The covid-19 pandemic has led to small charities in the UK facing existential struggle as their funding has come to a halt, and the Government’s emergency fund is not doing enough.
Covid-19 and the charity sector
The coronavirus pandemic has hit many sectors very hard during this past year. Increased public funding is needed in many parts of society – the charity sector is no different. The massive surge in the demand for charity services combined with the inability to continue usual fundraising activities has resulted in increased financial stress for the sector. A study by Pro Bono Economics shows that as many as one in ten charities could face bankruptcy by the end of this year, as the sector faces a loss of £6.4bn and the demand for extra services increases costs by £3.7bn.
What is being done?
As expected, small grassroots charities working on the ground locally – such as ourselves – are being hit the hardest by the crisis. Many of these smaller charities are absolutely vital for the safety and wellbeing of the communities they serve: them going bankrupt would have far-reaching adverse consequences. According to the National Council of Voluntary Organisations, those charities that work in housing, social care, mental health and in disadvantaged communities are most affected, ironically mirroring patterns of inequality in society more widely. Our CEO Sajda expressed concerns over this exact phenomenon as early as April this year, and unfortunately, her fears seem to have come true. In addition, there have been significant delays in distributing whatever funds the Government has decided to allocate to the charity sector. In August, barely a quarter of the fund for small charities in England had been allocated. Applications to get funding from this pot are being assessed by the National Lottery Community Fund, but also privately vetted by consultancy company PwC that is apparently being paid £1.4m of public money for doing it. There have been accusations of the Government just using this as a method of privileging certain causes and beneficiaries over others. Understandably, the charity sector is outraged by this neglect.
The cost of neglect
What are the impacts of all this? Charities often cover gaps in the support services provided by the Government, ranging from palliative care for terminally ill, providing shelter for homeless people, to food banks for those in need. Reductions to these services are bound to happen if small charities are struggling to continue. Some cancer charities have also expressed concerns over their contributions to research being set back as donations have halted. Moreover, like many other sectors, charities are also sure to be facing job redundancies. All this ultimately matters because those who rely on services provided by charities are now struggling more than ever. Such is the case of food banks, for example: demand has been rising gradually since the introduction of austerity policies but has skyrocketed during the pandemic.
As a small grassroots charity working with disadvantaged communities, we have experienced the financial stress that this year has brought with it first hand. Fortunately, we have been able to carry on our work supporting marginalised communities in London and the UK remotely online thus far – if you want to help us continue our vital work that is more important now than ever, please consider donating. We are also always looking for volunteers, see what opportunities are on offer here.