Charity policy round-up: March 2020

Over the past couple of weeks, the whole of NCVO has repurposed its work to help charities deal with the impact of the coronavirus, from providing practical support and guidance to influencing government’s response.

Karl’s blog provides a summary of everything that we are doing.

All the practical advice and support is on NCVO’s coronavirus webpage, which is updated regularly.

We gave evidence to the digital, culture, media and sport select committee inquiry on the impact of covid-19 on the charity sector. Read the highlights in this Twitter thread.

Organisations can submit written evidence to the committee by emailing cmscom@parliament.uk

Covid-19 government funding for charities

The key issue our sector is currently facing is the lack of government funding in response to covid-19.

Despite the announcement of a number of financial measures by the chancellor, charities are facing significant financial challenges due to an immediate loss of fundraising and trading income. The majority of charities are unlikely to benefit from schemes such as the furloughing scheme and the coronavirus business interruption loan scheme (CBILS).

This is why NCVO, in partnership with other sector representative bodies, has launched the ‘every day counts’ campaign.

The campaign has received considerable support and media coverage (including this article by former minister for civil society Rob Wilson, accompanied by an open letter also signed by Nick Hurd, Ed Miliband, Ian Duncan Smith, General Lord Dannat and the Rt Rev Stephen Cottrell, and articles in the Times and the Financial Times).

Unfortunately we are still waiting for an announcement from government.

Voluntary sector emergencies partnership

As we move further into the sector’s response to covid-19, I want to take this opportunity to update you on how the voluntary and community sector emergency partnership is responding to this crisis.

For those of you who might be new to it, the VCS emergencies partnership was set up following the domestic tragedies of 2017. It aims to bring together voluntary and statutory agencies to deliver a more coordinated response to those facing the highest levels of inequality during an emergency. The partnership is made up of a range of organisations including NCVO, the British Red Cross, St John’s Ambulance, the Salvation Army and NAVCA.

The VCS emergencies partnership has been working together over the past few weeks to develop a way to map unmet need at the most local level. This data will be fed into local authorities and local resilience forums, as well as with partners across the sector, to ensure the most vulnerable and marginalised communities are getting the support they need throughout this crisis. I will keep you updated with how this and the work of the partnership progresses over the coming months.

Why the furloughing scheme doesn’t work for charities

When the chancellor pledged that government will pay 80% of staff wages, the clarification that charities are eligible to use the furloughing scheme was welcome.

However, the furloughing scheme is unlikely to be helpful for many charities.

  • Many charities deliver services and support that can’t simply be interrupted. Indeed, they are needed now more than ever and have seen an increase in demand.
  • Even for those organisations that may make use of the scheme, it is likely to be only for a proportion of their staff, since most will have a mixed portfolio of services and activities.
  • Government’s guidance on how to claim through the scheme makes it clear that a furloughed employee can take part in volunteer work or training, but not for the organisation he or she previously worked for. The guidance also creates confusion as to the situation of a charity that receives grants from or has a contract with the public sector is eligible, since it states that organisations in receipt of public funding cannot be eligible.

Coronavirus bill

As part of its Coronavirus Action Plan, government has published the coronavirus bill.

This is emergency legislation aimed at enhancing the ability of public bodies across the UK to provide an effective response to tackle the epidemic.

Many of the provisions however have considerable implications and have caused a number of concerns. This blog explains the most relevant provisions for charities and what they mean.

Covid-19 and key questions for trustees

In response to some of the most frequently asked questions, the Charity Commission has published specific guidance to help trustees with running their charity during the coronavirus outbreak.

This includes a new section for charities that want to help but may not be sure if they can do so within their existing charitable objects.

See also our blog on what charity trustees need to think about.

Further useful information has been published by Bates Wells on its coronavirus hub.

Implications of covid-19 for charities delivering services

Charities delivering public services are facing extremely serious challenges due to covid-19.

Government has issued new procurement guidance to encourage all contracting authorities to support suppliers.

While this guidance is welcome, there are some issues that still need to be resolved and much will depend on uptake from contracting authorities.

Read here more details about the guidance and its implications for charities.

 

 

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Elizabeth Chamberlain Elizabeth is head of policy and public services at NCVO. She has been part of the policy team since 2008, as the expert on charity law and regulation. Her policy interests also include charity campaigning, the sector’s independence, transparency, and accountability.

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