Charity sector delivers verdict on Spring Budget

Voluntary sector bodies have delivered their verdict on the impact of Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s budget on charities.

While extra money to tackle domestic abuse and support armed forces charities has been welcomed, concerns remain over a lack of funding for the wider sector and support for medical research charities in particular.

The Spring Budget includes an additional £10m for armed forces charities to support veterans mental health needs, “ensuring that veterans can access the services and support that they deserve”, said the Treasury.

Also armed forces charities are being provided with £475,000 to support their digital capabilities.

An additional £19m is being made available to tackle domestic abuse, including £15m for programmes that work with offenders to reduce the risk of abuse continuing.

The Chancellor’s announcement also includes a £300m extension to the Culture Recovery Fund, to help cultural organisations recover from the Covid-19 pandemic.

But Charity Finance Group chief executive Caron Bradshaw lamented a lack of a “recovery fund for thousands of other civil society orgs delivering support to communities everywhere”.

Wider support

Charity Finance Group director of policy and communications Roberta Fusco is concerned that the charity sector is missing out through Sunak’s announcement.

She notes that while total fiscal support from the government totals more than £400bn, “only £750m of that” has been “dedicated to the charity sector”.

ACEVO chief executive Vicky Browning said that the government “is taking the charity sector for granted”.

She added that the Chancellor had “ignored economic evidence, he ignored policy ideas but most importantly and disappointingly he ignored the people that charities work with who most need the government’s support, by leaving them almost completely out” of his budget.

Meanwhile, NCVO interim chief executive Sarah Vibert is “disappointed to see that the call for sector-specific support has remained unanswered”.

She added: “This is following sector-wide support for the creation of an emergency support fund through the #RightNow campaign and the prime minister’s pledge to do 'much more' to support the voluntary sector over the winter.”

Medical charities

Another pledge in the budget is to enable the UK to be a “scientific superpower.

“Our incredible vaccination programme has shown the world what this country is capable of,” said Sunak.

But ACEVO head of policy Kristiana Wrixon says this pledge jars with a lack of support for medical research charities, which have been impacted by a drop in income and mass redundancies during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Community ownership

The Chancellor’s budget also promises to create a £150m Community Ownership Fund “to help communities run local facilities.

From this summer community groups will be able to bid for up to £250,000 matched funding to help them buy and run pubs, sports clubs, theatres, post office buildings and other community amenities.

Bradshaw has described the plans around community ownership as “promising”
adding “let’s hope they build on and work with local civil society”.

Locality, which support local community organisations, said it is delighted to see the Community Ownership Fund’s inclusion in the budget.

It said: “Community ownership can help save our local high streets and heritage, bring communities together and be a foundation for local economic renewal.

“Community assets have been sold off at huge rates over the last few years, and the pandemic puts these places in further danger. Through community ownership we can prevent the buildings and spaces we love, our libraries, youth centres, allotments and public swimming pools, from falling into private hands.”

In delivering the budget Sunak said: “This Budget meets the moment with a three-part plan to protect the jobs and livelihoods of the British people.

“First, we will continue doing whatever it takes to support the British people and businesses through this moment of crisis.

“Second, once we are on the way to recovery, we will need to begin fixing the public finances – and I want to be honest today about our plans to do that.

“And, third, in today’s Budget we begin the work of building our future economy.”

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