We can't save every charity, minister tells committee of MPs

Culture secretary Oliver Dowden tells the Digital, Culture, Media & Sport Committee that government can't save every business, nor every charity

Oliver Dowden
Oliver Dowden

The government will not be able to save every charity during the coronavirus pandemic, the culture secretary has admitted. 

Appearing by webcam before the House of Commons Digital, Culture, Media & Sport Committee, Oliver Dowden was pushed for more detail about the government’s £750m aid package for the charity sector. 

Julian Knight, the Conservative chair of the committee, questioned how, given that the National Council for Voluntary Organisations had estimated that the sector would lose £4bn in income over the next three months, the government’s £750m package would prevent “hundreds if not thousands of charities going to wall”.

Dowden pointed out that, in addition to the £750m package, charities could make use of other government initiatives such as the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. 

“When you put together both the overarching economic support for all sectors, which charities can take advantage of, and this specific [£750m] scheme, I think it does the job,” he said. 

Knight asked Dowden if he accepted that hundreds of charities could go under as a result of the pandemic.

“The Chancellor has been honest, and I’ve echoed that, in that we can’t save every business, and that would include not being able to save every single charity,” he replied. 

Dowden said some charities, for example those that had “commercial fundraising schemes that they are no longer able to do”, had made use of the furlough scheme. 

“I must say that this level of support is pretty unprecedented," he said." I think the next nearest equivalent was just over £40m provided by the last government during the 2009 crash. Well, this is many multiples of that.”

He pointed out that large amounts of private philanthropy was supporting the sector, and noted the record-breaking fundraising efforts of Captain Tom Moore. 

He said the government would be publishing the criteria for which charities would be eligible for support through funds being provided via the National Lottery Community Fund. These would include factors such as what they are doing to support communities through the pandemic.

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