Sector 'somewhat let down' by government, says CRA chief

As charity shops begin to re-open, Robin Osterley of the Charity Retail Association says this is a good first step, but more government help is needed

Robin Osterley
Robin Osterley

Charities have been “somewhat let down” by the government, according to the chief executive of the Charity Retail Association

As charity shops began to open their doors for the first time since lockdown measures forced them to shut because of coronavirus, Robin Osterley told Third Sector that “it’s definitely a great first step, but it’s absolutely not enough".

He said: “Reopening charities shops is a fantastic first step because it can provide much-needed funds for the charity straight away.” 

But the chief executive warned that the sector’s services had “never been more needed” and would therefore need additional government support.

Voluntary sector figures have expressed disappointment at the £750m fund set up by the government to support charities through the Covid-19 pandemic, because the UK sector faces losses that could run into billions of pounds. 

“Charities have been somewhat let down by the government,” said Osterley. “Charity shops will survive, but only if their parent charities can pull through the crisis, and in order to help do that the government needs to provide much more support than it has.

“This is a really crucial time. Charities need huge amounts of support over the next few months to be able to provide the really important services they’re used to providing.”

But Osterley said he was excited about charity shops reopening, which has been “three months in the coming”, with stricter social-distancing measures in place including one-way systems and sneeze screens.

Most charity shops would be open by the end of July, he said, although he reiterated concerns that shops were facing a “double whammy” of increased donations and a shortage of volunteers

To “plug the gap”, the CRA has partnered with the National Citizen Service Trust to match 16 and 17-year-olds with volunteering opportunities in charity shops.

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