Charities hit by coronavirus chaos could receive Government help

Charities could be in line for extra Government support to cope with the financial hit they have taken from the coronavirus outbreak.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said Chancellor Rishi Sunak had acknowledged the pressure the sector is under and it is something the Government is “very actively” looking at.

It comes after Huddersfield MP Barry Sheerman last week urged the Government to make use of, and support charities, after the closing of their shops and cancelling of fundraising events had stemmed their income.

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Mr Sheerman said: “I've got wonderful local charities, for example Forget Me Not for the children's hospice, a really great team, very lively in the heart of the hospital community.

A paramedic escorts a patient arriving at St Thomas' Hospital in Westminster, London as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus. Photo: PA

“But suddenly they're in serious trouble because all these things have hit them at once.”

However he said: “On the other hand, they’ve got this really dedicated team of professionals who could be easily empowered - if the 80 per cent of salaries were paid - could be with the local council helping to identify and look after that significant percentage of really vulnerable constituents in every area.”

It comes after Cancer Research UK warned it expects fundraising income to drop by up to 25 per cent in the next financial year due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The charity said the fallout from the pandemic on the global economy and health meant “it will be more difficult to achieve its goal of improving cancer survival”.

Its activities have already been hit, with its network of 600 UK high street shops temporarily closed.

It is also reviewing the feasibility of its events in 2020, including Race for Life.

The charity has also decided to cut some of its research funding, warning that the potential impact of coronavirus on its efforts to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer “could be huge”.

Another charity’s chief executive also warned of the impact of income shortfalls for the sector.

Gemma Peters, from Blood Cancer UK, formerly called Bloodwise, said: “Charities across the UK have seen a huge drop in income at the very moment there has been a massive rise in demand of many of their services.

“Community activities and events are the lifeblood of UK charities, and they have all been cancelled or postponed.

“Added to this, people are less likely to have spare money during tough economic times and companies are having to look again at their charitable giving.

“It all adds up to a perfect storm that threatens to change the shape of the charity sector in this country, and leave some of our most vulnerable members of society without the safety net charities have provided for generations.”

Cancer Research UK’s chief executive Michelle Mitchell said: “There can be no doubt that this global pandemic is going to cause huge strain on charities in the coming months.

“People affected by cancer will be facing difficult situations because they are particularly vulnerable, or because their treatment is being affected by the knock-on impact in the health service, and our priority is making sure we can support them during these unprecedented times.”

She said making cuts to research funding was “uncomfortable”, but said the charity “must be realistic about what we can deliver given the current circumstances”.

“We remain tirelessly committed to making progress for people affected by cancer, but now more than ever, support from both the Government and the public will be vital,” she added.

“We simply will not be able to continue funding our life-saving work without it.”

The charity’s laboratories are supplying equipment and expertise to help with coronavirus testing, while some clinical staff have been released to work on the NHS frontline.

Ms Peters said her organisation was lucky enough to be able to “weather the storm” but it was still expecting the drop in income to have a serious effect on its activities.

“This same trend will be repeated in thousands of charities across the country,” she added.

“That would have a devastating impact on the people who rely on charity services, and for a public sector that would have to step into the gap at a time it is already struggling to cope with the coronavirus.”

She said the Government urgently need to provide financial support to the sector or “it will only be a matter of weeks before charities start to go to the wall”.

“If it fails to act now, the consequences would be felt for generations,” she warned.