Bath MP Wera Hobhouse has called on the Government to set up a dedicated grant for charities during the Covid-19 crisis, following conversations with professionals in the local voluntary sector.
Writing to the Government, Wera Hobhouse has argued that the voluntary sector will be absolutely vital during the Covid-19 crisis, but warned that “non-profits have been left in the dark”.
According to discussions the Liberal Democrats have had with professionals in the voluntary sector, many charities have been hit financially by the outbreak, but will only be able to apply for government loans if more than half their income comes from trading activity.
Wera Hobhouse said: “The voluntary sector will be absolutely vital as this crisis continues. Charities are able to provide networks of volunteers to reach out to the at-risk who may be self-isolating.
“They are also a vital source of information and support networks for people who are homeless, hungry, isolated or sick.
“Whilst the Government has been quick to announce measures to support the private sector, non-profits have been left in the dark.
“The launch of the National Emergencies Trust to support front-line charities with public donations is welcome but suggests that the Government is abdicating responsibility for supporting the Voluntary Sector.
“There are over 800,000 people employed in charities across the UK. Income streams are already disappearing and charities are being forced to make hard choices about their workforce.
“The Government must act urgently to protect this vital sector during this crisis.”
Wayne de Leeuw, CEO of Dorothy House Hospice Care, said: “These are difficult financial times for charities like ours, yet across the UK hospices are working closely with the NHS and providing free, specialist palliative and end of life care to patients, their families and carers during this unprecedented COVID-19 virus outbreak.
“Hospices in England receive only 33% on average of their funding from Government (28% for us) and are now facing financial uncertainty as social distancing measures have led to worrying changes in their fundraising events and campaigns.”
“At Dorothy House we are continuing to run all essential clinical services both at the Hospice and in the community to care for patients with life-limiting illnesses.
“We are also delivering support services such as bereavement counselling, Nurse Specialist support and Hospice at Home care to local people in different ways such as via phone, video appointments, home visits or our 24-hour advice line.
“To illustrate the impact of recent Coronavirus measures on our voluntary, community income streams we stand to lose up to £166,000 per week in revenue from our combined fundraising and retail income.
“It costs £28 to fund one hour of our Nurse Specialist’s time supporting end of life patients in the community. While we are delighted that the National Emergencies Trust has launched a relief fund to support front-line charities with donations from the public we’d ask for clarity on what government funding solutions will support hospices and charities through this health crisis so they can continue to play their vital role in supporting the ill and vulnerable in society.”
James Carlin, Director of B&NES 3GS (Bath & North East Somerset Third Sector Group), added: “We’ve been so proud of our compassionate community’s response in the current coronavirus outbreak, with 1,500 people registering with us to volunteer.
“Many local charities and voluntary organisations rely on volunteers already. Some of these will be people who are self-isolating or who now need to remain at home for several weeks, so it is fantastic to have new volunteers from diverse backgrounds to step in to fill the gaps.
“But many local voluntary groups and charities have been fighting for funding to survive and will need financial support if they are to carry on doing the brilliant work they do.
“It’s been good to see this raised in Parliament and we’re hoping the Chancellor will make a strong commitment to help our sector very soon.”