Organisations have welcomed the extension of furlough, but said there is little in the way of specific funding for the voluntary sector
Charity groups have expressed disappointment at a lack of specific funding for the sector in the UK Budget.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak unveiled the budget yesterday afternoon (Wednesday 3 March), with the main focus helping the UK recover from the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
Measures announced included the furlough scheme being extended until the end of September, and personal income tax thresholds frozen from next year until 2026.
Announcements which have an impact on the voluntary sector included a two-year extension to social investment tax relief; a £150m fund to enable local people to take over community assets; and an additional £300m for the £1.6bn Culture Recovery Fund to help arts and culture organisations bounce back from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. The £4.8 billion Levelling Up Fund, which will support local areas across the UK to invest in infrastructure that improves everyday life.
However sector bodies have said there is little in terms of sector-specific support included, such as an uplift in Gift Aid that had been proposed by a recent campaign.
Neil Heslop, chief executive of the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF), said: “CAF welcomes the continuation of pandemic support by extension of the furlough scheme until September. Announcements on funding for domestic violence organisations, support for the Armed Forces, the arts, culture and sport are helpful. However, the lack of wider support for the voluntary sector is disappointing while many charities still face challenges of increased demand and constrained fundraising.
"Our call, together with hundreds of charities nationwide, for an increase to the level of Gift Aid on charitable donations would maintain cashflows for many organisations, whilst supporting their efforts to accelerate digital fundraising. We urge the Treasury to look again at how to support vital charity services right now.
"More details on the UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF) are also needed. Charities previously reliant on EU funding are eager to learn more about what it will be replaced by and the continued uncertainty causes real concern. Charities must not face new administrative burdens or eligibility complications when accessing UKSPF funding and we call on the government to give clarity as soon as possible.”
A statement from the #NeverMoreNeeded coalition said: “This government has today made the deliberate choice not to listen to the collective voices of over 1,000 civil society organisations who wrote to the Prime Minister and Chancellor asking for emergency support.
“Millions of people and causes served by charities across the country have been the hardest hit, but today the rising tide of need against reduced capacity to meet it has been ignored and the services they rely on remain at risk of disappearing. Far from being ‘fair’ as the Chancellor claimed, this budget overlooks those hardest hit and left behind.
“To date this government has made £407bn available to ‘support the jobs and livelihoods of the British people’ and yet just a tiny fraction of that has been used to safeguard tens of thousands of charitable services the British people rely on.
“Once again, charities are left to make the most of schemes designed for businesses such as the Job Retention Scheme which are not able to be used by those who need to scale up delivery to meet demand.”
Matt Whittaker, chief executive of the research charity Pro Bono Economics, said: “The Chancellor has taken some extraordinary and welcome steps today to prop up jobs and the economy, but he has made a glaring omission in his lack of support for the charity sector.
“Toy shops, art galleries and cricket clubs will all receive additional emergency funding, but charities supporting the most vulnerable have not had a look-in.
“That’s despite the pandemic prompting an estimated £10bn funding gap for charities and the sector facing record levels of demand.”