Dozens of Suffolk’s charities, community buildings and voluntary sector organisations say they are bracing themselves for huge financial shortfalls – and the prospect of permanent closure.
This is the disturbing summary which has emerged from Community Action Suffolk’s second ‘Covid 19 Impact Survey’, which was distributed to an audience of organisations and community groups around the region.
Of those responding to the survey – a mix of 80 charities, community groups and social enterprises – 47% declared they would most likely face closure within 12 months if further help could not be found for them soon.
Despite 54% having been able to access some kind of grant support, loan, or make use of the furlough scheme, the respondents reflected significant fears around income and funding sustainability.
A total of 49% said they would need this money to support their ‘core’ (running) costs. Since being surveyed last month, more said they were concerned about meeting the cost of paying critical premises bills, and supporting new ways of working.
The findings chime with the national Charity Health Check, conducted by the Centre for Mental Health and ACEVO (Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations). It concluded earlier this week that donations and cashflow had worsened for charities over the last month.
Suffolk’s surveyed organisations also stressed fears about retaining and recruiting volunteers during this critical phase of the pandemic, and noted the strain and complication which is being placed on delivering for and to clients while social distancing measures are in force.
Chris Abraham, CEO of Community Action Suffolk, said: “Our latest survey findings are a clear reflection of the sense of fear and frustration which is being felt – not only by our more formal charities, but across the sector, including those who run our vital community buildings, village halls and rural groups.
“The drop-off in events and community engagement has hit many of these organisations very hard, and will continue to do so, at the very time that their services and resource are in more demand than ever. We simply do not know how long social distancing will continue for, but all the time it does, we can be sure the impact on the sector will be felt.”
She added: “I join with many of my peers across the sector – both regionally and nationally – in wanting to see some element of sustainability fund solution for our wonderful causes and organisations who deliver so much.
“In the midst of the Pandemic much credit is given, and rightly so, to those services and charities on the frontline of responding to the crisis. These organisations are already preparing to adapt their services to continue assisting those in need post Covid 19 and may well need additional financial support to do so.
“However, Community Action Suffolk is also looking well beyond that – at the very organisations and projects and initiatives that may not be seen as directly working on the frontline but which play an essential role and will be a vital part of our community as we move forward in this ‘new normal’.
“We will need those organisations to maintain community cohesion and to ensure neighbourly support in our most rural locations. We absolutely have to make sure that they are all able to survive.”
Criticism has been levied at the government from the voluntary sector, that it is still taking too long for many charities and causes to access promised grants or support.
Karl Wilding, Chief Executive of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations has said this week that funding for charities has been ‘bedevilled by delay and lack of transparency’.
Community Action Suffolk is keen to hear from any organisation who requires support for their situation, and from businesses and individuals who feel they have a means of offering assistance during this challenging phase.
Community Action Suffolk continues to support the Suffolk Coronavirus Community Fund, led by Suffolk Community Foundation. The fund was launched in March to encourage more public donations for our local causes at this critical time.
For updates and advice for the voluntary sector during the pandemic, you can visit a designated area of the Community Action Suffolk website.
You may also wish to access this resource from Community Action Suffolk.
To find out how to volunteer during the pandemic, more information is also available on the website here.