Charities need more help protecting the most vulnerable
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’