‘Charities are not here with a begging bowl; we have the right to survive’, NCVO chief tells MPs

Charities are 'not just here with a begging bowl', but need a substantial rescue package in order to survive, the NCVO chief told MPs.

Speaking at a virtual meeting with the Digital Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) Committee, the umbrella body’s CEO, Karl Wilding, said it feels like the government is treating the current economic crisis facing charities as an ‘academic exercise’.

“We are not just here with a begging bowl. We are here because I think charities have a right to survive,” Wilding said.

The meeting came after Boris Johnson last week announced he was working on a ‘package’ for the charity sector, although no further details have been announced.

“I feel at times we are informed, but not involved,” said Wilding.

“We were told the government is working on a package. I have no details of what that package will look like. I have no details of what the scale of that package will look like,” he added.

“We need something that’s simple, substantial and swift. Every day counts and it feels, at times, like this is an academic exercise in government.”

The NCVO and other sector bodies have estimated, based on surveys and other research, that charities could expect to lose over £4bn during the coronavirus pandemic as a result of shop closures and cancelled or postponed fundraising events.

A number of charities have announced plans to furlough a large proportion of staff during the period to save on costs, but Wilding has said the furloughing model will only work for one in three charities.

Furloughing means charity staff will be temporarily stood down from their roles, whilst still being paid. The government will cover 80% of employee wages under the Job Retention Scheme and employers can top up the remaining 20%. Each employee can earn up to a maximum of £2,500 a month.

Wilding said he agrees with the ‘intent’ of the furlough scheme, but claims ‘the design does not match the intent’.

“Our very rough calculation is that one in three charities can deploy the furloughing scheme. The problem is that essentially the furloughing scheme means you’re standing down staff at exactly the time you want them to step up.
“Mothballing staff when demand is increasing is the opposite of what you need to do; you need to mobilise them.”

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