COVID-19 CRISIS; TIME FOR CHARITIES TO DEMAND A LEVEL PLAYING FIELD


It’s very striking, isn’t it, that charities seem to be the forgotten army in this COVID-19 crisis and yet they are there, just not visible. Lobbying by the sector seems to have fallen on deaf ears and yet the reliance on charities is fundamental to the well being of so many people. The offer from the Chancellor to ease the difficulties has fallen far short of what is necessary. Why isn’t there Fair Treatment for Charities? If you want to read the views of people who know far more about this than me here are some links:

  1. https://twitter.com/karlwilding/status/1248955138770898945

  2. https://www.cfg.org.uk/charity_is_not_gentle

  3. https://beanbagsandbullsh1t.wordpress.com/2020/04/10/5-things-we-learnt-when-voluntary-sector-leaders-asked-the-government-for-a-funding-deal-to-support-charities-and-social-enterprises-through-covid-and-what-happened-next-didnt-blow-our-mind/

It seems to me that charities are marginalised and vulnerable, mirroring the circumstances of their beneficiaries. For as long as I have been working in the sector there has been discussion about the need to promote charity. Never has there been a moment like this one to fight for fair treatment for charities and the people they benefit: to change perceptions and to genuinely acknowledge the role charities play.


But to do this, in my view, they will need to use all the tools available, to do things that are unexpected and recognise that the most powerful voices they have are those of their beneficiaries, and their staff on the front-line, not those of the organisations themselves.


It seems to me that everyone will have had something to do with one or more charities in their lifetimes. Trouble is we often don’t know how fortunate we were: there when you needed them, perhaps not needing them long-term, or, maybe a need yet to come!

The government has recently allocated £2m to charities dealing with abuse and £5m to charities (providing 1500 volunteers) to support the mental health of NHS staff. And then of course there is the Royal Voluntary Service driving the NHS responder volunteers who are supporting vulnerable people throughout the crisis, coordinating across the public and charity sector divide: 750,000 volunteers… we haven’t been told who is paying for this (one can only assume it is Government) … but yet again it’s a charity stepping up.


Think about this carefully… Government clearly knows the value of charities; this is where they have turned when they need these services. This is where the expertise is and charities can engage people in ways that public services struggle to replicate, creating trusting relationships that are game-changers.


In the media we are seeing people raising money for the NHS – Captain Tom is a good example, ‘emergency’ fundraisers for charities in people’s own sitting rooms, charitable trusts and foundations trying their best to do what is right by the sector, good causes lottery money being committed to small organisations who are simply getting on with what they do best. There are so many mixed messages you would be forgiven for thinking that charities are sorting themselves out and don’t need any extra assistance.


But this isn’t about now, it’s about what happens when the crisis is over when services will shrink or disappear, leaving thousands of people without the support they need. It will be too late.


Is it time to create a ‘crisis’ newsroom from some of the best in the sector and set out to tell the stories of people and staff, helping the public understand why these services are important? It seems to me that these stories need to be delivered to the news media – these are the stories they want but find difficult to source themselves. We must encourage the public to tell stories of what charities are doing for them now. It's not going to happen without time and attention being paid to making it happen: filling in surveys, presenting data, asking the public to tell their stories without a prompt, isn’t enough. It’s time to show the Sector‘s expertise in collaboration and that together they really can secure the future for charities on an equal footing.


Now is the moment to seek out Fair Treatment and do whatever it takes.


Sign the Petition using this link. https://www.change.org/fairtreatmentcharities





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© Margo Horsley 2019 

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