Last week, England entered another period of lockdown which will last until at least 2 December. It is likely that communities in England will continue to be in some form of lockdown after 2 December with the return of the tiered system.

The reintroduction of lockdown means that while funerals can still go ahead with no more than 30 attendees, weddings will, in most circumstances, not be allowed to take place. Places of worship will also be closed unless it is for funerals, to broadcast acts of worship, individual prayer, formal childcare or where they are part of a school or are used for essential voluntary and public services such as providing food banks. 

Job Retention Scheme (JRS) (“furlough”)
On 5 November, the chancellor announced that the JRS would be extended until 31 March, not just for one month as had originally been announced. This will be a welcome relief to many employers. Employees will receive 80% of their salary for hours that they have not worked subject to a maximum of £2,500. Employers can bring furloughed workers back on a part-time or full-time basis. The JRS will provide job security for struggling businesses especially those who will be significantly impacted by the lockdown.

Charities who have been required to close due to local restrictions imposed by government may be entitled to the Local Restrictions Support Grant but, because most charities will not pay business rates, the grant would be made at the discretion of the local authority.

Financial support for charities
For charities, the impact of Covid-19 and lockdown has been felt in many ways over the past 8 months, not least in terms of fundraising and income.

In the House of Commons, the shadow charities minister Rachael Maskell asked the Prime Minister what support charities can expect to receive. The shadow minister has spoken about charities and social enterprises being “all but forgotten following the initial £750m made available on 8 April. This year’s deficit is already projected to exceed £10bn while this latest lockdown will further harm charity finances”. The Prime Minister promised to do more saying “we will be doing much more over the winter to help the voluntary sector which is, as she rightly says, doing a fantastic job of helping in this crisis.”

A group of 100 funders have made a pledge to support the charity sector during the pandemic ahead of the second lockdown. The pledge, called “standing with the sector” promises to be flexible when supporting charities and communities. Further information about the pledge and the funders involved can be found here.

Stewardship Services (together with Action Planning) are running a workshop “Rising Above Covid-19: A Creative and Pragmatic Approach to Fundraising” on 24 November. You can find details about the online workshop here

Trustee guides
The Charity Commission have published five-minute guides for charity trustees about financial oversight, achieving a charity’s purposes, good decision making, addressing conflicts of interest, filing requirements and what support is available to charities.

We would recommend that all trustees, new and old, ensure that they familiarise themselves with the guides.

The charity Getting on Board has also issued free guidance on how to become a trustee of a charity in England and Wales and looks at the role of trustees and their duties.

£1.4 million fund for charities who are responding to Covid crisis.
The Peter Sowerby Foundation has created an Increasing Access Fund to support charities who are adapting or introducing new services to meet local and national needs due to the pandemic. The charities it awards grants to must fall within the Foundation’s key areas of healthcare innovation, community, environment and the arts.

The deadline for applications for expressions of interest is 16 November at 5.00pm. Further details of the application process can be found on the Foundation’s website

Charity fundraising complaints
Complaints to the Fundraising Regulator in 2019/20 have increased by 13% from the previous year. Some complaints were referred to the Charity Commission as they fell outside of the Fundraising Regulator’s remit and around a third had not been dealt with by the charities first. Of the remaining complaints, only 21 proceeded to investigations which was down significantly from the previous year.

Most complaints related to charity bags that had been delivered against someone’s wishes, as well as about their environmental impact.

More information on this topic can be found on the Fundraising Regulator’s website.

Loss of in-memory giving can impact charitable funds
In memory giving is the term used for donations made in memory of a loved one. Legacy Foresight, an analyst of the legacy and in-memory sector has found that:

  • ‘in memory’ giving amounts to £2.2 billion each year for charities;
  • less than two-thirds of charities were offering an online collection page rather than the usual physical collections at funerals;
  • 10% of the charities/hospices referred supporters to the government guidelines about funerals;
  • charities should be “offering dynamic and reliable information around funeral giving – including relevant donation options” to relatives who are looking at planning a memorial in the future.​
For more information

Safa Murad is a solicitor in the Charities and Social Business Team and specialises in advising charities, social businesses and housing providers on governance-related issues. ‘Out of the office’ during lock down, Safa has enjoyed exploring the history and architecture of her local surroundings - on foot!