Four months on from the start of the pandemic, 80 per cent of the “urgent” funding, which includes the £33m raised by Captain Tom Moore and money donated through Clap for Carers appeal, has still not been given to NHS charities.
One NHS charity fundraiser in Yorkshire said the public thinks the charity is “rolling in cash” after the high profile appeals but that is not the case.
The organisation handling the money, NHS Charities Together, had a turnover of just £389,000 last year and there are fears it "can't deal with the amount of money" coming in.
Prior to the pandemic it was an advisory body for NHS charities and was not responsible for grants.
However, the organisation said it had acted quickly with “trustees, members and external experts to create a grants strategy”.
NHS charities that would like to access funds need to be members of NHS Charities Together and can put in bids for the money.
So far, £20m has been given to charities, with another £10m allocated but not yet handed out.
The fundraiser, who works at one of the 20 NHS charities based in Yorkshire, said: “[NHS Charities Together has] called it an ‘urgent’ appeal and it was launched in March. It’s now nearly four months later and we’re still not sure when the vast majority of the funding will be available.”
The fundraiser raised concerns that local people who would normally donate straight to the charity - for example, because they have had a family member looked after in hospital - are donating instead to NHS Charities together, not knowing that it does not go directly to their local NHS charity.
They added: “All the poor souls who have done walks and baked cakes think we’ve had the money but we haven’t.
“They assume we’re rolling in cash.
“As part of the Clap for Carers fundraising they sent a message to each trust in each area saying how much we’d raised but they’ve kept hold of the money.
“The main concern is a lack of clarity and speed. I just wish they’d give us a timeline,” the fundraiser said.
Another Yorkshire fundraiser said there was a “frustration” because they “didn’t want to look a gift horse in the mouth”.
“On one hand, NHS Charities Together immediately responded to the pandemic and have raised money we otherwise would not have had. But we still don’t have clarity on what the next stage is and we need clear guidance,” they said.
Both fundraisers said they had been asked about what had happened to the “Captain Tom money” and the “Clap for Carers money” by people who did not understand that they had received only a fraction of it so far.
A NHS Charities Together spokesman said: “Our focus from the beginning of the appeal was to support NHS charities so they could respond to the immediate and urgent needs of NHS staff, volunteers and patients dealing with the Covid crisis.”
The organisation said it made £35,000 available immediately to all its member charities, then provided a second grant of £7 for each NHS staff member the charity was providing support to, all totalling £20m.
The spokesman said: “Another £10m is available right now and we have put aside £10m for urgent use in case there is a second wave. We’ve tried to make sure funds have been available to meet all the urgent need via our member charities. We will respond to any urgent request from a member charity.
“We are in uncharted territory with this crisis and we don’t know how long it will go on for or what direction it will take. We want to make sure the funds donated to us are used as effectively as possible and are supporting staff, volunteers and patients to deal with the crisis and have the help they need to recover from it in the longer term.”
A further criticism of the way the funding has been allocated is that only charities that are members of NHS Charities Together can access it.
Membership costs £3,000 for two years - which is the same for both large and small organisations - and during the pandemic, membership has increased from 140 charities in March to 237 now.
For new members, this membership fee is deducted from the grant income and the organisation said “no NHS charity will be out of pocket” as the amount of money given to new members far exceeds the membership fees.
A third Yorkshire fundraiser said accountability for the money was more important than speed of delivery, adding that because of the unexpected rise in income, some charities “have struggled to identify projects to spend money on”.
So far, the money that has been handed out in Yorkshire has been used to pay for things like free phone calls for patients who cannot see relatives and food and pamper rooms for NHS staff.
NHS Charities Together added that it was “in the process of appointing a learning partner to work with our members and ensure the funding they receive is used as effectively as possible and have put in place a robust reporting framework for grant recipients to report back on the impact the funding is making”.
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