The Chancellor of Exchequer Rishi Sunak has announced a £750m emergency support package for “front-line charities” affected by the coronavirus crisis.
In tonight’s daily government briefing, Sunak said £360m would be distributed as direct government grants to charities providing “essential services and supporting vulnerable people”, while £370m would be distributed to smaller community charities.
He also pledged that the government would match “pound for pound” donations made through the BBC’s Big Night In event, with a donation for the National Emergencies Trust appeal, with a minimum government contribution of £20m.
The government had been under increasing pressure from the #EveryDayCounts campaign, set up by a number of charity sector umbrella bodies, calling for the government to replace the estimated £4.3bn worth of funding that charities will lose as a result of the crisis.
The National Council for Voluntary Organisations, which had been part of the campaign, said the funding announcement was “an important first step”, but it would not be enough to protect many charities from closure.
During his speech, Sunak said that charities that provide “compassion, care and community to the most vulnerable in our country” had “not been forgotten” amid the crisis.
But he added: “There are nearly 170,000 charities in this country and the truth is that we will not be able to match every pound of funding they would have received this year.”
He said charities could already use many existing schemes to protect staff and for many “the right answer” would be to furlough their employees.
“But some charities are on the front line of fighting the coronavirus, and others provide critical services and support to vulnerable people and communities,” he said.
“For them, shutting up shop at this moment would be to contravene their very purpose, their entire reason to exist.”
In England, he said, this funding would be provided through organisations such as the National Lottery Community Fund, and a total of £60m of the fund would be allocated to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The other £360m would be given directly to charities, including £200m earmarked for hospices, with the rest going to organisations including St John Ambulance and Citizens Advice, “as well as charities supporting vulnerable children, victims of domestic abuse or disabled people”, he said.
Sunak said the government would match the money raised by the night “pound for pound” with a donation to the National Emergencies Trust appeal, set up to support charities in the wake of the crisis, and pledged a minimum donation of £20m.
But Karl Wilding, chief executive of the NCVO, said: "Today’s announcement is an important first step, though it will not be enough to prevent good charities around the country from closing their doors.
“Even many that survive will look very different in a few months’ time, with a severely reduced capacity to provide the support that people rely on.
“At a time of crisis, charities want and need to be able to give their all to supporting people who need it most. They cannot do that if they have to suspend their work or close altogether.
“We know this is not something that the government wishes to see any more than we do, so we will continue to push for the support needed so that charities can keep serving the public.”
He said the NCVO would welcome a commitment from the government to review the level of support as the crisis continued.