The Green Party welcomes the support for charities, recently announced by the chancellor of the exchequer.
But there seems to be no pot set aside for direct grants to smaller local charities. These charities provide valuable services for their communities, often filling the gap created by the absence of appropriate government-led support.
A case study: Greenwich Housing Rights
During the last 10 years, the legal advice sector has had a sharp decrease in funding.
This is because of austerity measures, which led to cuts in legal aid funding. The impact of coronavirus is causing that funding to shrink even further.
Green Party member Claudine Letsae is a trustee of the charity Greenwich Housing Rights (GHR). It provides housing advice in the borough of Greenwich.
Claudine says the charity has had its funding massively reduced, along with lots of other charities. GHR receives some funding from the Local Authority Grant, but even this has been drastically cut over the last year. The closure of courts and no advocacy continuing due to COVID-19 has had an immense impact on charities’ income.
“The charity continues to provide emergency support to the public by telephone and services within the Royal Borough Greenwich offices," says Claudine.
"It also provides a secondary advice service for the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) and other charities within the borough. This is a valuable service for a borough that has seen three law centres close in the last five years.”
Without that support, people could lose their homes, becoming destitute and increasing the demand for an already limited supply of social housing.
Which local charities need urgent help?
The effect of COVID-19 is also risking the loss of other vital services.
These include the Greenwich and Bexley Community Hospice and The Her Centre, which supports women affected by domestic violence. Lockdown has made domestic violence issues harder to avoid and deal with.
The Greenwich Foodbank and Bexley Foodbank support people that are experiencing poverty caused by changes in welfare benefits and universal credit problems. Recent drops in donations have caused serious issues in food supply.
The Migrant Hub supports migrants that may not be able to access local authority support due to their immigration status. Undocumented migrants are humans and we have a responsibility to them particular during a time of national crisis where their options for return are curtailed.
Plumstead Community Law Centre provides support for employment law, welfare benefits and immigration. There has been a spike in unemployment and navigating the benefit claim maze is challenging for some who are in genuine need of support.
Smaller local charities require more support to keep operating.
We would like to see these and other smaller local charities receive special funding to help them continue to provide a service at this time and ensure they can continue well after the impact of COVID-19.
In particular, recent findings that poorer and BAME groups in London are more vulnerable to COVID-19 suggest we need targeted support for them.
This crisis has highlighted the financial strains that most charities have been under for some time. If we do nothing we might not have these charities available to continue their valuable work in a post-coronavirus world.
A proposal for keeping lifelines afloat
- Immediately revert financial grants to the level that they were before cuts were made, adjusted for inflation, to provide a short-term cash boost for these vital services
- Provide direct funding to individuals who are facing poverty and the effects of COVID-19. The best way to do this long-term is the Green Party's longstanding policy of Universal Basic Income
- In the longer term, make structural changes to the way we fund and support services that help the most vulnerable people in our society. A direct grant administered by local authorities to local groups may be an good way to deliver more support more effectively
How can you help?
Please write to your local representatives to petition them for more funding to local charities.
Ask them if they have a plan for supporting local charities that provide crucial services in Greenwich and Bexley.
Without adequate funding, they may cease to exist and services will vanish with them.