Support by small charities has been critical during the pandemic, report concludes

Research by the Lloyds Foundation for England and Wales says local organisations have provided crucial help to communities and must be better funded

The government should provide long-term core funding for smaller charities, according to a new report.

Research commissioned by the Lloyds Bank Foundation for England and Wales highlights how smaller charities responded to the needs of people and communities during the pandemic. 

The report, called The Value of Small in a Big Crisis and published todaysays small and local charities, defined as those with an annual income of between £10,000 and £1m, have demonstrated energy, flexibility, and professionalism in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

The report’s findings are based on interviews with charities and the public sector in four regions in England and Wales.

Researchers found that smaller charities addressed four main areas of need: access to food, isolation and loneliness, information, and mental health/wellbeing.

This was done in ways that were tailored to different groups and communities experiencing complex social issues, such as homelessness or mental ill-health, and economic disadvantage.  

Small charities used their position of trust within communities to support people throughout the crisis when they were needed most, according to the report.

This contrasts with parts of the public sector, which were slower to react early on, and informal support and mutual aid, both of which dissipated over time.  

In particular, this approach was critical for communities of faith or ethnicity, people experiencing poor mental health, and people seeking asylum, and those to whom official public health messages were not getting through.

The research found the work of smaller charities created real value, prevented more people from contracting COVID-19 and reduced demand on the health system at very minimal additional cost to the public purse. 

In addition, by continuing to employ local people, using local supply chains and accessing pots of funding that could not have been brought into local areas by other types of providers, small charities also added value to local economies.  

Despite this, researchers highlighted a number of challenges facing small charities, including an increase in the level and severity of need, reductions and unpredictability in funding, and concerns about staff wellbeing.

The report calls for national and local government to recognise the value of small charities by providing long-term, flexible core funding, investing in social and community infrastructure and by putting social value and the promotion of wellbeing at the centre of public commissioning and procurement.  

Paul Streets, chief executive of the Lloyds Bank Foundation for England and Wales, said: “If the government really wants to help people through Covid-19 and beyond it should invest more in small frontline charities – which are already on the ground in their communities and achieve fantastic results – and less in big, top-down private contracts. 

“We call on government, councils and other funders to act on the report’s recommendations to ensure small charities can be there to help the country and communities recover and rebuild.”

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