Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Charities see requests for support more than double during Covid-19 pandemic

Grant-giving charities have seen applications for financial and non-financial support increase significantly since lockdown began.

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New research from the Association of Charitable Organisations (ACO) reveals applications for support from grant-giving charities has increased by 122% since lockdown began on 23 March compared to the same period in 2019.

These charities have been supporting individuals and families struggling financially throughout the pandemic by offering non-repayable grants to cover the costs of daily essentials, such as food, and helping pay for bills, household equipment and repairs, and rent arrears.

With the continuing wave of redundancies as the government’s Job Retention (furlough) Scheme approaches closure at the end of October, 87% of ACO’s member charities revealed they anticipate applications for support to increase even more once the scheme ends.

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Grant-giving charities have also been distributing food vouchers throughout the pandemic to those struggling to put meals on the table. The Licensed Trade Charity, which provides support to those that work in pubs, bars and breweries, has provided food vouchers to 2,469 individuals whose livelihoods have been hit hard during lockdown.

Carolyn Jenkinson, Head of Charity Services at the Licensed Trade Charity, states: “We started planning early so that we were able to respond to the changing and increasing demand for our support and we put measures in place to scale up our delivery. 

“We have good relationships with licensed trade operators and spoke to them early to offer our services to put in place and deliver support funds for their people.  

“Through those projects and an increase in our usual applications we have delivered almost £1m of support in the form of shopping vouchers to help licensed trade people get through one of the most difficult times our industry has ever faced.”

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Charities have also seen an increase in grant applications for different items during lockdown, including helping families with childcare as schools closed. Applications for grants included requests for help with study equipment, including laptops, internet access and computers, for those that could not afford them.

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Several charities including GroceryAid – the supermarket employees’ charity – have also launched a Schools Essentials Grant this year to help with the costs associated with returning to school in September, including school uniforms.

As charities face more demand, 53% of ACO charities have set up an emergency Covid-19 fund to specifically help those suffering financially as a result of the pandemic.

Jonny Westbrooke, CEO at The Furniture Makers’ Company – the charity for Britain’s furniture industry – explained: “At the start of the lockdown we were awarding Personal Support Grants to people – both employed at a company and sole traders – to help mitigate against the loss of earnings they were experiencing as a result of being furloughed or unable to work.

“They are designed to work as a bridge while the individual applies and waits for job seeker benefits to come through. What we want to do is relieve some of the inevitable stress and anxiety of the situation.

“Our message is simple: if you work in the furnishing industry in any function and you are struggling, we may be able to help you.”

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Many grant-giving charities have also been offering mental health and wellbeing services, counselling and advice services (such as debt, careers or benefits advice) to help individuals cope with lockdown and the impacts of the virus.

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In response to this clear need for greater financial support, ACO has just launched the Here to Helpcampaign to raise awareness of the assistance grant-giving charities can provide to those that have lost their jobs or are struggling due to Covid-19.

The campaign seeks to raise public awareness of these charities and their services, while also reaching out to key organisations that work closely with the public, including Citizens Advice, food banks and Job Centres.

As part of their campaign, the ACO has produced a short guide to financial support from grant-giving charities to inform individuals about the services available and how to find help.

Donal Watkin, Chief Executive at ACO, said: “With most of our member charities seeing an increased demand for support as a result of this pandemic, we believe it is vital we reach out to members of the public that could be suffering at this time to let them know there are charities here and ready to help.

“As we unfortunately anticipate further redundancies as the government’s Job Retention Scheme comes to an end, we urge members of the public and those working closely with them to think about whether a grant-giving charity could help. People know the big-name charities, but often do not realise there are hundreds of charities out there that could offer assistance.

“There are charities that help people, and their families, that have ever had a certain job, that help people living in a certain region of the UK or those that will help you if you fall into a certain group in society – such as being a women, older person or child.

“Many do not know that retail staff, construction workers, carers, hospitality staff, nurses and virtually any occupation you can think of all have their own charity providing support to those that have fallen on difficult times. We seek to change this.”

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