Ex-cabinet ministers join cross-party call for charities hardship fund | Money

The former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith and ex-Conservative cabinet ministers have joined calls for an emergency hardship fund to help struggling charities, as hopes grew that the government could unveil such an initiative on Wednesday.

Ministers have been under pressure for weeks to extend the financial help offered to businesses to the third sector, amid reports that even the most established organisations are in dire straits as revenue from charity shops and fundraising events dries up during the coronavirus lockdown.

A letter signed by 26 MPs from across the political spectrum, including the former Conservative cabinet ministers Liam Fox, Esther McVey, Owen Paterson and Damian Green, called on the government to save the small charitable and community sector “from impending collapse” and to rescue the “silent army of life savers”.

“We have seen firsthand their significance in the fight against coronavirus. They provide the infrastructure of voluntary effort to support the most vulnerable, facing greater hardship than ever at this time. Isolated households, those with mental health problems, people experiencing domestic violence, child abuse, loneliness and the extra stress of family dysfunction,” the letter said.

“They are delivering medicines and food to the most vulnerable and in the case of adult and children’s hospices, they are also taking the pressure off our hard-pressed NHS and social care sectors, or stemming the flow of people who would otherwise need more intense medical care in hospitals and much, much more.”

Income subsidies

Direct cash grants for self-employed people, worth 80% of average profits, up to £2,500 a month. There are similar wage subsidies for employees.

Loan guarantees for business

Government to back £330bn of loans to support businesses through a Bank of England scheme for big firms. There are loans of up to £5m with no interest for six months for smaller companies.

Business rates

Taxes levied on commercial premises will be abolished this year for all retailers, leisure outlets and hospitality sector firms.

Cash grants

Britain’s smallest 700,000 businesses eligible for cash grants of £10,000. Small retailers, leisure and hospitality firms can get bigger grants of £25,000.


Government to increase value of universal credit and tax credits by £1,000 a year, as well as widening eligibility for these benefits.

Sick pay

Statutory sick pay to be made available from day one, rather than day four, of absence from work, although ministers have been criticised for not increasing the level of sick pay above £94.25 a week. Small firms can claim for state refunds on sick pay bills.


Local authorities to get a £500m hardship fund to provide people with council tax payment relief.

Mortgage and rental holidays available for up to three months.

With the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, expected to front the daily Downing Street coronavirus briefing on Wednesday, sources in the voluntary sector said they had been told to expect an announcement on Wednesday – though some said they had been told that before.

There have been reports that the Treasury was preparing a £100m fund for charities, but this figure has been dismissed as inadequate by many in the sector. By contrast, Barclay’s bank announced on Wednesday it planned to donate £100m to charities helping in the coronavirus crisis.

Cancer Research UK was among a number of leading cancer charities to warn on Tuesday that a shortfall of donations would set back progress on fighting the disease. The organisation said it could lose up to a quarter of its donated income (about £120m) in the next 12 months, meaning it had drastically to scale back its research plans.

Sue Ryder, one of the UK’s biggest providers of end of life care, has similarly warned it may have to close its hospices after the coronavirus crisis blew a £12m hole in its budget. St John Ambulance, which has deployed hundreds of volunteers around the NHS to help tackle Covid-19, also told MPs last week it would run out of money in the next four months.

A letter organised by the Labour MP Stephen Doughty two weeks ago, calling for urgent government intervention to help the charity sector, has received 317 signatures from MPs and lords.

Doughty, who signed the latest letter, along with the former Labour deputy leader Margaret Beckett, said: “Well over two weeks since the sector and a huge cross-party group made clear the desperate situation facing charities, voluntary organisations and social enterprises, many of whom are working on the frontline, it’s disappointing and deeply worrying that clear action has not yet been forthcoming.”

He said government financial help should run into billions of pounds.

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