Government help for charities

Direct Government assistance for charities is being offered by way of a cash payout. £360 million will be directly allocated by government departments to front-line charities that they identify as providing vital services. St John’s Ambulance and Citizens Advice have already been named as recipients, but other front-line charities will also be allocated funding.

At least a further £20 million will be contributed to the National Emergencies Trust appeal. This money will be part of the funds that the Government has pledged to match for money donated by the public to the BBC’s Big Night In charity appeal.

A further £370 million will be available as grants from the National Lottery Community Fund for charities in England. Charities will be able to apply for this funding. The application system for The National Lottery Community Fund grant pot is expected to be operational within the coming weeks.

Devolved administrations are expected to receive £60 million using the Barnett formula.

Charities that have suffered a decline in donations and a drop in income due to the coronavirus crisis are being encouraged to also look to existing Government measures available to all businesses. For example, many charity shops, like other retail businesses, have been forced to close due to social distancing measures, and they may be able to furlough their staff using the CJRS. They may also be eligible for Government grants based on the rateable value of their premises.

However, for many charities, furloughing staff may not be an option. For example, staff who are no longer working in a charity shop may be deployed to other front-line services, such as the delivery of essential goods to the vulnerable. The Government has recognised the valuable role that such charities play at this time of crisis, and they can apply to the National Lottery Community Fund to access grants.

Before making an application, charities need to check their governing document to ensure that the charitable objectives allow them to offer the kind of support required during the crisis. The type of support needed has been indicated by the Government and is quite wide-ranging.

A charity may be able to change its governing objectives to adapt to these needs, but in some instances, permission for the change may be needed from the Charities Commission. This may particularly be the case for incorporated charities. Guidance on how to change governing documents is available for unincorporated charities and incorporated charities.

Before accessing Government assistance, charities are also encouraged to use reserves and reprioritise the internal limits they may have set on their funds. Care should be taken regarding the use of restricted funds, and professional advice should be sought before releasing such funds.

The assistance is targeted at charities, and it is not yet clear if other organisations involved in community work (such as CICs) will be eligible for the support via the new fund. However, The National Lottery Community Fund has previously been inviting applications for grants of up to £10,000 for coronavirus-related issues from organisations that are not necessarily registered charities (including CICs limited by guarantee). The fund is currently inviting applications from ‘organisations’ that are involved in coronavirus-related issues.