The House of Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee has published the Government’s written response to their report on the Covid-19 crisis and charities.
In the First Report of Session, the Committee raised various concerns and recommendations regarding the Government’s support for the charity sector during the pandemic, noting that in such a diverse sector, a one size fits all approach was unlikely to work. The report included concerns that the £750 million of government funding announced would not be sufficient to support the sector and that there was a lack of transparency about how the funds would be allocated, which could lead to charities missing out on much needed support. The Committee also backed the sector’s calls for a stabilisation fund.
With regard to the reliefs available to businesses generally, of which charities can also make use, the Committee noted that there are barriers to charities accessing this support and that treating charities like a business ignores the fundamental principles upon which their work is based and the nature of their contribution to society. Charities continuing to deliver services could make limited use of the Job Retention Scheme, particularly when for many there is an increased demand for services. As a result, the Committee supported the idea of allowing those furloughed from charities to volunteer for their organisation as long as appropriate checks were in place.
The Government response, which is set out in the Committee’s Second Report of Session, noted that the Government is aware of the needs of the sector as a whole and its importance in rebuilding society post-pandemic, but also that it is important to strike the right balance between supporting the sector’s important work and ensuring its ongoing independence and sustainability. In response to the Committee’s concerns about the level of support that has been made available for the sector, the Government outlined the measures that have been put in place, which include the further £150 million unlocked from dormant bank accounts, the match funding of public donations raised by BBC’s Big Night In and the acceleration of up to £300m in lottery funding. It was also noted that the £750 million support package, was not something available to other sectors and that Charities should be making use of all measures available to them. The Government also noted that they have now published guidance on how to apply for the various types of funding available to charities.
Furthermore, the Government has maintained the position set out by Baroness Barron, that people could not volunteer for their employer under the job retention scheme in order to prevent fraudulent claims and protect individuals. The response stated that the purpose of the scheme was to help those who would have otherwise been made unemployed, not to help charities or other organisations cut the costs of continuing to deliver services.
Finally the response confirmed that DCMS is continuing to monitor the financial impact Covid-19 is having on the sector, and noted that the impact will depend on how long social distancing measures stay in place, particularly in relation to fundraising activities and trading.