Voluntary and community leaders ask Chancellor for more support

Date published: 15 May 2020

Leaders from across the Greater Manchester voluntary, community and social enterprise sector have written to the Chancellor Rishi Sunak asking for more support.

The letter outlines that without urgent action from the UK government to provide support, many voluntary, community and social enterprise organisations will disappear just when they are needed the most.

Despite the government’s announcement of £750 million coronavirus funding for frontline charities, this will still leave the sector under-resourced. GMCVO (Greater Manchester Centre for Voluntary Organisation) estimate that in Greater Manchester alone, an additional £19.5 million is needed to avoid losing front line organisations.

Organisations already at risk include Kashmir Youth Project in Rochdale, Pankhurst Centre and Manchester Women’s Aid, Incredible Edible CIC in Salford, the Wai Yin Society, Beacon Counselling in Stockport and Radcliffe Market Hall Community Benefit Society in Bury.

Amongst the problems they are facing, they report loss of income from renting out community spaces, loss of traded work which supported charitable work, lack of reserves to dip into and uncertainty around the availability of future grants as grant providers reduce or redirect funds.

These concerns run concurrent with a growth in referrals, a need for income to change ways of working and an inability to furlough staff, who continue to be needed to meet demand from the most vulnerable in our society.

Warren Escadale, Chair of the GM VCSE Leadership Group said: “Our sector and our communities have played an amazing role in addressing the impacts of this crisis.

“Unfortunately, as we emerge, the social and economic damage will become clearer and starker. As financial reserves run lower and lower, those communities hardest hit will need the vital support and action of their voluntary, community and social enterprise organisations more than ever.

“We endanger those most in need if we let these amazing, everyday cornerstones of our lives and communities go under. And without action, many will.”

The leaders are also asking for more flexibility for the furlough scheme, which does not work for most charities and social enterprises, who are seeing lost income but increased demand and the Small Business Grant scheme, which is also not currently accessible to most of them. The letter calls on the government to enable the sector to use the Job Retention Scheme to pay the salaries of employees who would otherwise have been made redundant and to widen access to the Small Business Grant and the Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant to all organisations in receipt of charity rates relief.

Richard Dyson, Chair of GMCVO, added: “Our voluntary and community organisations and social enterprises are working hard to try to help those in need at this crucial time. Without support we will lose many of these organisations and the exceptional work that they do for our communities, just when they need it the most.”

Atiha Chaudry, Chair of the GM BAME Network and GM BAME SE Network stressed the importance of the sector for the BAME community in Greater Manchester: “The BAME community and voluntary sector has been hard hit by the Covid-19 pandemic. Mortality rates show a huge disproportionate impact for BAME communities compounded by the predictions that most of our sector will not survive unless they get urgent support. Local level community support services are a critical help line for BAME communities.”

Chris Dabbs, Chair of the GM Social Enterprise Network summarised: “As we rebuild, let us redesign our economy and systems so that they work for all of us. Social enterprises and co-operatives have a key role in achieving a thriving, inclusive economy in Greater Manchester and elsewhere. Effective government can play a vital role, but delayed or uncoordinated action can have grave consequences. We risk losing many social enterprises very soon. They need the right support now, so that they can contribute to a better future for us all.”

The letter has been sent from the Chairs of GMCVO, the GM VCSE Leadership Group, the GM BAME Network and Social Enterprise Network and the GM Social Enterprise Network, representing thousands of organisations from across Greater Manchester.

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