What happens when the emergency charity funding runs out: “Please sir, can I have some more?”
Many charities are feeling a little like Oliver Twist right now.
They’re desperately asking for an extra helping of emergency Coronavirus funding from the government to maintain their vital services – but being told in no uncertain terms that there’s none on offer.
So, if your charity is running on empty, what are your options? And how can Connect Assist support you in your essential work helping some of the most vulnerable people in our pandemic-hit society?
For all of us, it’s been a year like no other.
But the charity sector has been hit particularly hard by lockdown. Fundraising activities have been slashed, while demand for services soars.
Wiltshire Citizens Advice, for example, saw a 600% rise in people asking for redundancy advice as lockdown damaged the economy. National charity Mind said that it saw up to 500 calls per day to its helpline in October 2020 – twice the usual volume – as the pandemic took its toll on people’s mental health.
Emergency funding: the story so far
The government responded by launching a £750 million fund for voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) organisations, including hospices and those working with domestic abuse victims.
Additional sector-specific schemes included the Culture Recovery Fund and the Resilience and Recovery Loan Fund. Charities were also able to draw on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme to put staff on furlough.
But most emergency funding had to be spent by the end of March 2021. So charities are at a cliff edge, with frontline services like helplines at serious risk.
‘Build back better’
Any charity that had pinned their hopes on the March 2021 Budget were left disappointed. There was no announcement of targeted support, though many will benefit from the extension of the furlough scheme until September.
Civil society minister Baroness Barran has said that the government has no plans for “another dedicated package” of Covid-related support for the voluntary sector.
And while the government’s ‘Build Back Better’ plan for growth includes a promise to ‘level up’ the UK and rebuild communities, it’s focused on businesses with little mention of charities.
The #NeverMoreNeeded coalition of charities, formed during the first lockdown, has now launched a #RightNow campaign.
In its open letter calling on the prime minister to set up an Emergency Support Fund, the coalition says:
“Right now, millions of people and thousands of charities are doing everything they can to tackle the urgent problems we face. At the same time, those same organisations are looking to the future and trying to ensure they can continue to be there in the tough years of recovery ahead.
“They are stepping up because the need has never been greater, but they are doing so while staring at an estimated £10bn hole in their income. Right now, many charities are eating into their reserves, selling whatever assets they have and making staff redundant.
“That means tomorrow they won’t be able to fund life-saving research, feed struggling families, bring hope to people most at risk isolating at home, tackle existing inequalities made worse by this pandemic. People and communities will go without vital support.”
Connect Assist: your partner
These are worrying times, and it’s likely that some charities will, sadly, be forced to close.
But at Connect Assist, we can support you in several ways.
We can provide overflow services so that your helpline can cope with peaks in demand. You’ll be in charge, and your callers won’t notice the difference.
We can also help you design and programme online digital assistants and intelligent advisors, so that people can self-serve on your website and find out what benefits and support they can claim. That frees up your advisors for trickier cases.
And we can provide consultancy services to help you map out a survival plan that balances service demand and budgetary constraints.
So, give us a call or drop us a line. We’re here to help.