Commercial and local authority landlords could benefit from urgently reviewing their legal options.
As signs begin to point towards a possible relaxation of the Government’s coronavirus restrictions, charities continue to make huge contributions to the fight against the pandemic.
The Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee have praised charity workers as “some of the real heroes of the response to the pandemic, with many working with great courage on the frontline of the crisis.” We should also not underestimate the economic importance of charities – a report from Pro Bono Economics has found that the charity sector’s contribution to the economy could reach £200 billion per year, twelve times the amount that is officially estimated.
The surge in public trust in charities (see below) comes as a briefing from the Institute for Voluntary Action Research reports on the pressures – financial and emotional – that charity leaders, staff and volunteers are facing in guiding their charities through the coronavirus crisis.
The last few weeks have proved what charities can achieve when put to the test – but we also need to remember that, now more than ever, charities need our support.
We have all the latest charity updates in this week’s news round-up.
Public trust in charities increases
A polling report in the latest Edelman Trust Barometer has shown that public trust in charities has surged since January. 54% of people in the UK now say that they trust charities “to do what is right”. Public trust in charity had been declining in the last few years – hitting an all-time low in January 2017, when only 32% of people trusted charities to do the right thing. The recent soar in public opinion may be a reflection on the way that charities step in in times of crisis to meet the needs of the most vulnerable people in society. As the Chancellor said back in April, “charities have never been more needed than they are now.”
Updated guidance from the Land Registry
The Land Registry has announced that it has introduced temporary changes to the requirements for signing deeds and identity verification. From Monday 4 May the Land Registry has been accepting deeds that have been signed using the ‘Mercury signing approach’: the signature page is signed in pen and witnessed in person, then scanned or photographed. The scan or photograph can then be sent to Land Registry along with other necessary documentation, making it easier to execute documents in the midst of social distancing.
Identity verification can now be done by way of a video call and can also be carried out by a larger range of professionals, including doctors, dentists, vets, police officers and teachers. See the update from the Land Registry here.
Coronavirus related funding for charities
On Wednesday, the DCMS criticised the Government for not properly addressing the crisis that charities are facing. The report, available to read here, sets out concerns about the level of support available to charities as the sector says it stands to lose £4 billion in income in the next quarter. It also questioned the eligibility parameters the Government has set out for charities to access its funding and urged the Government to publish guidance about the criteria it uses when allocating support.
There is some good news, though. More charities will now be able to access the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme. The Government has changed the eligibility terms for the Scheme so that registered charities now no longer need to show that half of their income comes from trading. The change comes after sector bodies warned that the requirement that 50% of income must come from trading blocked many charities from applying to the Scheme.
A survey from Civil Society News has found that the largest 20 charities have together furloughed over 24,000 staff. The National Trust, Oxfam, British Heart Foundation and Cancer Research UK have all furloughed more than half of their entire workforce. Many charities have topped up the salaries of their furloughed staff, including Mencap and the British Red Cross.
See our latest employment e-briefing, which brings together all the key information and guidance on employment issues relating to the coronavirus pandemic and the UK Government’s response.
We wrote last week about Captain Tom’s incredible 100th birthday fundraising walk, which raised just shy of £33 million for NHS Charities Together. Captain Tom won two Guinness World Records, one for the most money raised by an individual charity walk and the other for being the oldest person to reach Number One in the UK Charts with his rendition of ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’.
Frank Mills, at just six years old, is now following in Captain Tom’s footsteps. Frank has spina bifida and only started walking 18 months ago, but he has already raised over £280,000 for the NHS Charities Together appeal by walking 10 metres a day with his walking frame.
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Phil Watts is a Senior Associate in the charities and social business team and has been advising charities of all shapes and sizes on a wide range of issues for over 25 years. Out of the office (and when not in lockdown!) Phil leads a Boys’ Brigade Company in his local church and enjoys eating out and going to the theatre.
The Cabinet Office has published guidance asking for people to act responsibly, fairly and “in the national interest”.
To help our charity clients look to the future, we summarise key guidance and updates over the last week.
On 18 May 2020, the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) wrote to all social housing residents in England (residents).
For anyone who is currently restrained from holding their General Meeting or have held such in breach of their governing documents, help is on the way!
Social landlords may be surprised to learn that “landlords should be able to carry out routine as well as essential repairs for most households”.
Many housing providers are now re-thinking about gathering information to complete their data return to the Regulator of Social Housing, with the initial exercise having been delayed by Covid-19.
With many premises being left unoccupied (or minimally occupied) during the lockdown, both Public Health England and the Health and Safety Executive have warned of the increased risks of Legionella.
The Court of Appeal judgement in Booth and another v R  EWCA Crim 575 will be welcome news for local authority prosecutors and their investigation teams.
The Local Authorities and Police and Crime Panels (Coronavirus) (Flexibility of Local Authority and Police and Crime Panel Meetings) (England and Wales) Regulations 2020 came into force on 4 April.
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