is not enough. The government matched funds raised for the Big Night In and celebrated efforts by individuals, such as Captain Tom Moore contribute but don’t touch the estimated £4.3bn lost by charities since March, as demand rises for their services now and in the longer-term in order “to support our social fabric”

MPs’ calls for discussion on longer-term support fell on deaf ears, falling foul of defunct arguments on CEO pay. It appears our government has moved swiftly on having not “been able to support everyone in the exact way they would want”.  

After chronically underfunding social care services, the government expects this pitiful contribution to continue to prop up the provision of necessities that allow our society to function – food on the table, homes safe from domestic abuse, and personal care for older adults and those with disabilities, to name a few. 

Charity isn’t about ‘gentleness’

The provision of these services by charities are not the result of “gentleness” or the “simplest acts”, but the tireless determination of people working for and with charities. 

Many unpaid volunteers work with charity staff to fill gaping holes in our social care system. They navigate complex routes to access limited support through local authorities. The adjectives used by our government to describe the work of charities through this crisis stinks of ignorant privilege and sexism that plagues our decision-makers. 

The government has simultaneously misrepresented the crucial role of charities in providing social services and increased the weight of expectation for them to be able to deliver. 

Not only is the funding woefully inadequate to do what is asked of the charity sector, it is not being distributed in a way that can promote equity. Right now, smaller, lower profile organisations set up to support the most marginalised in society are set to lose out, for example, those representing BAME communities

A sector that relies on public trust 

Charities are exposed to high levels of public scrutiny and are reliant on donors’ trust. This is not wrong. Consumers should question the business practices of every company they give their money to. Unfortunately, our thirst for convenient buys of problematic origin from the likes of Amazon illustrates that charities are expected to adhere to a higher standard. 

I fear the day when, in a public statement, one of our politicians points to one-off emergency funds – a drop in the ocean in comparison to what has been lost, and what needs to be done – and questions the performance of charities in the fall-out of this pandemic. For a sector reliant on public trust, being the government scapegoat for continuous failures in social care policy will be the most damaging. 

Georgina Hill works for a charity that supports those that have been affected by stroke

Civil Society Voices is the place for informed opinion, and debate about the big issues affecting charities today. We’re always keen to hear from anyone, working or volunteering at a charity, who has something to say. Find out more about contributing and how to get in touch. 


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