Earlier this month, Chancellor Rishi Sunak unveiled £750m in funding for the charity sector, committing £350m of this to smaller community charities. But he did not shy away from the fact that these emergency measures will not be able to reach every charity.
“In spite of what are unprecedented measures in scale and scope, I can’t stand here and say I can save every single job, protect every single business or indeed every single charity," he said. “That’s just simply not possible.”
Although this package is intended to keep charities open whose services remain vital through the pandemic, it has been widely noted that the fund simply won’t stretch far enough as revenue dries up during the coronavirus lockdown. The question remains, therefore, as to which charities – and, as a result, which communities – will fall victim.
So far we have seen that Covid-19 is disproportionately affecting BAME communities on the front line. This is clearly evidenced in reports of those who have lost lives in the fight against the virus, with BAME workers representing 44 per cent of the NHS workforce and accounting for 68 per cent of the 57 NHS staff who are known to have died.
This raises wider questions and evidence around who have been, and remain, the victims of draconian public policy that has been implemented over the past decade.
The response moving forward must reflect this stark reality. It must recognise that tackling racial inequality is central to a meaningful response, and it is therefore vital that grass-roots BAME charities are at the heart of the relief package announced by Sunak: those most at risk must come first.
Many have recognised the shortfall of the package announced and there remains a heavy focus on larger and more well-known charities that can weather the storm. Smaller, local BAME charities such as the Jan Trust, which are leading efforts to ensure their beneficiaries continue to be safe and have access to the means to survive, risk being sidelined.
Before the start of this crisis, these charities already existed in the grip of a funding crisis, but continued to work on the ground to reach those who are harder to reach. There is no doubt that calls for parts of this relief package to be ring-fenced are absolutely necessary. Not only are these organisations supporting those most at risk, but they are also themselves at greater risk of having to close their doors, without efficient funding.
To ring-fence these funds provides the sector with an opportunity to redress racial imbalance and protect those on the ground delivering lifelines during this crisis.
This is not only paramount during the crisis, but also beyond it. We must ensure BAME charities are able to continue their services, supporting those who have proven over the past decade and beyond to be hardest hit by public policy choices. Access to this relief package will determine the ability of BAME charities to continue this work for years to come, and as a sector we cannot allow these charities to fall by the roadside.
Ring-fencing these funds would also show that that these grass-roots BAME charities are valued by the rest of the sector and the work they do is being clearly recognised.
It is time for the sector to act in solidarity. Unless this is done, we are in grave danger of leaving vulnerable communities at even greater risk in a time of crisis and further jeopardising their chances as we enter its fallout, which is set to have long-lasting consequences.
We must support those who will be most vulnerable to these consequences, now and in the future.
Sajda Mughal is chief executive of the Jan Trust