SPECIAL REPORT: What’s the biggest challenge facing the charity sector?

With no end in sight to Covid-19 Chris Maguire asked a string of charities across Merseyside, North Wales and Cheshire what their biggest challenge was going forward.

  1. Denise Kelly, CEO, of St Helens-based Teardrops Supporting Your Community, said: “The elephant in the room at the moment is Covid and it has a couple of direct impacts:

“Firstly, we have had severely impacted finances both now and in the coming 12-18 months due to Covid. This is being set against increased demand for our services.

“We have already started to look for ways to diversify our income streams to safeguard sustainability. All income streams are being hit at the same time, so we are reliant on other support/donations. 

“Secondly, this is a time to concentrate on our organisation’s charitable purposes and think about the beneficiaries and service users’ best interests rather than the organisation’s best interests – both now and longer-term. 

“As we move forward through the crisis, we have to determine what we can save for the future and what we can deliver now to help our community. The tough decision is around what to stop doing.”

  1. Janet Ratcliffe is the trusts and grants fundraiser at Stick ‘n’ Step said: “Securing the funding needed for charities to maintain  delivery of their services is going to be the biggest challenge. 

“Social distancing will restrict the number and type of fundraising activities that can be undertaken which could reduce our budgeted community income, and the economic impact generally is likely to affect the level of income we can expect to see from the corporate sector.”

  1. Stephanie Lawley is the service delivery manager at the Central Cheshire Buddy Scheme, which supports children and young people with disabilities in Cheshire.

She said: “In September we thought everything would get going again only to find that clubs are down by one third.

“We are currently running at two thirds of our normal capacity due to restrictions. This is having a huge impact on the health and wellbeing of local disabled children and young people. We thought things were getting better only to be told by the Government that the restrictions may be in place for another six months.”

  1. Wirral-based JourneyMEN supports men’s mental health and was the brainchild of former Wirral policeman Phil Roberts.

He said: “The restrictions caused as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic continue to challenge the way in which we provide mental healthcare, and would regard this as the most challenging issue going forward as we move into the winter months, especially as a lot of our counselling requires face-to-face support.

“We anticipate, as cases continue to rise, further restrictions could well be put in place in order to control and supress the spread of this disease. This will directly impact our innovations, such as our sea fishing events and floating counselling sessions along the Shropshire Union Canal, which typically involve more then six people.

“Since we will now be limited in how many of our men can attend these outdoor activities at one time, we will need to arrange more of them for smaller groups. 

“This will be to ensure all of our men can attend these outings, which as we know from personal experience, really benefits their mental health. However, these changes will certainly create greater work with the limited staff and resources we have.

“As lockdown has exacerbated pre-existing mental health struggles, it is vital that men get the support that they need, now more than ever.”

  1. Paul Growney is the CEO of Knowsley-based Caring Connections and said: “With our charity our biggest challenge is ensuring we have the resources both physically and financially to meet the demands on both our care and counselling services. 

“It is also ensuring that there is effective testing in place to ensure sickness absences due to Covid can be managed effectively. I think this represents a general challenge for the sector.

“I think the demand for services especially mental health is going to rapidly increase however finances will continue to decrease.”

  1. Viv Couche is the development manager for Passion for Learning, which supports and inspires vulnerable children to achieve their true potential as adults.

She said: “The pandemic has challenged many traditional charities in a way that they’d never before experienced. From service delivery to fundraising activities, all charities have had to rethink their approach as a result of Covid-19.

“We consider ourselves fortunate to have turned this challenge into an opportunity, not least because of the supportive relationship we have with our funders and sponsors. 

“The pandemic’s impacts on children who were struggling with learning before schools were closed only heightens the need for our services, both to help children with catching up on lost learning and to restore their resilience in these uncertain times.”

  1. Target Football CIC uses football to create a safer and stronger local community in Toxteth and director Paul Hurford said the biggest challenge going forward will be around finance.

He said: “Many charities will face devastated finances both now and in the longer term and this is being set against huge increases in demand for their services.  

“The irony is that for a long time we have been advocating how charities should seek to diversify their income streams to safeguard their sustainability, but on this occasion all income streams are being hit at the same time, be it earned through membership fees or trading, voluntary donations or investment. 

“With income significantly reduced, there will be a need to use reserves but, the longevity of this crisis will mean that many have insignificant reserves to carry them through.”

  1. Liverpool-based charity Brunswick Youth and Community Centre supports young people in Bootle and development manager Val Johnson said they’ll have to scale back some of their services. 

She said: “Funding streams are now coming to an end and we will have to scale down our Covid support to the community.

“Mental wellbeing is also a priority for us to support our young people who have had to endure some very strict restrictions to their normal lives. They have also lost a lot of time from being educated, meeting their friends and socialising.   

“It will take many months if not years to support our community to become more resilient again and we also fear that those who did have jobs may now be losing them due to the end of furlough.  

“This time will be a very challenging time for us, both to help our community and to also try to income generate again to help us become sustainable in the long-term.”

  1. Andrew Forsey is the national director of Feeding Britain, which is the organisation behind the UK’s first citizens’ supermarket.

Shoppers at Birkenhead’s Number 7 typically pay a third of regular supermarket prices for food at the shop.

He said: “Our biggest challenge is the combination of uncertain sources of income and the likely continued increase in need for the programmes we operate.”

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