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AFP
April 2, 2020

UK’s giant charity sector faces existential crisis over virus

World

AFP
April 2, 2020

LONDON: British charities say the coronavirus pandemic poses a “critical threat” to their existence, potentially severing a lifeline for people who depend on them when they are most in need. The closure of their shops and offices and cancellation of fundraising events is hitting vital revenue streams, as the focus switches to medical efforts against the outbreak.

“We are expecting over £4 billion ($4.9 billion, 4.5 billion euros) of losses across the sector in the next 12 weeks,” said Javed Khan, chief executive of children´s Barnardo´s charity. “Barnardo´s usually generates about £25 million a month,” he told BBC radio. “Already our estimates show that this has dropped by about £8 million, so that´s a third of our income wiped away overnight.

Cancer Research UK warned it faces a 25 percent fall in revenue because of the closure of its 600 high street shops, which could have a “huge” knock-on effect. It is also reviewing its “Race for Life” events, which in the last two decades have seen more than eight million people raise more than £547 million for life-saving research into cancer. The London Marathon, which is billed as “the largest annual fundraising event on the planet”, has already been postponed from this month until October. A smaller charity, the Teenage Cancer Trust, said it had cancelled its flagship annual fundraising event in London, which had been expected to raise more than £1 million. Its chief executive, Kate Collins, said the impact of the outbreak came at a time when demand for services is increasing — and put its users at risk. “Young people who have got cancer face incredible isolation anyway. That only gets much, much higher as a result of coronavirus,” she told the BBC.

There are about 163,000 charities in Britain employing some 827,000 people, working to support good causes at a local, national or international level. They have a combined annual income of £43.8 billion and spend £41.7 billion every year, according to the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, an industry body. Just under half of all charities have an income of under £10,000, while 97 percent have an income of under £1 million, it added. Many play a vital role in delivering services to the vulnerable, often in coordination with government departments. Demand is expected to increase, as the outbreak continues. Barnardo´s said 2,000 of its 8,000 staff were currently furloughed, with the rest on 100 percent pay. Collins said some larger charities had reserves but for most charities “this is a case of weeks not months”. Now they want more targeted support from the government, which has already unveiled unprecedented financial measures to back private employers and the self-employed. Without public sector help, “it will only be a matter of weeks before charities start to go to the wall”, said Cancer Research UK´s chief executive Michelle Mitchell. “Charities across the UK have seen a huge drop in income at the very moment there has been a massive rise in demand of many of their services,” added Gemma Peters, from Blood Cancer UK. —AFP