At Changing Lives, we want to make sure that everyone – especially those already experiencing neglect, abuse, addiction or exploitation – has the support they need during the COVID-19 crisis.
Our staff have gone above and beyond to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the people we support at the current time. They are working innovatively and at a fast pace to develop new ways of delivering support and services to the people who need them most – and in turn helping to relieve pressure on the NHS and other critical services. We are seeing the impact of this crisis on a daily basis and fully support efforts across the sector to shape a financial package of support for charities, which we hope will be announced shortly.
Changing Lives works with over 17,000 people each year across the North and the Midlands, many of whom are at particular risk of harm from coronavirus due to the existing challenges they face. We recognise that the road ahead will be particularly difficult for the charity sector and therefore the people who need our services. Earlier this week, we shared evidence with the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Committee’s inquiry into impact of COVID-19 which sets out our key asks of Government in a detailed briefing (Available to Download here: DCMS Committee Impact of COVID-19 on the charity sector_Changing Lives)
Some key issues include:
- We are deeply concerned about the devastating impact of COVID-19 on the financial health and sustainability of the voluntary sector. While we understand that the focus of debate has been on the vital role of fundraising as a source of income, there are also significant risks associated with other forms of charity funding, such as contracts to deliver commissioned services.
- For our residential services, a significant source of income is Housing Benefit – this is usually paid in arrears, and we are concerned that it will take longer to process claims during the current crisis and/or we will see a significant loss of income if we are required to keep rooms vacant to enable self-isolation within our properties. We are calling on Government to pay Housing Benefit in advance to help reduce the risk for charities who provide residential accommodation.
- There is a lack of recognition within government decision-making that the voluntary sector is vital to the COVID-19 response effort, providing critical social care services in close partnership with the NHS, police and local authorities. We are worried that this lack of political attention means our staff are being placed at greater risk than other essential services where their work is more recognised.
- The implications of COVID-19 for the people we support cannot be overestimated. Many are vulnerable because they experience homelessness, have drug and alcohol dependencies, or have long-term health conditions or mental health issues that will make it more difficult withstand the effects of the virus. We are especially concerned for people who are not safe in their own homes, such as victims of domestic abuse, for people in prison, and for people who have lost access to support that is a lifeline, such as drop-in services and group-based therapeutic work.
The challenge ahead is significant and this is a concerning time for us all. There is an urgent need for the Government to fully consider the long-term financial sustainability of the voluntary sector, so that we can continue to deliver services during and beyond the COVID-19 crisis.
It is only with support and backing from Government that as a sector, we can continue to deliver vital frontline services that form part of the safety net that is helping some of the most vulnerable in our society cope with the effects of COVID-19.