In the middle of April it was announced that the Chancellor was allocating £750 Million to help Charities from that Northern Ireland is to receive £22 million. However we have received no further news of the Chancellor’s £750 million Covid-19 charity crisis package. Urgent talks are Said to still be in progress, however as charitable businesses are being bypassed for business support there is an real need for not just news but action now.

As part of the Chancellor’s announcement, we know that Northern Ireland will receive £22 million under what is known as the ‘Barnett Formula’. This is the government process for allocating UK expenditure to Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

It will fall to officials in the Department for Communities with the Department of Finance to create a scheme to allocate the resources. However there seems to be a general blockage in funding as local councils like Mid and East Antrim have been forced to freeze existing rolling grant schemes citing a failure of the Executive Office to release funds.

The figure of £22 million seems a large amount of money, but it will not meet all the losses being suffered currently by many charities across Northern Ireland.  indications are that the funds will be targeted on those whose critical services are funded by donations, fundraising events and also earned income.  In many cases, the services are still needed but the money to pay for them has evaporated almost overnight. this will doubtless leave gaps and once more organisations at the smaller end of the spectrum will be hardest hit.

LEXXER Solutions have been in touch with local councils regarding maintaining funding for local community based projects and have already spoken to the former Minister and local MLA Mervyn Storey regarding the stoppages and the gaps which have appeared. While we agree that Government cannot be seen to encourage funding for events of services which would run contrary to the messages of social distancing and safe working, however many groups need to plan now for events which lie in the autumn and schemes could be maintained with the caveat that funding will only be released for events when it is safe to run them. Alternatively in the case of festivals the funding could be provided if organisers take their event online or to a virtual or socially distanced alternative.

It is also clear that after a period of prolonged isolation communities need events, services and activities to bring them together after all this is over. In the mean time alternative ways of maintaining social cohesion, cultural expression and a range of activities and experiences upon which people rely for mental and physical well being need to be explored. Simply turning the tap off for for funding is not the answer. Instead the recent Virtual VE Day celebrations provide a real model for the holding of events and the provision of services.

We would urge local groups to look at how they can reinvent their projects and deliver them in line with the present Government restrictions. As we lobby politicians and policy makers it is clear that the focus on keeping businesses going needs to be replicated in the Third Sector. Organisations should contact their local MLAs to ensure that they can apply the right pressure to those devising the scheme. It is hoped that the scheme, application process and award criteria will be announced shortly and that it will be a comprehensive as possible.