The Covid-19 crisis and charities Contents


1.In March 2020, as individuals, communities and organisations across the UK responded to the threat of Covid-19, we became aware of a mounting crisis within the charity and voluntary sector. Charities were facing a dramatic fall in income, and were not adequately covered by measures that had already been announced by the Government to support workers and businesses.1 Furthermore, many charities were facing increasing need for and demands on their services as a consequence of the crisis.

2.We therefore held an urgent evidence session—the first virtual hearing in Parliament to be streamed live using video conferencing software—to hear directly from charities and umbrella bodies about the challenges they were facing. We also received more than 70 pieces of written evidence from charities of all sizes, and individuals who benefit from their services, detailing the impact of Covid-19 on their ability to support people across the country. We are grateful to all those who contributed to this work at what was a busy and uncertain time.

3.After the evidence session, we wrote to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Rt Hon Rishi Sunak MP, outlining our concerns. We called for both emergency and stabilisation funding for the charity sector, as well as reforms to existing support schemes for businesses to enable charities to benefit fully from them.2 The next day, the Chancellor announced a £750 million package of emergency support for charities. We welcome the Government’s recognition of the need for dedicated support; however, significant questions remain around the extent of the support on offer. We put these questions to the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, the Rt Hon Oliver Dowden MP, when he gave evidence to us remotely on 22 April.

4.There are more than 160,000 registered charities in the UK, and the majority are small organisations with an annual income of less than £100,000.3 The sector is highly diverse, comprised of organisations of vastly different sizes, operating under different funding models, with varying levels of reserves, and providing a tremendous range of services. The breadth of the sector is such that the country benefits from the work of Macmillan nurses and hospices providing vital end-of-life care, the advice and support provided by Age UK or the Samaritans, and the first aid training of St John Ambulance volunteers, as well as the availability of local animal sanctuaries, nature reserves and arts initiatives—along with, of course, the international humanitarian work of NGOs such as Oxfam and War Child. It is also interconnected, with a range of organisations often offering complementary support to individuals.4 Taken together, these characteristics mean that a one-size-fits-all approach to supporting the charity sector is unlikely to work, and a collapse in one aspect of provision will have consequences across the sector.

1 Q1, 3, 9

2 Letter to Rt Hon Rishi Sunak MP, Chancellor of the Exchequer, re Urgent support needed for charities, 7 April 2020

3 NCVO (COV0047)

4 Unseen (COV0029)

Published: 6 May 2020