On 8 April, the Chancellor promised a £750m support package to boost the charity sector, of which £370m will go to smaller local charities supporting vulnerable people.
The aim of the grants is to help struggling charities stay afloat despite the challenges of reduced income due to factors such as forced shop closures and staff shortages.
£360m of the scheme will be given to frontline charities who give “key services” during the pandemic, with another £370m directed to smaller local charities which support vulnerable people through provision of essential medicines, food, services and advice.
Charities can also access support through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme; many high-profile charities such as Cancer Research UK, Age UK and the National Trust have announced that they have furloughed staff. Charities can also potentially benefit from measures introduced to help commercial tenants who are struggling with cashflow.
In his speech on 8 April, Chancellor Rishi Sunak said: “Up to £200 million of those grants will support hospices…with the rest going to organisations like St Johns’ Ambulance and the Citizens Advice Bureau…as well as charities supporting vulnerable children, victims of domestic abuse, or disabled people.”
He also confirmed that “the government will match pound for pound whatever the public decides to donate” to the BBC’s ‘Big Night In’ charity appeal on 23 April, “starting with at least £20 million to the National Emergencies Trust appeal.”
Whether these measures are generous enough to keep charities afloat in the longer term remains to be seen. We are already seeing the economic effects of the pandemic adversely affecting voluntary income and there is an added concern of significant drops in legacy income for those charities whose gifts are tied up in estates; delays in processing, along with a frozen housing market, may mean they will have to wait much longer to access the gifts. Having said that, the government grants combined with support towards employment costs and measures to prevent eviction of commercial tenants in rent arrears will go some way to help charities weather the storm.
Willans’ lawyers have been contacted by a variety of charities for advice on charity law, employment law and commercial property concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic. If we can be of assistance, please get in touch.
Charlotte is a solicitor in Willans’ Legal 500-rated commercial property & charities team. She advises a broad range of clients on all types of commercial property transactions including the acquisition, development and disposal of freehold and leasehold property. Charlotte also has particular expertise in advising charity and not-for-profit clients on governance and constitutional issues.
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