MPs urge extra funding for charities in light of pandemic

MPs have pressed the government to provide additional funding for the voluntary sector to help it weather the Covid-19 pandemic. 

During question time for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport in the House of Commons this week, Oliver Dowden, the culture secretary, was asked if the government could stump up additional funds for charities during the pandemic. 

The government announced a £750m package of support for the voluntary sector on 8 April, but this fell way short of the estimated £4.3bn that the National Council for Voluntary Organisations believes the sector will miss out on over the next three months because of the pandemic.

Jo Stevens, the Labour MP for Cardiff Central, told Dowden that the government’s rescue package was “nowhere near enough”, representing just 20 per cent of the sector’s usual income during a 12-week period. 

She said charities and MPs wanted to “hear an explicit commitment ?from him that further funding will be announced before it is too late and charities go to the wall”. 

She said: “Vulnerable people are relying on them for support and the government must not let them down. Can he guarantee that?”

Dowden replied by saying the government would do “everything we can” to support charities and that they could access all the schemes the government had set up to support organisations through the outbreak, such as VAT deferral, additional business rate relief and the option to furlough staff. 

But he stopped short of saying the government might put in place further measures to support charities that are at breaking point because of Covid-19. 

Bim Afolami, the Conservative MP for Hitchin and Harpenden, asked Dowden to provide details about how small charities might be able to access the emergency funding “because some of them are saying that the next few weeks and months are looking very difficult?”

Dowden said the government was finalising eligibility criteria and would write to all MPs explaining the process and criteria for making applications.

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