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Keeping charities afloat now will be crucial in helping the nation to build back better

Keeping charities afloat now will be crucial in helping the nation to build back better

The Covid-19 Support Fund has raised over £100m to support charities | Credit: Adobe Stock

Colm Holmes, Global CEO, General Insurance, Aviva

Colm Holmes, Global CEO, General Insurance, Aviva

4 min read Partner content

A staggering four million people needed charity help for the first time last year. These vital services and organisations need our support through these tough times.

When the pandemic hit, despite uncertain times, the public kept giving. Hospitals and hospices were rightly front of mind when it came to donating, as the public witnessed first-hand the vital job that our health services were doing.

But so many charities that play a pivotal role in our nation’s wellbeing – and even its potential growth – could have fallen by the wayside.

The fabric of our local communities is held together by charities. They bring help to those most in need but also ensure communities can grow stronger and even thrive. They’re crucial in making our villages, towns, cities and country as a whole more resilient.

There was a moment when the future for many charitable organisations providing such support was in doubt. They faced double trouble, threatened with uncertainty around funding and an almost overwhelming spike in demand. To put that demand into context, research conducted for the fund found that a staggering four million people needed charity help for the first time last year.

Imagine the damage done should these vital support structures have been allowed to crumble.

The insurance and long-term savings industry is firmly focused on the future. Understanding risks and taking practical measures to prevent or minimise their impact. That’s why we looked at this crisis, with its implications for the years to come, and came together as an industry to create the Covid-19 Support Fund. The generosity of firms and a significant commitment from government led to over £100m being raised. The largest sector fund in the UK. 

The Covid-19 Support Fund has been able to ensure thousands of grassroots charities can continue to support the most vulnerable

And with partners – including the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF), National Emergency Trust (NET) and Business in the Community – we have been able to ensure thousands of grassroots charities can continue to enact their visions to improve communities and support the most vulnerable.

Such action is essential if the country is to eventually get back on its feet. 

Consider the millions out of work, where access to learning new skills will mean a faster return to employment. Inequality, that has been made startlingly clear during the pandemic, can be combatted through initiatives targeted at those worst affected, such as ethnic minority communities, women facing domestic violence, families and children in poverty or older people living in isolation.

And the mental health crisis – an epidemic of a very different nature – can’t be allowed to take a back seat while we deal with this physical disease. Because combatting Covid-19 has meant social isolation, school closures and general uncertainty and anxiety for millions.  

In fact, the fund’s own research shows that mental health support has been the most in-demand charity service since the pandemic began. In supporting the likes of NET we’re able to ensure the continuance of important grassroots groups that provide everything from bereavement counselling, to suicide prevention helplines, to befriending initiatives. And we’re also supporting a host of national mental health charities too.

It’s all of these problems and more that the fund is focused on, and which the insurance and long-term savings industry is committed to supporting.

It’s something that as an industry, we should feel very proud of. We’re often in competition. But this time we knew that collaboration was the route to a better future for all of us. And I’m grateful that those in government were of the same view. 

Mental health support has been the most in-demand charity service since the pandemic began 

Of course, there are lessons to be learned from the pandemic. When we look back at the past year, we can see that there are times when the insurance industry could have done better, responded faster or been clearer and more consistent with its customers. We need to reflect and learn from this experience, but at the same time there is an immediate need now to support those who continue to be affected by the pandemic and the Covid-19 Support Fund unites us in a common purpose. 

I’d welcome individuals and businesses that wish to learn more to visit our website, where they can hear about the amazing work of our charity partners. And perhaps consider supporting them through their own corporate giving initiatives.

There is still plenty of help needed, and supporting charities now, in their hour of need will create a stronger, fairer and better country for us all, as we hopefully leave this crisis behind. 

Colm Holmes is Chair of the Covid-19 Support Fund Governance Committee & Global CEO, General Insurance, Aviva

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