The chancellor has promised £750m in emergency funding for charities across the UK, in his latest effort to mitigate the economic impact of coronavirus restrictions.
Speaking at the daily Downing Street press conference, Rishi Sunak on Wednesday said £370m would be earmarked for small and medium-sized charities, some of it distributed through the National Lottery Community Fund. Another £360m would go directly from government departments to charities such as hospices offering services critical to the effort against coronavirus.
The Treasury has also agreed to match public donations to a BBC appeal planned for April 23 for the National Emergencies Trust charity, pledging to hand over at least £20m.
The chancellor said it was right the government should do everything it could to help the charitable sector through the current “difficult time”.
“This will ensure our key charities can continue to deliver the services that millions of people up and down the country rely on,” Mr Sunak said.
However, Mr Sunak admitted at the press conference that charities’ incomes would still fall short, despite the new aid.
The National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO), an umbrella body for the charities sector, has estimated the sector’s income will fall by £4bn in the first 12 weeks of the current lockdown.
“We will not be able to match every pound of funding they would have received this year,” the chancellor admitted.
The emergency funding follows widespread criticism that previous measures to mitigate damage to the economy had neglected charities. Many organisations have had to suspend fundraising events and close shops that provide a significant share of the revenue for some.
Mr Sunak presented the emergency funding as building on help provided to charities through previous steps targeted primarily at businesses, including a business rates holiday on charity shops and the furlough scheme offering government funding for 80 per cent of the wages of idle employees.
Karl Wilding, the NCVO’s chief executive, said his group had been calling for government support because it knew how many people and communities relied on the services charities provide.
“Today’s announcement is an important first step, though it will not be enough to prevent good charities around the country from closing their doors,” Mr Wilding said.
The NCVO would continue to push for more support, he added.
“We would welcome a commitment from the government to review the level of this support as the crisis continues,” he said.
One charity, the Children’s Society, said the funding announced represented “a drop in the ocean” compared with what such organisations needed to keep operating during the coronavirus crisis.
“Charities like ours face a perfect storm of rising demand at the same time as income has plummeted amid retail shop closures and cancelled fundraising events,” Mark Russell, the group’s chief executive, said.
Among the groups due to receive some of the £360m in direct funding are hospices, which care for the terminally ill, St John’s Ambulance, the charitable ambulance service, and groups working with victims of domestic abuse.
Tracey Bleakley, chief executive of Hospice UK, an umbrella group for hospices, said the funding would help hospices to continue to provide care and relieve pressure on the National Health Service.