Government urged to avert ‘cliff edge’ in energy support for charities

Charities face a “cliff edge” in meeting rising energy costs when the government support scheme to pay their bills ends in March, sector leaders have warned ministers.

Leaders of umbrella bodies, including NCVO and sector coalition the Civil Society Group, have co-signed a letter to business secretary Grant Shapps warning of the impact to charity services when the current support package ends.

As with businesses, charities currently benefit from the Energy Bill Relief Scheme to meet the cost of their commercial energy bills.

But this scheme, which was introduced in October, is due to end by the end of March 2023.

The government is reviewing the scheme and has indicated that “the overall scale of support the government can offer will be significantly lower, and targeted at those most affected”, according to Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt’s autumn statement this month.

The review’s findings are set to be published by the end of December and will be based on “value for money for the taxpayer”.

The charity sector leaders' letter warns Shapps that “overlooking the unique needs of the voluntary sector when making decisions about the future of this scheme will have serious long-term implications for communities, local economies and public services”.

“We are therefore keen to work collaboratively with your officials to ensure that the needs of the voluntary sector are met when the Energy Bills Relief Scheme ends,” adds the letter.

“The risk factors that make voluntary organisations more vulnerable to rising prices must be central to plans for providing ongoing support.”

Charity organisation chief executives to sign the letter include ACEVO’s Jane Ide, NCVO’s Sarah Vibert, the Chartered Institute of Fundraising’s Katie Docherty and the Charity Finance Group’s Caron Bradshaw.

Children England chief executive Kathy Evans and Paul Street, the CEO of Lloyds Bank Foundation for England and Wales are also among signatories.

“This is not about charities, this is about the people who rely on the services charities provide,” said Vibert.

“And that is millions of people in charity-run care homes and hospices, schools and nurseries, that use leisure centres and foodbanks. As well as the services that are helping stop people falling into poverty or mental health crisis.

“Charities are particularly vulnerable to rising energy costs because of the nature of the services they run and how they generate income. They can’t simply put up their prices to cover costs like a private business might do.

“Without ongoing Government support, organisations facing exponentially rising energy costs will be forced to significantly reduce services, sell essential community buildings or even close completely. This will have a devastating impact on people and communities and can’t be an option.”

The NCVO is urging charities to join its lobbying campaign around the Energy Bill Relief scheme by writing to their local MP. The sector body has produced a draft letter for charities to sign highlighting how their local charity's support will be hindered by energy bill support ending.

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