The Government’s £750m support package for charities is a significant step in the right direction and an acknowledgement of the critical role that the charity sector plays in supporting communities by providing vital services to the most vulnerable during the coronavirus pandemic.
We have all been inspired by the tireless efforts of volunteers and staff who work for the vital smaller charities directly supporting those most in need, particularly vulnerable children. It’s imperative that these charities receive all the support and help they need to navigate their way through the pandemic.
However, we must not forget the critical role played by larger charities that not only provide national lifelines for children and families including fostering services, children’s centres and helplines, but also hold together the ecosystem in which all services operate.
The National Children’s Bureau is concerned that money diverted to immediate delivery away from strategic, structural, long-term funding will cause serious problems further down the line. Unbalancing the voluntary sector could mean that many more critical services will be withdrawn just when families and children will need them most, damaging the prospects of an entire generation of children.
NCB, like others, plays a critical role in this voluntary sector ecosystem. There are small and fragile frontline charities among the 1,000+ organisations in our extensive networks and memberships groups, including the VCS, professional associations and service providers.
For example, NCB runs the Childhood Bereavement Network, underpinning the work of local bereavement support organisations with essential support and representation. We also run the Council for Disabled Children, providing expert advice and support to disabled children and those with Special Educational Needs (SEND), their families and the dedicated practitioners working on their behalf. These are some of the most vulnerable during the pandemic.
In addition to providing infrastructure support, NCB is also delivering vital services to the most vulnerable and marginalised young families through Lambeth Early Action Partnership. The current priority is redesigning critical maternity, health visiting and support services as a lifeline to pregnant women and parents with young children in the most deprived wards of London, where services have been devastated by coronavirus.
Charities will play a critical role in rebuilding our support systems in the months and years following lockdown. If charities themselves cannot survive, our recovery as a society is in jeopardy. Whilst charities are resourceful at the best of times, the crippling loss of charitable income caused by the crisis is estimated by charity sector leaders to be as much as £4.3bn over the next three months alone.
Policymakers must support the allocation of government funding to charities in the children’s sector so they can prioritise the safety and wellbeing of vulnerable families now and in the future.
Anna Feuchtwang is Chief Executive of the National Children’s Burea