A fifth of small health charities at risk of closure when furlough scheme ends, umbrella body warns

A fifth of small health charities are at risk of closure once the government’s furlough scheme ends later in the year, according to the Small Charities Coalition.

A survey conducted by the membership body showed that only 42 per cent of members polled were able to access the scheme because its complexity meant that many small charities were unsure if they were eligible.

A total of 367 charities in the UK responded to the survey, which was broken down by ethnic groups served, location and charitable objects. 

Researchers found that slightly more than 20 per cent of small charities delivering health services accessed furlough, the second highest behind those classed as “other”, on just under a quarter. 

The SCC said the term “other” was taken from the Charity Commision website and related to those charities that did not fit into any other categories. The membership body said the regulator had agreed to change this categorisation because it was too subjective and unhelpful for analysing data.

Rita Chadha, chief executive of the SCC, said: “Our survey of the take up, or lack up of furlough demonstrates the need for a flexible and adaptable scheme. 

“Overall only 42 per cent of SCC members were able to make use of furlough even when the scheme became more flexible.”

Chadha said the survey results showed one of the key challenges small charities had faced throughout the pandemic, where a desire to continue to do good had been met with a harsher financial reality. 

“It is beyond ironic that at a time when small health charities that can address health inequality, vacancy hesitancy, and support test and trace are those that are unable to access sufficient funding,” she said.

The furlough scheme is due to come to an end on 30 September. 

“We are fearful that we may start to see the closure of at least a fifth of small charities working in health over the next few months, this does not bode well for our collective recovery, when post pandemic these charities will be needed more than ever," said Chadha. 

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