As we make our first tentative steps out of strict lockdown, many of us have been thinking about what the future will look like for charities, both in the short and long term. We have always seen our charity clients striving to change things for the better and find new ways of doing things. Recently, more than ever, we have noticed increased support for charities to be at the frontline in shaping public policy – not just in the services they provide.

Charities are at the heart of our society: our social fabric, as many have termed it. They do more than fulfil our material needs. Food banks, for example, not only provide people with the most vital material commodity – they also provide essential human contact and compassion. With such a vital place in society, charities should be able to take a proactive role in steering us out of the pandemic and advocating for change.

This is what we want to see next: charities leading the country’s rescue, recovery and reform. We will support you in any way that we can.

Catch up with all the latest charity updates in this week’s news roundup.

Latest Charity Commission guidance

This week has seen the publication of joint guidance from the Charity Commission, OSCR and the Charity Commission for Northern Ireland. The guidance is aimed at independent examiners and warns them to ensure that charities are not “incorrectly spending restricted funding.” It did acknowledge that charities may be finding it “difficult to meet expenditure from unrestricted funding streams” but emphasised that restricted funds should not be used to meet “general expenditure.” 

Despite reassurances from the Commission that it will take a pragmatic view during the pandemic, it is clear that trustees will need to to be able to show that they are always doing their best to act in the charity’s best interests. Lately, we have seen the Commission open a new statutory inquiry into a Birmingham charity after concerns that the charity’s properties were at risk, with ACS’ Edwina Turner acting as Interim Manager. In these times, it can be difficult to keep up with ever-changing guidance. If you need advice about charity governance during the coronavirus pandemic, please get in touch with us using the contact details below.

Furloughing updates

Following the Chancellor’s announcement last week charities will now be able to use the Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme until 31 October 2020. In his address, the Chancellor also confirmed that from the start of August, the Government will ask employers to share the cost of the Scheme, as furloughed employees start to return to the workplace part-time. The move was broadly welcomed across sectors and will help to protect workers and charities from the financial impact of coronavirus. We expect further guidance on this by the end of this month.

We are continuing to see calls for the Government to allow charity staff to volunteer for their own organisations. A letter, written by the Liberal Democrat Baroness Tyler of Enfield and signed by thirteen other peers, calls on the Chancellor enact such measures so that charities are not “discouraged from delivering critical frontline services at a time where demand has soared, income has disappeared and they face a very uncertain future.”

No return to business as usual

On Sunday 10 May, the Government announced its roadmap for the gradual easing of lockdown restrictions in the UK. One of its first steps, operative from last week, was to encourage people who cannot work from home to go back to work. This brings into question how organisations can make their workplaces safe for their employees.

Employers’ first priority must, of course, be the health, safety and wellbeing of their employees. Steps that employers should be taking will include consulting with employees and their representatives and reviewing all relevant risk assessments. Employers can minimise risk to their employees by introducing staggered working hours, bringing staff back in ‘waves’ and avoiding hot-desking where possible. Our regulatory e-briefing sets out the detail.

Coronavirus-related funding for charities 

A survey carried out by ACEVO and the Centre for Mental Health found that seven out of ten charities surveyed said that donations and new business have decreased and 59% reported a deterioration in their cash flow. It comes as half of charities said that they were maintaining the same spending and 20% were spending more. With that in mind, we have gathered together the latest available funding for charities:

  1. Applications have opened for a £25 million Resilience and Recovery Loan Fund, an emergency loan scheme run by Social Investment Business and funded by Big Society Capital. Charities and social enterprises can borrow between £100,000 and £500,000 for a term of between twelve months and three years. Click here for more information.
  2. A £5 million Government fund aimed at tackling loneliness is now open to charities providing frontline services in England. Grants between £500,000 and £1 million will be issued to successful applicants who have a proven track record of delivering services to vulnerable groups. The deadline for applications is noon on Friday 29 May. Follow this link for more details.  
  3. The Resourcing Racial Justice Fund, a new fund to support BAME organisations, opened for applications on Monday 18 May. Sums of between £5,000 and £50,000 will be awarded to successful applicants. The fund will be warmly welcomed as research continues to show that BAME communities are being hardest hit by the pandemic. More information is available here.

Inspirational fundraising

For the third week in a row, we are in awe of the fantastic fundraising efforts of the public across the UK. This week saw six-year-old Harmonie-Rose Allen raise over £73,000 in her take of the 2.6 challenge. When she was just 10 months old, Harmonie was diagnosed with meningitis and had to have her arms and legs amputated in order to save her life. Now six years old, Harmonie challenged herself to take part in the 2.6 challenge by doing six things twenty-six times. These six things were all activities that her family were told she would never be able to do: walking and running, speaking and singing, writing and drawing, swimming, gymnastics and jumping. Harmonie’s charity of choice is one very close to her heart, and one of our partners – Meningitis Now – who, in her mother’s words, “wholeheartedly supported her along her new journey.”

Further information

If you would like more details about anything in this newsletter please speak to or email Edwina Turner or your usual ACS contact or contact us via the ACS website.

Edwina Turner is a Senior Associate in the charities and social business team who has a passion to support charities as they transform the lives of individuals and transform wider society to make it a more justice place. Working from home over the last few months Edwina has discovered, to her surprise, that she can exist without shop-bought coffee, she quite likes gardening, she can still ride a bike, and she (strangely) gets great satisfaction from hanging her washing on the line!