Daily Express

Char­i­ties need more help pro­tect­ing the most vul­ner­a­ble

- Rose­mary Mac­don­ald Hunger · Society · Charity · Social Issues · United Kingdom

THERE is no shying away from how dis­as­trous the first wave of coro­n­avirus has been for Bri­tain’s 170,000 char­i­ties. Lit­tle over a week af­ter lock­down be­gan in the UK back in March, rep­re­sen­ta­tives for the UK’s char­ity in­dus­try came to­gether to warn the Gov­ern­ment of an im­mi­nent fund­ing short­fall of £ 4bil­lion.

Un­der a con­stant bar­rage of bad fi­nan­cial news, it’s easy to be­come in­ured to eco­nomic down­turns and bil­lion- pound fund­ing short­falls.

The re­al­ity is that fig­ure rep­re­sents hun­dreds of thou­sands of food pack­ages, nights in shel­tered ac­com­mo­da­tion and hours of cri­sis coun­selling that couldn’t be pro­vided to our most vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple.

Grass­roots char­i­ties sur­vive from month to month mak­ing each in­di­vid­ual grant or do­na­tion go as far as they can. So, even the small­est fund­ing gap in the char­ity sec­tor risks leav­ing thou­sands of vul­ner­a­ble fam­i­lies ex­posed and be­low the bread­line with­out the char­i­ta­ble sup­port that feeds their chil­dren and en­sures they have a safe bed to sleep in.

SO FAR, the cri­sis has left thou­sands of vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple in its wake. Af­ter re­dun­dancy, ill­ness or per­sonal be­reave­ment, these in­di­vid­u­als need all the sup­port we can of­fer them – and this un­prece­dented level of need has of­ten fallen to our na­tion’s small char­i­ties to ful­fil. No won­der grass­roots char­i­ties – par­tic­u­larly in the hous­ing, so­cial care, and men­tal health sec­tors – have felt the blow of ris­ing de­mand ver­sus fall­ing in­come.

De­spite many strug­gling to keep their heads above wa­ter, these or­gan­i­sa­tions have had to find new ways to op­er­ate and adapt to the cir­cum­stances. And in re­cent months we’ve seen many look­ing to­wards the fu­ture and ad­just­ing to this “new nor­mal”.

Fo­cused on rais­ing funds and de­liv­er­ing aid to their com­mu­ni­ties, we’ve seen a huge in­crease in char­i­ties ap­ply for emer­gency com­mu­nity foun­da­tion fund­ing to ad­dress se­ri­ous prob­lems cre­ated as a re­sult of Covid- 19 – in­clud­ing food in­se­cu­rity, loss of jobs, and var­i­ous chal­lenges re­lated to ed­u­ca­tion and men­tal health.

As of Au­gust, the Coro­n­avirus Ap­peal that UK Com­mu­nity Foun­da­tions launched in partnershi­p with the Na­tional Emer­gen­cies Trust, has seen com­mu­nity foun­da­tions make over 10,000 grants to lo­cal char­i­ties and groups at the fore­front of the UK’s com­mu­nityled re­sponse to the pan­demic.

Cer­tainly, small char­i­ties have shown great agility, in­no­va­tion, and de­ter­mi­na­tion to help sup­port peo­ple dur­ing the first lock­down. Yet, the threat of a sec­ond wave has the po­ten­tial to de­rail this progress. With se­condary lo­cal lock­downs al­ready in force, the prospect of a na­tional one poses new chal­lenges that could whelm small char­i­ties would be cat­a­strophic.

Although char­i­ties will be bet­ter pre­pared to deal with the ef­fects of a sec­ond wave, the on­set of harsh win­ter weather pre­sents new chal­lenges. At the very least, a win­ter lock­down could heighten al­ready- press­ing is­sues like fuel, poverty, hunger, and home­less­ness, which are known to af­fect some of the most vul­ner­a­ble in so­ci­ety. This in­cludes those on low in­comes, peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties, or longterm ill­nesses and the el­derly.

With hun­dreds of vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple forced to choose be­tween food or warmth, many are re­liant on pro­grammes such as the Sur­viv­ing Win­ter Ap­peal, which sees com­mu­nity foun­da­tions across the coun­try help peo­ple strug­gling to heat their homes by pro­vid­ing them with food, blan­kets, shel­tered ac­com­mo­da­tion and the means to over­which

pay their en­ergy bills. Se­vere weather risks caus­ing a fur­ther strain on ser­vices over the win­ter months. One only needs to re­mem­ber the ef­fect of Storms Ciara and Den­nis to see how a sec­ond pan­demic could push char­i­ties to break­ing point.

The eco­nomic im­pact on tourism is a fur­ther threat, with ar­eas of the UK that rely heav­ily on hol­i­day­mak­ers feel­ing the sting from re­duced trade. Sea­sonal un­em­ploy­ment is another fac­tor that could be ex­ac­er­bated by the pan­demic.

WHILE the im­pact of a sec­ond wave on small char­i­ties is cer­tain, their fu­ture post­pan­demic is not. It has al­ready seen the sec­tor take coro­n­avirus in its stride, and I have no doubt that it will do so again – but not with­out pub­lic sup­port.

The coro­n­avirus has high­lighted the vi­tal work that char­i­ties do in not only plug­ging gaps in gov­ern­ment pro­vi­sion, but pro­vid­ing com­mu­ni­ties with sup­port – and most im­por­tantly, hope. It’s para­mount that char­i­ties are pro­vided the re­sources and funds avail­able to con­tinue help­ing vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple af­fected, and en­sure we come out stronger the other side.

‘ A sec­ond pan­demic spike could push char­i­ties to break­ing point’

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 ??  ?? WILL­ING HELPERS: Loaves ’ N’ Fishes char­ity work­ers in the West Mid­lands town of Dudley
WILL­ING HELPERS: Loaves ’ N’ Fishes char­ity work­ers in the West Mid­lands town of Dudley

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