Emma Russ: This country does not need the 'gentleness' of charities to survive – it needs our skills, expertise and grit

Our sector is not a ‘nice-to-have’ option and should not have to fight so hard for its worth to be recognised by government

Emma Russ
Emma Russ

The charity rescue package is a brilliant first step for our sector. Thank you to everybody for tirelessly campaigning to get us to this point. You're amazing, you really are: this wouldn't have happened without you.

I always feel so proud to see the difference our sector makes. I see the lives we help to save, change and transform. I saw it before Covid-19, and I see it now more than ever in the additional demand there is for our services and how quickly we are adapting to continue helping those who need us.

I understand that our income has almost stopped coming in. I see how we are desperately trying to carry on anyway. I see the charities that won't survive or haven't survived.

I know we might need to reduce service provision drastically, I know we might need to make hard decisions about our staff and I know those decisions are tearing us apart.

I see the people that this will affect: the most vulnerable in our communities, sick people, people living with disabilities, BAME and LGBTQ+ communities, our futures, our parents, our grandparents, our children. It breaks my heart.

Although an announcement about a charity rescue package is a step in the right direction, it's not enough. We stand to lose more than £4bn because of this crisis. We've been promised £750m. This averages at about £4,000 per charity in the UK, and not every charity will meet the criteria for financial help.

For some the funds will make a difference, and of course that difference could save a life or bring somebody back from a very difficult place. We are grateful. But you don't need to be a mathematician to know that the majority of people who need our help, the most vulnerable people in our communities, will lose out.

The support we have been given compares badly with that given to other sectors. The charity sector is not less worthy than any other sector. We are not a fluffy bonus. We are not the nice-to-have-but-non-essential option. We are not the sector that should have to fight so hard and wait so long for help. And although there might not be an endless supply of financial help, there are other things that could be done to help charities. Allowing our furloughed staff to volunteer for their organisations would be a fantastic starting point.

Announcing the financial rescue package, Chancellor Rishi Sunak described charities as “gentle”. Poverty, suicide, child abuse, cancer, domestic violence, disease, dying with dignity, equality: there is nothing gentle about what charities do. We have grit and determination. Our work is hard. We act with compassion and sensitivity, but we are not “gentle”.

This country does not "need the gentleness of charities in our lives" to survive this pandemic. It needs their skills, knowledge, expertise and passion. And not so that the country can feel a bit better during this crisis, but because people’s lives depend on them.

We want to carry on saving lives, funding research, offering people lifelines, campaigning for change, protecting those who need protecting.

Society needs us, and people are relying on us.

Please treat charities with the respect we deserve, regard us for the lives we save and the difference we make to society. We are needed now more than ever before, and that need will only grow in the coming weeks and months.

We are not the “nice-to-have” option. We are essential. We can and will help this country recover from this crisis, but we can't do it until you see our worth.

Emma Russ is a regional community fundraising manager, currently furloughed from the Alzheimer's Society. #EveryDayCounts

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