Charities Struggling During Coronavirus Lockdown Get £750m Boost From Government

Chancellor Rishi Sunak says charities "playing a crucial role" but Labour says bailout "falls well short".

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Charities struggling to survive while playing a crucial role in the coronavirus battle will get a £750m boost from government, Rishi Sunak has announced.

The chancellor says his plan will support “the unsung heroes” who are providing services “we all rely on” – but opposition MPs have said the bailout “falls well short” of what is needed.

Many charities have raised the alarm over the impact of coronavirus on the budgets, with most fundraising activities severely restricted by the lockdown.

Ministers will hand £360m directly to charities providing essential services to vulnerable people – such as hospices, St John Ambulance and the Citizens Advice Bureau – and £370m to small- and medium-sized charities.

The government will also match donations to the National Emergencies Trust as part of the BBC’s Big Night In fundraiser planned for later this month and has pledged a minimum £20m.

While welcoming the announcement, many charity bosses have said they still face a fight to survive.

Catherine Woodhead, chief executive of Muscular Dystrophy UK, said: “We are providing vital guidance, support and advocacy for the tens of thousands of people in the UK living with muscle-wasting conditions who are a highly vulnerable group during the coronavirus pandemic.

“We receive no government funding for our core services, which are funded entirely through voluntary funds, so clarity on how government departments will be allocating funding is essential. The £2.8m loss to our fundraising income from the impact of coronavirus put our frontline services and charity at risk.”

Labour shadow chancellor Anneliese Dodds said the bailout “falls far short of filling the financial black hole many organisations are facing”.

She said: “Ministers should continue to look at what additional measures can be made available.

“We must also see concerted action to guarantee this support can get to charities swiftly to prevent further damage being done.”

Announcing the fund, Sunak said charities were “playing a crucial role in the national fight against coronavirus”, adding “it’s right we do everything we can to help the sector during this difficult time”.

“This will ensure our key charities can continue to deliver the services that millions of people up and down the country rely on.”

The chancellor conceded that he could not save every job, business or charity with his emergency measures.

Asked if some are falling through cracks and whether he needs to take urgent action for those not covered by his schemes, he said: “I’ve been very clear and very honest that this will take a significant impact on our economy.

“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.

“That’s just simply not possible.”

It came as health chiefs confirmed the number of people in hospital who have died after contracting coronavirus rose by 938 in 24 hours, bringing the death toll to 7,095.


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