The impact of Covid-19 on charities and community centres
Janette Vizard, who is a Grants and Social Value Officer at Bromford Housing, discusses the financial impact of Covid-19 on small charities and considerations around reopening community centres.
In my role as Grants and Social Value Officer, I help charities to locate and apply for sufficient grant funding, as well as supporting them with compliance.
A lot of people don’t realise it, but many local services are charities. Most theatres are run as charities; so, too, are lots of community libraries. Covid-19 and the lockdown has had a huge financial impact on charities, especially the smaller ones. Many rely on the income generated from renting out their rooms to other organisations or services who work with local residents.
In some cases, these charities haven’t been eligible for a government grant. They have had to stop what they’re doing and close shop without receiving any additional funding. Some of them have been able to get business grants if they’re in retail, hospitality and leisure. But otherwise there are none available.
The funding from the Government that is to be distributed via the National Lottery has been provided to support current COVID projects taking place and their normal grant applications are unlikely to re-open until the autumn. As funding can take in excess of four months to come through, it could be a while until they are able to secure grant funding.
In the meantime, social distancing makes fundraising through events, such as marathons, garden fetes or summer events a challenge.
Unfortunately, this means that many places are likely to have to use their reserves to continue, and some of the smaller charities may not survive, which could have a big impact on our local areas. Residents might no longer have access to certain services, such as mother and toddler groups, young children groups, play groups, youth clubs and spaces offered to old people coming in for afternoon tea.
Going forward, many charities have moved their activities and services online. Some have put in place digital learning and development programmes, doing mental health and mindfulness courses online, or offering online exercise classes. Others have moved youth services online.
But there are many people out there who don’t use digital. If you’re dealing with residents with mental health problems in particular, you’re going to want to see them in person as much as you can. So, most charities see it as important to eventually get back to having some sort of physical contact with service users.
Because of this need to provide services to the local community, as well as funding issues, many charities and community centres are now considering how and when they can reopen. Some government requirements have been published, but different regulations apply to different circumstances, such as if your charity requires staff to drive vehicles, if you’ve got a shop, cafe or a reception desk, or whether you’ve got offices. And ‘offices’ can be anything from one or two people, right up to a contact centre.
Risk assessments will play a key role in enabling charities to eventually reopen and move forward. Risk assessments apply to any charity that has staff or volunteers and these will need to be completed before they reopen. Since risk assessments are not yet published for all types of charities, the way they will prepare to reopen will be based on risk assessments already published for offices, shops, restaurants and cafes.
There will also, of course, be a requirement for PPE, but that will depend on what the actual charity does. Charities will need cleaning requirements, hand sanitisers, cleaning wipes for surfaces and electrical equipment. Staff might need aprons, potentially gloves and face masks. Because of high demand, obtaining that PPE is currently quite difficult.
Some of the charities I’m working with are having to wait 4 to 6 weeks to obtain PPE. For others it will take them a long time to understand what is required. If you work at a reception desk you might need a Perspex screen – that means obtaining and fitting that screen and it seems that there is a shortage to obtain this type of equipment in some areas. Risk assessments will help the charities figure out exactly what is needed, and what equipment to order.
As social housing organisations, we can support smaller charities as and when they come back into operation. While housing associations don’t have the money to help every organisation in our local areas, we can help to get people interested in what’s happening in their localities. Supporting charities in a way that promotes their services, increases attendance at their events, and overall raising their profile, will make a big difference.