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EXCL Coronavirus: MPs tell Rishi Sunak to stop charities going to the wall with 'immediate cash injection'

Rishi Sunak has vowed to do 'whatever it takes' to steady the economy.

5 min read

MPs from across the House of Commons are demanding an "immediate injection of money" to stop charities going to the wall because of the UK's coronavirus shutdown.

More than 100 parliamentarians - including several Conservatives - are calling on Rishi Sunak to step in and offer a sweeping package of "emergency funding for frontline charities".

They argue that letting charities go bust will only heap further pressure on hard-pressed public services - including the NHS - as ministers battle to contain the spread of the virus.

In a letter to the Chancellor, seen by PoliticsHome, the MPs call for "urgent action" to help voluntary organisations through an "unprecedented" crisis.

"Many can help alleviate the pressure on our NHS and social care services and provide support to people suffering from the economic and social impact of the pandemic, as well as helping with everything from mental health impacts to support for vulnerable families," they say.
"But without an immediate injection of money, many charities, voluntary organisations and social enterprises of all sizes will soon close. Funds are running out."

The letter points to research by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO), which has predicted that the voluntary sector will face a £4.3bn drop in its income over the next 12 weeks alone amid a shutdown of vast swathes of the economy.

The prediction comes as charity shops close their doors, fundraising events are cancelled and demand for services increases, in a move the NCVO has said is leading charities to make "immediate decisions about their financial viability".

The letter - which has been signed by Labour, Liberal Democrat, Conservative, Plaid, SNP, Green and SDLP MPs - urges Mr Sunak to provide "immediate emergency funding for frontline charities, voluntary organisations and social enterprises supporting the response to the coronavirus/COVID-19 crisis" - especially those whose work will ease pressure on the NHS or directly help people affected by the outbreak.

And the MPs want the Government to set up a new "stabilisation fund" for all charities, voluntary organisations and social enterprises to ensure they can "stay afloat and continue operating during the course of the pandemic".


Labour MP Stephen Doughty, who has organised the letter and worked for Oxfam and World Vision before he entered Parliament, told PoliticsHome: "As a former head of a major UK charity myself, I know what a crucial role charities will be playing both in the direct response to coronavirus but also in supporting the many people - from the elderly to the vulnerable - who will be hit hardest."

He added: "It is not simply a question of them being able to keep their staff on. It is also the collapse of billions' of pounds of income they are already seeing which could lead to them having to suspend services at the very moment they are most needed."

The Government on Friday took the unprecedented step of promising that the Government would pay 80% of an employees' wages if firms hit by the impact of the virus keep staff on their books rather than laying them off. 

Mr Sunak promised that the new 'Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme' would apply to any employer "small or large, charitable or non-profit".

But the MPs are demanding clarity on what that pledge, as well as a separate £330bn loan guarantee scheme for struggling organisations, will mean for the "differing governance models of charities, voluntary organisations and social enterprises".

The letter also calls on the Government to work with organisations like the National Lottery to try to unlock emergency grant funding "which can be drawn down early over the coming days".

Mr Doughty said: "I would urge the Government to not only rapidly clarify the measures already announced but to do everything they can to inject funding from a range of sources into the charity sector - people who will be on the frontline in responding to this crisis."


Liberal Democrat MP Alistair Carmichael, who has signed the letter, said people would only become more reliant on charities as the coronavirus crisis unfolds.

He told PoliticsHome: "It makes no sense to leave them to struggle. If charities are not there then the Government will have to fill their place - so any saving by not providing support now will quickly become a false economy."

And Labour MP Stella Creasy said: "Many local authorities are turning to charities to help them support vulnerable people in their communities at the very same time these organisations are facing a financial catastrophe.

"Investing in people now will not only save lives but also money, and help ensure that when this crisis has passed our communities can rebuild again."

MPs backing the letter - which has also been sent to Boris Johnson - include Tories Julian Lewis, Kevin Hollinrake, Gary Streeter and David Amess.

Labour leadership hopefuls Angela Rayner, Dawn Butler and Ian Murray are also on board, while a string of opposition frontbenchers including Shadow Transport Secretary Andy McDonald and Shadow Treasury minister Anneliese Dodds have signed up.

The letter also has the backing of the SNP and Plaid Westminster leaders Ian Blackford and Liz Saville-Roberts, plus Green Party MP Caroline Lucas.

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