Labour has appointed Rachael Maskell as the new shadow charities minister.
The MP for York Central, who entered parliament in 2015, last week replaced Vicky Foxcroft, who has become shadow minister for disabled people.
The changes came as part of a wider reshuffle of Labour’s ministerial team after the election of Sir Keir Starmer as party leader earlier this month.
Maskell, a former charities lead for the trade union Unite, told Third Sector her immediate focus would be making sure charities had sufficient funding to support them through the Covid-19 pandemic.
This comes after last week’s announcement by the government of a £750m package of support for charities.
Many sector leaders said the government’s intervention was welcome but insufficient to address the fall in income of £4.3bn that the National Council for Voluntary Organisations has estimated the pandemic would cost charities.
“The real challenge is ensuring that the sector is resilient,” Maskell said.
“I note the announcement from the Chancellor, but also clearly note the impact that this virus is having on the sector’s financial stability.
“It is absolutely vital that there is the right underpinning to steady the sector through this.”
She also echoed warnings from elsewhere in the charity sector that many organisations were facing oblivion if more financial aid was not forthcoming.
“For some organisations, this could be the final nail in the coffin if something isn’t done to provide that security,” Maskell said.
“The £750m clearly is welcome, but if the cost to the sector is, as the NCVO has said, £4.3bn, it doesn’t really scratch the surface.
“So we need to make sure that there is not only funding to see us through the next few months, but also to ensure there will be grants available to rebuild.”
Maskell said that she would look to set up a weekly “surgery” for charities to discuss the issues they were facing and what they needed to address those issues.
She said the relationship between the state and the charity sector would need to be examined over the longer term once the pandemic had passed, as well as how charities could help to shape the post-Covid world.
“We need to make sure the sector is robust, resilient and seen at the forefront of all considerations, not just as the last port of call,” she said.
“I for one don’t want to go back to the society we left. We have an opportunity to create a more compassionate, sustainable and supportive society in which voluntary organisations have an absolutely crucial role to play.”
She added: “I want to see charities empowered, very much at the forefront of those conversations and right at the heart of government.”