The last few years have been volatile for the charity sector, with 2019 seeing a twenty seven per-cent increase in charity closures from 2018. Against this backdrop, the sector is now grappling with the implication of the Covid-19 outbreak. The National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO), has predicted that the voluntary sector will face a £4.3 billion drop in its income over the next twelve weeks. Most charities do not have the savings or tangible assets to sustain these sorts of losses for more than a few weeks, meaning that many of them might be forced to close down. Could Covid-19 spell the end of the charity sector as we know it?
The third sector is of massive social and economic value to the nation, with nearly a million employees and £50 billion in total income.
Over the coming weeks and months, these charities will be providing crucial auxiliary support to help our infrastructure deal with the Covid-19 pandemic. It is also important to remember that these charities are an important support system for the most disadvantaged in our communities. It was great to see the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak announce bold measures to protect jobs over the coming weeks, and the culture secretary, Oliver Dowden ensuring that these measures will apply to hundreds of thousands of jobs in the charity sector, whilst also offering charities support to coordinate volunteers, in aid of their response to the crisis.
Oliver has a track record of understanding the importance of the charity sector; he was the tutor for the first Patchwork Foundation Masterclass at Downing Street, where he inspired several disadvantaged young people to go on to work in Whitehall and even in his own Department of Culture.
Despite this, the NCVO, senior charity leaders and many MP’s have argued that without drastic sector-specific measures, such as an immediate cash injection, many charities will be forced to close.
Charities and communities operating in London are going to have their hands particularly full, given the higher prevalence of Covid-19 cases in London. With this in mind it was good to see that the City Bridge Trust have pledged over one million towards a new emergency support fund to support community and voluntary organisations in London.
The Government have acted decisively to relieve some of the burden on the charity sector in the coming weeks. Charities themselves will need to adapt to the circumstances, making more use of the online space. Many forward thinking charities have already started to make this adjustment well before the pandemic, in recognition that this is the most effective way to support our new generations, who spend more of their time online. A good example of this is the Princes Trust, who had introduced an online mentoring services for young people across their programmes.
Perhaps the challenges of the coming weeks and months, will force more charities to become fit for purpose for the realities of our current society. For those that do not adapt, this may indeed spell the end.