Coronavirus updates: Third Sector live blog

Keep up to date with all the latest coronavirus-related news affecting the charity sector. Please refresh for the latest

20 March

4:30pm Accountancy firm joins calls for urgent financial assistance for the sector 

The accountancy firm BDO has joined calls on the government to provide immediate cash funding for the UK voluntary sector, which it said would “face unprecedented difficulty in the weeks ahead”. 

It said access to business interruption loans, currently available only to charities that receive more than 50 per cent of their income from trading, should be extended to cover all charities. 

Jill Halford, partner and head of charities at BDO, said: “Charities are facing huge increases in demand for services with significant uncertainty around funding. 

“Very few charities have cash reserves available to get through a likely two to three month, or more, downturn in donations, so the majority will struggle severely unless drastic action is taken.”

4pm: Charity sector leaders warn government the sector faces "imminent collapse" if funding is not made available immediately

Organisations including the NCVO, the CFG, the IoF and Acevo have warned that, without an urgent injection of money, many charities would start to close their doors as soon as next week. 

The onset of Covid-19 has seen charity shops closed and fundraising events and activity cancelled, reserves depleted and demand for services increasing, all of which is hitting charities' financial viability. 

The charity sector bodies said the sector would miss out on a minimum of £4.3bn of income over the coming 12 weeks, with many also facing increased costs due to having to tackle the outbreak.

Charities have asked the government to:

  • Provide emergency funding for front-line charities and volunteers supporting the response to the coronavirus crisis, especially where they are alleviating pressure on the health service or providing support to people suffering from the economic and social impact of coronavirus. 

  • Set up a "stabilisation fund" for all charities to help them stay afloat, pay staff and continue operating during the course of the pandemic.  

  • Confirm that charities would be eligible for similar business interruption measures announced by the Chancellor in the past fortnight.

Third Sector is supporting this campaign.

3.30pm: A Scottish education and social care charity will support schoolchildren amid school closures following the Covid-19 outbreak

LOVE Gorgie Farm, recently taken over and run by LOVE Learning, will provide breakfast for children and has set up a delivery service from its new café for those staying at home. It is also urging people to donate to its food bank.

The farm will continue to provide a safe place for children to enjoy themselves, where people can keep a safe distance in the open air and precautions such as hand sanistiser and hand-washing stations are being installed, the charity said.

LOVE Gorgie Farm is also encouraging donations and supplies during the outbreak through two fundraising pages on Amazon and Go Fund Me.

Lynn Bell, chief executive of LOVE Learning, said: “Due to the government’s decision to close schools, we have decided to offer breakfast every morning so the children in the community can enjoy at least a meal a day now that schools have closed.

“We are diligently following the advice from the authorities and the safety of our staff, visitors and animals is and will always be our first and foremost priority."

3pm: Cadent Foundation donates £240,000 to Trussell Trust

The money from the charitable foundation, which is funded by the UK's biggest gas network, will help the charity's food banks support people affected by Covid-19.

The first transfer of funds was made today.

Sophie Carre, head of corporate partnerships at the Trussell Trust, said: “As the coronavirus pandemic develops, more people than ever might need help from food banks across our network. This presents a huge additional pressure on already overstretched resources. We might start to see a reduction in food donations and volunteers could become unavailable if they are in the at-risk categories or are self-isolating.

“We’re working closely with our network to understand each food bank’s situation, offer guidance and work out how we can best support them. We know we won’t be able to do this alone, so we are truly grateful for this support from the Cadent Foundation."

2.30pm: LifeArc sets up £10m fund for research into Covid-19 treatments

The medical research charity said the fund would "support research to accelerate the development and testing of therapeutics that can be rapidly deployed to treat the symptoms of Covid-19".

The charity is seeking applications from academics or companies that have molecules that could be repurposed or repositioned for use in Covid-19 patients.

1pm: Back Youth Alliance warns in open letter of ‘intolerable stress’ of Covid-19 on young people

The Back Youth Alliance network has penned an open letter to the government warning that without “significant coordinated and urgent action”, the impact of the coronavirus pandemic will lead to an intolerable stress on young people for years to come.

The network, which comprises charities including the Scouts, UK Youth and the Prince’s Trust, has outlined a series of measures to support young people through the coronavirus crisis and build an infrastructure for a sustainable future.

“By making the bold, decisive commitment to do so, the government can partner with us in the youth sector to do whatever it takes to unlock the infrastructure and people power needed to ensure young people do not become the forgotten and deprioritised victims of this crisis,” the letter concludes.

12pm: The Charity Tax Group has appealed to the Chancellor to offer charities support through the tax system during the coronavirus outbreak 

The Charity Tax Group has written to the Chancellor requesting immediate support for charities through the tax system during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The letter presents six practical proposals to simplify charities’ interaction with the tax system and to unlock important tax reliefs for charities at a time when cash flow is under serious strain.

Full story to come. 

11:44am: The Julia and Hans Rausing Trust gifts £2.5m to help efforts in fighting Covid-19 

The Julia and Hans Rausing Trust, a charitable fund supporting organisations and initiatives that provide benefit to society in the UK, has announced it will donate a combined total of £2.5m pounds to support efforts dealing with the fallout from Covid-19.

The donations include £500,000 to CW+, the charity of the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, which will go towards its Rapid Response Fund to provide equipment, technology, staff relief and volunteer recruitment for the Covid-19 pandemic.

Julia and Hans Rausing said: “There are a number of charities and organisations that are at the forefront of this pandemic, and we hope these donations can help them continue their excellent work when it has never been more needed."

11am: Homeless World Cup Foundation cancels 2020 tournament 

The foundation said it was "extremely sad" to announce the cancellation of the Tampere 2020 Homeless World Cup amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. 

In a statement, the charity said: "Unfortunately, the risks associated with the widespread virus Covid-19, and the uncertainty in travel restrictions as well as disruption to the activities of our street football partners in the run-up to the event, have led us to a decision that will undoubtedly be disappointing to many, although we are confident is appropriate under these unprecedented circumstances." 

10:16am: Steve Morgan Foundation pledges £1m a week to support charities and not-for-profits

Philanthropist Steve Morgan has announced a pledge of £1m a week to support charities that are helping some of the most vulnerable sectors of society cope with coronavirus. 

The Steve Morgan Foundation was founded in 2001 to support charities that help children and families, people with physical or learning disabilities, the elderly or those who are socially disadvantaged in Merseyside, Cheshire and north Wales.

The foundation is working on government advice that the critical phase of the pandemic could last for about 12 weeks in the UK. However, the organisation has stressed there is no fixed time limit on the pledge to emergency fund local charities.

“The foundation has a small team, but we support hundreds of charities in our region, and it’s these charities and, more importantly, the people they help that are going to be the hardest hit by coronavirus," Morgan said in a statement on the organisation's website. 

“Aside from the obvious difficulties that the charities are facing, supporting thousands of disadvantaged people, this crisis has already caused substantial cash-flow issues. Normal day-to-day fundraising efforts that the charities undertake have been pulled from under them."

Charities based in Merseyside, Cheshire and north Wales looking for emergency funding have been advised to email

8:30am: Bond's chief operating officer calls for urgent grants clarification from Department for International Development

Graham MacKay, chief operating officer at the NGO network Bond, said it was critical that NGOs were given the support needed to tackle coronavirus, adding it was essential that DfID enabled grant flexibility.

"Bond is asking DfID to urgently clarify the guidance for those who hold grants or contracts funded by DfID. The situation is affecting humanitarian and development efforts, so it is essential that DfID allows flexibility for grantees so that they can respond to the situation as it unfolds,” he said.

“Covid-19 is also having a major negative impact on their fundraising efforts on NGOs both large and small. Given their humanitarian experience, NGOs are well placed to respond in a crisis and support the communities that they work in. NGOs are a lifeline to many people around the world who live in countries with weak public health infrastructure, so it is critical that they have the support to tackle the virus and help us eradicate it globally."

8am: Government guidance defines charities as a 'key public service' 

Government guidance released last night has defined charities as a critical sector in a list of key public services, alongside religious staff, journalists, and workers in the justice system. 

The guidance, which seeks to provide advice to schools, colleges and local authorities on how to maintain educational provisions during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, states: "If it is at all possible for children to be at home, then they should be."

19 March

5:30pm: We are clocking off for the evening, the live feed will resume tomorrow 

5:10pm: NCVO chief executive Karl Wilding warns the network is being contacted by organisations that "need to lay staff off" 

5pm: New coronavirus legislation proposes giving workers compensated time off to volunteer

Volunteers could be paid by the government for up to four weeks as part of measures to deal with the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic.

An emergency coronavirus bill presented to parliament this afternoon proposed that employees would be able to take emergency volunteer leave in blocks of two, three or four weeks, which would be technically unpaid.

But the bill says that loss of earnings and expenses will be covered by the government if they volunteer through “an appropriate authority” and paid for through a UK-wide compensation fund.

Read the story

3:30pm: Chief executive of Navca Jane Ide calls on Chancellor Rishi Sunak to give the voluntary and community Sector "equitable treatment"

3:10pm: Chief executive of Acevo Vicky Browning echoes calls for financial support from government

3pm: Founder of Money Saving Expert Martin Lewis announces £1m available to support small local charities

Martin Lewis OBE, founder of Money Saving Expert, has announced the release of £1m from his personal charity fund to support small registered charities or local arms of bigger charities amid the escalating coronavirus crisis.

Grants of between £5,000 and £20,000 are being made available to help with specific UK coronavirus-related poverty relief projects. Applications will close at 11.59pm on Wednesday 25 March 2020.

2pm: Age UK launches £10m coronavirus appeal

Age UK has launched a £10 million Coronavirus Emergency Appeal so it can be there for older people who need its support during the coronavirus pandemic.

Launching its appeal, Age UK said its telephone advice line has seen a 30 per cent increase in demand since the beginning of the crisis, while a subsidiary of the charity, The Silver Line, has experienced a 40 per cent increase in calls from older people who are deeply anxious, depressed and in need of reassurance and friendship.

“The reality is that in the weeks and months ahead older people are going to need Age UK in huge numbers, and to an extent we have never seen before,” said Laurie Boult, fundraising director at Age UK.

“We are determined to rise to the challenge and be there to provide comfort, hope and practical support. But we can only do it if we have the funds that it will take.”

Read the full story

1:15pm: John Lewis Partnership launches £1m Community Support Fund

The John Lewis Partnership has announced that a £1m Community Support Fund will be made available to communities across the UK to help those in need.

Teams in each shop will work with their local communities to choose the best way to use the fund. Help could include setting up additional local delivery services to support the self-isolating, the vulnerable, the elderly and those looking after them.

This will include delivering boxes of staples to local care homes and community groups, and donating products to create care packages for customers to share with vulnerable neighbours.

The John Lewis Partnership also announced that, from Friday, Waitrose supermarkets would provide elderly and vulnerable customers, and those who look after them, with a prioritised and dedicated shopping hour.

1pm: Match funding appeal seeks to double first £200k donated to National Emergencies Trust campaign

Match funding platform The Big Give has launched a campaign to double the first £200k donated to the National Emergencies Trust’s Coronavirus Appeal.

Calling on the public to #DonateYourCommute, The Big Give is encouraging people to donate the amount they’re saving on their daily travel costs if they are now working from home.

Sir Alec Reed CBE, founder of The Big Give, said: “I hope that this match funding appeal will inspire those that are able to give to do so, encouraged by the concept that their donation could be doubled to support the people and communities that have been hit hardest by the virus.”

12:30pm: National Childbirth Trust switches to virtual antenatal courses in response to coronavirus

Parenting and new family charity the NCT has responded to the coronavirus crisis by moving its antenatal courses online.

The charity is now running virtual classes for expectant parents instead of its usual face-to-face courses, with more than 50 courses delivered in the last week alone.

The charity has also set up a dedicated Covid-19 team so it can quickly adapt to changing guidance and respond appropriately to inquiries from parents.

9am: Keep connecting with donors, expert advises

Jen Shang, co-director of the Institute for Sustainable Philanthropy, told Third Sector that staying positive might be tricky in the face of a fundraising crisis, but is crucial if charities are to remain "a consistent, kind voice in people's lives".

“If you can think of ways to begin to send out daily, heartwarming, positive messages to people, then do it," Shang said. "It’s not going to cost us a great deal to just do that for three weeks."

Read the full story.

8am: Chief executive of Youth Leads UK calls for immediate government action

Saeed Atcha MBE said the charity was "massively struggling with cash flow", and eating into its reserves.

7am: Chief executive of Scouts UK calls for government to publish charity support package

18 March

7pm: National Emergencies Trust launches major appeal for local charities

The National Emergencies Trust has launched its first appeal to raise funds for UK charities amid the coronavirus outbreak.

The NET, which was established last year to respond to UK emergencies as a domestic version of the Disasters Emergency Committee, launched the appeal on Wednesday evening.

The trust said its appeal would raise funds for local charities and grass-roots organisations “that can provide vital support to people in the quickest way possible”. Click here for the full story.

11.30am: Save the Children UK shuts up shops

Save the Children UK has told its retail staff that all the charity’s 126 shops will close temporarily from Thursday until the danger from coronavirus has passed.

The decision was taken primarily to protect the health of 3,500 volunteers, many of them elderly, who keep the shops running. Seventy retail employees are being asked to work from home on full pay.

The charity said it receives £900,000 a month in income from its shops, and about £60,000 a week of its profits from its shops are channelled into its aid work.

10am: National Lottery Community Fund promises to be flexible during outbreak

The National Lottery Community Fund has pledged to be flexible with grant recipients if they are adversely affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

A statement from Dawn Austwick, chief executive of the grant-maker, said the fund wanted to support charities and community organisations as much as possible at a difficult time.

She said the NLCF would look to accommodate changes to activities and timelines because of the outbreak and consider any requests for support if organisations experienced financial pressures as a result of the situation.

The funder did not want grantees to have to worry about deadlines, said Austwick, and it would be flexible around reporting.

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