Charitable and Voluntary Sector

Baroness Tyler of Enfield Excerpts
Thursday 30th April 2020

(1 year, 7 months ago)

Lords Chamber

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Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
Lord Loomba Portrait Lord Loomba
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I declare my interest as vice-president of Barnardo’s, the UK’s leading charity for children. It relies heavily on donations from the generous general public, with much of that coming through large gatherings and large and small fundraising events the length and breadth of the country, which are now prohibited. In addition, more than 700 of its retail outlets, producing around a third of the charity’s income, are shut for well over a month, and we have no idea when they will be functional again. On the other hand, it has reported an increase in overheads due to moving to remote working for staff and the provision of some front-line services to directly reach children in need of help.

Can the Minister say what further support might be offered to charitable organisations facing financial hardship such as Barnardo’s, for which it is likely to be a long time before it is back to business as usual?

Baroness Tyler of Enfield Portrait Baroness Tyler of Enfield (LD)
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My Lords, as we have heard from other noble Lords today, the basic conundrum facing charities is very stark. At a time when demand for their vital services has soared, their resources—both people and money—have plummeted. It is a perfect storm.

The charity Relate, of which I declare an interest as vice-president, has had to furlough around 50% of its counselling workforce. Age UK, which reported an 88% surge in calls in one week, has furloughed 70% of its staff. This comes at a time when the relationships of those cooped up at home are coming under enormous pressure. Many older people seeking help are in great distress about how they will access food and medicines, as well as about financial worries and loneliness. Mental health charities report a surge in demand, both from people with existing mental health problems and from those who have lost their incomes and vital social support networks. Charities providing bereavement services report having to close their services, which provide a lifeline to grieving families in great distress, just as they are most needed.

Charities and volunteers across the land have been stepping up to help communities deal with the devastating impact of the pandemic. As we have already heard, charities have lost out on some £4 billion due to the lockdown measures. The Chancellor’s £750 million support package, while clearly a step in the right direction, is nowhere near enough to prevent good charities across the country closing their doors. As we have already heard, many charities are not eligible. The same applies to the Government’s job retention scheme and business continuity loan scheme, whose criteria exclude many charities.

When responding, can the Minister please say what plans the Government have to establish a stabilisation fund to secure the long-term future of the sector? Will the Government reconsider allowing charity staff who have been furloughed to volunteer back with their organisation to assist with fundraising and other vital direct services? Will the initial £5 million mental health response fund be extended, given the pandemic’s impact on the nation’s mental health?

Lord Mountevans Portrait Lord Mountevans (CB)
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My Lords, I add my thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Addington, for securing this important debate at this time. I will make a few points about charities in the maritime sector. Now, more than ever, we are dependent on the seafaring community to maintain the supply lines for food, medicines and other essentials. I note my numerous involvements across the sector, as listed on the register.

Help is needed right across the seafaring community. With severe restrictions in place in ports around the world, many seafarers working on merchant ships are trapped on board without access to shore-based help, with leave cancelled or getting home extremely problematic. Seafarers are often thousands of miles from home and worried about their own health and mental welfare and those of their families, so support from the charity sector is needed more than ever. Fishermen are suffering too, with the market for the catering trade at home and abroad all but dried up and incomes severely impacted.

We have heard in most eloquent terms of the enormous challenges facing the nation’s charities. I would like to highlight the scope and need for charities in the same sector to co-operate and work together wherever possible to maximise effect and benefit. The noble Baroness, Lady Scott of Needham Market, developed this concept most effectively when she spoke about the context of her county.

We are very fortunate in the maritime sector that 10 of our leading funders have got together in the Maritime Charities Group to identify and address the most serious need and to drive best practice. This is done through sharing information, commissioning research, education and so on. From Seafarers UK to Trinity House, member charities of the group are digging deep. Some are raiding their reserves to ensure that seafarers and their communities are supported during the crisis and to sustain the infrastructure of seafarer welfare support around the world. As someone heavily involved in maritime affairs, I think that the Maritime Charities Group operates very successfully to the benefit of the communities it supports. Its example can be relevant for other sectors.

To conclude, and on a separate point, I request that the Minister supports the request from across the uniformed youth sector, including the Sea Cadets, which I know well and where I serve as a vice-president, for early release of money from the Youth Investment Fund to ensure that young people from all backgrounds can continue to benefit from the full breadth of experiences in these invaluable organisations. Without support, these organisations may, I believe, be lost or severely damaged.