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At NPC we’re beginning a collaborative effort to help philanthropists keep charities serving throughout the coronavirus crisis, and prepare for whatever challenges the post-covid world will hold. As a first step we’re publishing the following guidance from our consultants on how specific areas will be affected and what philanthropists can do. The areas we cover are:

  1. Covid-19: What we’re seeing
  2. Covid-19 & Funding
  3. How we work
  4. Covid-19: Sector by sector
  5. Supporting the solutions

The impact of coronavirus is compounded by multiple structural vulnerabilities in the sector before the crisis hit. For more on this, read our State of the Sector research.

We’re keen for this to be a sector-wide effort, so we’ll be opening up our work through NPC Labs. In the meantime, share your ideas by emailing us at info@thinknpc.org or posting in our LinkedIn group.

1. Covid-19: What we’re seeing

The coronavirus tidal wave has slammed into our societies with a flood of system-changing impacts that we already understand to be epochal, not least for the UK charity sector, whose role as society’s lifeline is now more vital than ever. 

The most vulnerable in our nation are being hit harder than ever – already isolated people face long periods without any face-to-face contact at all; poverty is set to rise as more people lose their jobs; food banks are facing stark shortages of food and volunteers. Even once the immediate crisis has passed, many people will be left more vulnerable in its wake than they were before it landed. They will need urgent support. The school closure is likely to have exacerbated the disadvantages between rich and poor children; a recession will plunge many into unemployment, leaving many needing help to get back into the job market; and the close living conditions are likely to lead to more domestic abuse with the resulting long-term care that needs. Charities must be able to rise to the challenge.

Yet at the same time as needs grow, capacity shrinks. Our State of the Sector research found that less than half of charities believed funders were offering the flexible core funding that we think they need to get through a crisis. Now charities are facing a massive loss of revenue through fundraising events being cancelled, household giving squeezed, and government contracts in jeopardy. The extreme capacity stretch is compounded by the virus itself, with staff and volunteers sick or in quarantine. We have been dropped headfirst into a revolution in internal working practices and a sudden need to radically rethink how to deliver services, thanks to the movement and contact restrictions we must now all live within. For other charities, their services may suddenly not be required or deliverable, threatening their ability to restart delivery once present storms have passed.

All this must feel like an impossible task. Yet already, charity support organisations – funders, government, even tech initiatives – are demonstrating unprecedented innovation, responsiveness and imagination. Community support groups are spreading as fast as the virus itself. How we act now – to help those who support those in need – will determine how the sector is able to meet that need in the short term, our institutional survival in the medium term and the resilience of our sector in the long-term.

NPC has spent the past week surveying the short and medium impacts of coronavirus on the charity sector and its especially affected groups, and considering the long term shifts it may experience. This guide is a living document and a conversation starter for how we as a sector respond, reorganize and then reboot. We offer some initial points of consideration and recommendation for philanthropic organisations as they consider their contribution to this crisis. 

We hope to ignite a collaborative effort, a ‘C-19 Wiki’ for the voluntary sector, and will be reaching out to sector leaders both at the delivery and the support side, and from a range of thematic areas, to contribute further insight, inspiration and recommendations, as their own responses develop. This evolving guidance will help philanthropists and foundations to adapt to the changing needs of charities, so they may continue supporting society’s most vulnerable and retain their integral role in our social fabric. 

2. Covid-19 & Funding

Our sector is staring into a funding chasm. Losses are likely to run into hundreds of millions of pounds as we take hits from all sides, with some estimates as high as four billion for the sector as a whole. 

  • Events: Many charities rely on now cancelled fundraising events to survive: the London Marathon alone generated £66 million last year for benefiting charities. 
  • Individual giving: Many sectors will suffer a drop as scarce personal resources are redirected or saved, particularly when the most generous givers are aged over 75, who gave £2bn in 2018. Philanthropic capacity itself will be significantly compromised by the current financial crash and ensuing recession. Individual giving after the 2008 financial crash fell by 11%.  
  • Earned income: A  significant proportion of charities’ income comes from trading and rent. Charities reliant on renting out rooms in their building to activity groups or for conferences will now find that income stream has dried up. Similarly, charity shops are likely to see significant drops in revenue as people stay indoors. A simple calculation using NCVO Almanac Data from 2019 (which uses 2016/17 income data) suggests charities could lose £1.63bn, or 3% of their total income, if they had to suspend their trading for just three months.
  • Contracts: An even larger proportion of charity revenue is earned through contracts – 40% of charities’ total annual income is potentially at risk. Lots of these contracts will be with government – which we hope will be honoured even if service delivery cannot happen. But others will be with other charities, businesses or schools, and these will likely be smaller contracts where new business will now dry up. This presents a serious cashflow problem to the charity sector as well as an income one. The Small Charities coalition think that only 20% of small charities are able to provide normal services because of Coronavirus. Furthermore, our State of the Sector research found that many charities subsidise contracts through other income, so if the sector struggles then public service delivery will be undermined as well.

The current conversation on business losses, threats to jobs and the government response must include charitable organisations, who together employ 880,000 people according to NFP Synergy. To prevent widespread charity closure, emergency philanthropic resources will also need to be mobilised, attached not to outcomes but simply to survival. Philanthropic resources are already being mobilised in two main ways: short-term emergency funds and funder commitments to flexibility for existing grants.

2.1 Short-term corona-crisis funds

Several funders have been quick to set up emergency funds to support charities facing immediate increasing demands for services:

  • The National Emergencies Trust (NET) is launching a fundraising appeal to help those most affected by the recent coronavirus outbreak. The British Red Cross will be managing donations.  NET will award grants and distribute money raised through a number of charitable organisations, for example local community foundations. 
  • In London, the Mayor has joined City Bridge Trust and London Funders to launch a new emergency support fund to help London’s community and voluntary organisations affected by the impact of the coronavirus. The £2m fund has an initial £1 million provided by City Hall and £1 million from City Bridge Trust, and will be coordinated by London Funders. 
  • In the North West, the Steve Morgan Foundation is pledging £1million a week (for the next 12 weeks) to charities affected by coronavirus in Merseyside, Cheshire and North Wales.
  • The Coronavirus Charity Help Fund set up by Martin Lewis to help those affected by the coronavirus. Small or local charities are able to apply to receive a grant of £5k-20k for specific coronavirus poverty relief projects such as giving food, toiletries, and basic necessities, as well as community projects to help people in isolation.

2.2. Covid-19 sparks new funder flexibility

Philanthropists and support bodies are rethinking how to organise their funding in this new reality. Others have already acted. London Funders, a group of major London trusts and local authorities, led the way as early as Monday with an immediate coronavirus commitment to funding flexibility, encouraging funders to pledge to consider: 

  • Changes to previously agreed activities.
  • Changes to grant periods and delivery dates. 
  • Changes to budget lines, allowing grantees to repurpose funds for urgent coronavirus related needs.

Many non-London institutions also joined this pledge. Charities are under considerable stress and strain. For affected grantees this rapid reassurance goes a long way, providing peace of mind to budget holders and to staff, allowing them to focus on doing their jobs. One such grantee, Clare Corran, Chief Executive Officer of Positive Futures Liverpool, already reported that: “With the flexible guarantees from some of our existing funders we have been able to give our staff job security over the coming months. This key fact now means we can focus on providing the best service possible for children, young people and families”.

Further reinforcing this move to funder flexibility, the Council of Foundations (CoF) in the US issued a similar manifesto on Friday March 20th, inviting grant-givers to:

  • Loosen or eliminate the restrictions on current grants.
  • Make new grants as unrestricted as possible.
  • Lift or loosen current reporting requirements, reports, visits etc.
  • Contribute to community-based emergency response funds for those most affected. 
  • Communicate proactively and regularly about decision-making.
  • Commit to listening to our partners and affected communities.
  • Support grantee partners in advocating for public policy changes necessary to support those most affected, such as such as rental assistance and expanded sick leave.

Dozens of major US foundations have already signed up. Other UK umbrella bodies for funders could consider mobilising members to make similar pledges.

2.3 Fundraising in a crisis

With fundraising events cancelled and many funding sources compromised, the sector can promote online fundraising mechanisms to harness the wave of social solidarity we’re seeing.

Can charities come together to organise a virtual London Marathon for example? Running itself is not restricted. Online trackers could help supporters follow solo marathon runs around our cities’ now relatively empty streets. Many who pledged to sponsor can still give, retaining some income for hard-hit charities. Marathon organisers and funders could support a tech platform to connect virtual runners to sponsors. This is already happening with the London Landmarks half marathon. If you do try this approach, be sure to advise runners to run solo and maintain appropriate distance from other people in line with the latest public health guidance!

As our world moves ever further online, clearly this is now the time of tech. The Coronavirus Tech Handbook, which has emerged as a focal point for tech-driven responses, is an example of the creative and communitarian momentum that is there to be harnessed, many of which need support. But technically creative solutions need creative people, and funds. 

2.4. Funding beyond the crisis

The coronavirus outbreak will have profound and lasting implications for charities and the people they work with. Funders need to think beyond the short-term crisis response to ensure the survival of the community groups, charities and local social enterprises that not only provide vital services, but are integral to the social fabric of our communities.

This means acting now to prevent charities from going under. For charities already on the knife-edge of survival, the challenges posed by Covid-19 may be more than they can survive, and funders need to factor organisational survival into their decision-making. Philanthropists should always ask fundamental questions about effectiveness, but in the current climate they might also ask ‘which charities can we not afford to lose?’ This could open up a set of grantees that donors feel are vital to our collective work, but for one reason or another they have not supported before. Philanthropists should consider this group when making decisions about grants, and take the lead in keeping the organisations they believe in alive.  

In the longer term, funders should think about how their actions can support charities and communities to be resilient and have a lasting social impact. As well as mitigating the negative impacts of Covid-19 on charities and communities, funders have an opportunity to support the positive shifts that could occur at this time of disruption – both in terms of the funding ecosystem itself and also for the issues charities are working on.

We think this requires philanthropy to:

  • Redefine its relationship with charities and communities to one based on trust, valuing the knowledge and expertise of all parties. Whilst a charity can’t achieve its mission without funding, funders can’t achieve their mission without the work of charities either. Some of the moves we have already seen from leading foundations represent a profound shift towards the assumption that charities know how they are best placed to contribute. As the CoF asserts: “We recognize that the best solutions to the manifold crises caused by COVID-19 are not found within foundations”. This crisis thus offers an opportunity for philanthropy to redefine its relationship with charity partners as wise custodians of resource, a call echoed in the final point in the CoF Pledge, for learning that can inform long-term change:  So we may consider adjusting our practices more fundamentally in the future, in more stable times, based on all we learn.”
  • Reflect this trust-based approach within grant implementation and reporting processes. Instead of making grantees jump through hoops to get funding (inadvertently or otherwise), and then further hoops to demonstrate that they have spent the money wisely, relationships based on trust can deliver better results. We outline further guidance on trust-based philanthropy in A rebalancing act. This can be done through providing more unrestricted funding, simplifying and streamlining application, planning and reporting processes, being transparent and responsive, soliciting and acting on feedback.
  • Rebalance the power in philanthropy. As well as sharing and building power with charities and communities, funders can wield their own power for good. At a time of crisis, it is all the more important for funders to think about how to leverage all their assets and types of power—not just their grantmaking—in pursuit of their goals. This might mean aligning their investment portfolio with their mission, influencing other funders, investing in sector capacity, convening people around a shared goal, or commissioning research into what works.
  • Focus on equity and fairness. We know that some people, groups and communities are going to be disproportionately impacted by Covid-19 and it may exacerbate existing inequalities in our society. In the US, a group of funders have signed a joint statement urging everyone in philanthropy to ensure that the coronavirus outbreak is addressed in ways that are as equitable and fair as possible. This ranges from supporting rapid response funds to communities that are particularly affected to using their voice to stand up for groups that are being marginalized or targeted for hate crime. In the UK, Future Foundations UK–a collective of POC working in trusts and foundations–issued a statement calling for independent funders to commit more resources to local sustainable infrastructure, direct funding to grassroots movements, amplify existing work on the ground, and shift to a social justice approach. 
  • Collaborate more and better. Funders can increase their impact by working with other funders and across different sectors such as with government.  At a minimum, philanthropists and foundations should take time to consider where they sit in an ecosystem of funding and charitable work and how they can complement, coordinate and collaborate with others so that it is easier for charities to navigate the system. More ambitious funders can join forces around a cause to amplify their collective impact. We set out best practice for cause-related networks in our upcoming report.

Some of these shifts in practice are starting to occur in the current climate. Whilst correctly focusing on the short-term need for flexibility and agility, philanthropic organisations could also be seeing these current shifts as an enforced pilot period for a radically new way of working, and even consider how to capture and quantify its effect on charities and their beneficiaries.

3. How we work

In a matter of days coronavirus has radically reorganised how we work. For charities, this is already affecting everything from staff meetings to service delivery, from fundraising to measurement and evaluation. Some of these changes will be temporary; others may usher in new practices long-needed, or herald new sources of support. 

3.1: Volunteers: The sector’s foot-soldiers

About 12 million people volunteer at least once a month, with the highest rates among the over-65s. Charities relying on this workforce will clearly be hugely affected. These organisations will need support in funding new volunteers or perhaps contracting people to do work previously done by volunteers. 

But as one volunteer army retreats, another advances. Self-organising support groups have sprung up around the country: from Thursday 12th to Monday 16th March, 732 local ‘mutual aid groups’ were set up, along with an umbrella organisation – Covid-19 Mutual Aid UK – led by around 10 campaigners to steer and support the network. Many thousands of people who had never previously volunteered are busy connecting with and supporting vulnerable people in their locality with food, medicine and just human contact. These new entities will need support, but what support is given must be driven by them and be locally relevant.  Beyond the short term immediate support they are providing, they could represent a new wave of civic participation and leadership if harnessed and embraced. As Seren John-Wood, 23, who helped establish the first group in Lewisham reported in the Guardian. “The solidarity that has emerged from this is incredible. We are hoping this will forge long-lasting connections.”

3.2 Monitoring, evaluating, learning, adapting

Monitoring, evaluation and learning  has become central to how we work, but could face particular challenges and changes. Within the context of daily flux that we currently find ourselves in, planning and forecasting outcomes of interventions is impossible. How charities measure impact, and how funders ask for it, within this context of deep uncertainty is a question we will need to explore as we go. How they practically collect data is another.

M&E practitioners will be asking:

  • How much and what kind of data collection can be done remotely?
  • Which tools present the lowest barrier to access?
  • And how can data collection be put more in the hand of users? Rapid development and take-up of field tools that allow beneficiaries to self-report could become vital. 

The most urgent application of this is of course monitoring the impact of coronavirus-specific interventions. We need to know what works. Although many funders are pledging flexibility in the usual reporting requirements, one should not take this as permission not to monitor. Previous international emergency responses have encountered challenges in demonstrating efficacy and efficiency of resource use, to their detriment. It is in the interests of those organisations on the frontline of coronavirus response to maintain robust monitoring practices for both internal and external monitoring purposes, insofar as they can, given current restrictions.

How they do this given current restrictions is of course a challenge. However, there is much we can learn from charities experienced in disaster response internationally. Whilst the contexts are very different, there is much that mirrors the situation we see emerging here – constrained access to affected people, lack of data and rapid and dynamic services. In the coming weeks we will carry out a scoping literature review to pull together key advice and guidance from our colleagues in the humanitarian sector about how to monitor in logistically challenging contexts.

A new letter could now be added to the MEL acronym – for adaptation. Connecting with others’ experiences and drawing on lessons, tools and approaches from other sectors and contexts will be key in enabling organisations to respond and survive. There will be a need for rapid cycles of action learning. Organisational integrity and resilience may depend on the pace at which organisations are able to adapt and evolve to the changing landscape. 

4. Covid-19: Sector by sector

Issues such as funding, volunteers and working practices will apply to varying degrees across the entire charitable sector. Within that, different sectors will face particular challenges, and need particular support. This initial snapshot of sectoral impacts will be further developed with input from partners as our collective situation unfolds.

4.1 Elderly care

It hardly needs stating that the elderly will be the group most affected, not just from their enhanced vulnerability to the disease, but even by the isolation and distancing measures designed to protect them:

  • Elderly care that requires in-person visits will of course be severely affected. Community volunteers are already supporting with delivery of food and medication, left outside doors. Volunteers need to be supported by existing organisations to do this in a safe manner.
  • Elderly people’s mental health will be severely impacted. Many over-70s are estimated to face up to four months in isolation. According to Age UK, more than 2 million over-75s in England live alone, and more than a million older people say they go for over a month without speaking to a friend, neighbour or family member. Within this context, social distancing and isolation are potentially catastrophic and could have significant knock-on effects for health and mortality. 
  • Telephone helplines will have a role to play, for example Dementia UK’s Admiral Nurses work remotely, so their telephone helpline will stay open over the coming months. However, this cannot replace in-person visits, particularly for people who were already facing loneliness and isolation even before Coronavirus.
  • Urgent availability of protective equipment is vital, as is a massive scale-up in testing capacity, so that in-person visits can safely resume as soon as possible. 
  • Rightly, age charities are seeing significantly increased donor support, with Age UK being a popular recipient. Philanthropists might wish to ensure that smaller age charities are also supported.

4.2 Financial security

An economic downturn will of course hit people on the lowest incomes the hardest: 

  • As has been widely discussed, the immediate effects of Covid-19 are especially concerning for gig economy workers and self-employed entrepreneurs and contractors, who face immediate and drastic drop in incomes. Furthermore they may be ineligible to claim Statutory Sick Pay, although the self-employed will now be able to claim Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) from the first day they are out of work, rather than the eighth day, as was previously the case. However, ESA is just £73.10 per week, or £57.90 for people aged under 25, which is not enough for most people to live on.
  • Low income families are likely to suffer with increased burden of childcare from schools closing and  free school meals ending. Food banks are already overstretched and being forced to close across the UK. This is due to stock shortage and most volunteers being retired people who fall under higher risk for coronavirus.
  • Effects of Covid-19 in the medium term will have a knock-on effect on renters. Further issues with Universal Credit may surface. Delays in initial payment and payment in arrears were already pushing people to the limit. Radical changes to the benefits system may be needed fast to avoid pushing people further into the grip of poverty.

4.3. Young people

  • Social distancing measures in place to slow the spread of Covid-19 could put some vulnerable young people at a higher risk. Child and youth care providers are expressing concern about the wellbeing and health of young people, particularly children on free school meals. Children not in school are more vulnerable to gangs, and a lack of structure and social interaction can negatively impact mental health for vulnerable children.
  • For some, school is actually a refuge from chaotic home lives. With all family members housebound a pressure cooker scenario could ensue. 
  • Key to impact in youth work is relationships, so charities will be thinking about how to maintain and build trusting relationships with little or no face-to-face contact. Telephone and online options are possible for some, but not all, and charities will need to think about how to be accessible to the most vulnerable.
  • The move to digital communication, and the increased time children and young people are spending at home online, brings with it increased risk posed by online predators. It is vital that parents and carers and support organisations remain vigilant to online child safeguarding during this time.
  • As a sector temporarily deprioritised, funding questions will be weighing on their youth workers’ minds. Refocusing attention to other sectors and issues may lead to a lack of attention on the youth violence issue and lead to further funding cuts for youth organisations.

4.4 Education

  • Schools across the UK are to close with profound educational and social consequences for hundreds of thousands of students. 
  • Although some education might continue if the school has sufficient online learning resources, children who do not have access to the Internet or to the technology the school is using are likely to miss out–widening the attainment gap for disadvantaged children.
  • Charities that provide services to young people would no longer be able to do so on school grounds if there are no children there. For example, Magic Breakfast is currently contacting its partner schools and identifying alternative venues where the food could be delivered, to be collected by families of the children they target. 
  • This lack of ability to operate on school sites will also affect many tutoring and after school activity charities.  

4.5 Mental health

  • Mental health experts are already reporting an increase in calls to charities running mental health phone support services from people suffering from depression, anxiety, panic and obsessive-compulsive disorder, who are becoming acutely distressed. 
  • Isolation and quarantine are likely to worsen this, and could lead to an increase in suicides, as people are separated from loved ones/left without access to appropriate care. Also, uncertainty is a key driver for people with anxiety disorders, and the focus on hand-washing and hygiene could also be very triggering for many people living with obsessive-compulsive disorder. 
  • Lockdowns may make it harder for professionals to provide access to continuous treatment, although some therapy could be done online or by phone. 
  • Carers of people with mental health issues might need to self-isolate, creating gaps in vital care for vulnerable people.
  • Many who are reliant on already-overstretched NHS services may not be able to access them due to new pressures on the health service.
  • Looking head, the already long waiting list for people to be referred to mental health services is highly likely to increase as a result of coronavirus stress, isolation and economic hardship.

4.6. Disability

The crisis is having a disproportionate impact on disabled people:

  • Panic buying is preventing many from accessing essential food deliveries and medical supplies.
  • Disabled people who need personal assistance may struggle to adapt to home-working. 
  • Staff shortages are already commonplace issues, and with staff isolating, the sector won’t have the capacity to meet even current demand. If 20% of current staff are forced to self-isolate, it could leave the care system 200,000 staff short.  

4.7 Prison and rehabilitation

  • Coronavirus could have a dramatic effect on prison populations. In overcrowded institutions, self-isolation in significant numbers will be very difficult, meaning if the virus finds its way in it would be extremely hard to contain. A report by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) warns of the substantial risk of the virus spreading at a particularly fast rate in locked establishments through the process of “cluster amplification”. 
  • Therefore, prison visits are being stopped, which seriously increases mental health risks of inmates. Stopping visits in Italy because of coronavirus led to prison rioting.
  • Another consequence of preventing outside visits means that charities can’t work in prison anymore. As previous NPC reports have argued, charitable access to prisoners is vital for the rehabilitation process. Removing prison visitor contact has already sparked riots in prisons in Italy.
  • Furthermore prisons house some people who are especially vulnerable to the virus. A 2018 a report by MPs concluded 15% of the prison population had respiratory conditions, and 6% of the UK’s prison population is over 60 (equating to 5000 inmates). 
  • To combat the risks it presents, there is already a suggestion that many prisoners will be released early. 

4.8 Sexual and domestic violence

Isolation and social distancing presumes that home is a relatively safe place to be. The appalling reality is that this in not the case for hundreds of thousands of women, and some men as well. Coronavirus has made survivors of domestic violence even more vulnerable.

  • Reports state that affected regions of China experienced a three-fold increase in reports of domestic violence during their lockdown. Abusive partners are likely to be more abusive amidst the financial uncertainty and domestic pressure caused by the crisis.  
  • Across the world, women’s support organisations are reporting that lockdown is being used by perpetrators as an additional tool of oppression. One caller to the National Domestic Violence Hotline in the US reported that “My husband won’t let me leave the house… He’s had flu-like symptoms and blames keeping me here on not wanting to infect others or bringing something like Covid-19 home. But I feel like it’s just an attempt to isolate me”.
  • One domestic violence counsellor tweeted on Saturday that “this morning was the busiest shift I’ve had in a year”. Tellingly, she then said “I don’t have an answer”. 
  • What is certain is that organisations supporting women who are experiencing domestic abuse will be in acute need of support as lockdown continues.

4.9 Housing and homelessness

  • Rough sleepers are at a higher risk of contracting the virus as they are less likely to be able to engage in risk mitigating factors. They are also more likely to have other underlying health issues which may make them more susceptible. Groundswell research indicates that 20% of homeless people suffer from asthma, and it is also harder for them to access medical care.  
  • Public appetite for giving across the board may fall and many homeless people rely on selling the Big Issue or panhandling as a source of income, which will be more difficult without commuter and other foot traffic. The Big Issue have launched an appeal for donations and have also mentioned that they are working on contingencies to mitigate the potential loss of earnings for their vendors.  
  • The government have announced potential mortgage holidays for homeowners, though similar measures have not yet been announced for private renters, with job losses or reductions in guaranteed hours likely to affect large swathes of the population. It is likely that many people will subsequently become in need of temporary housing or resort to couch-surfing. Those who are currently couch-surfers may also face difficulty- potentially losing their temporary places of residence or being unable to self-isolate as appropriate.  

4.10 Children in care

As an especially vulnerable population, children in care will face fresh challenges as a result of coronavirus:

  • The care system is currently overstretched and the number of children in care  continues to rise, with 88  children entering care  every day. Staff shortages in the care system as care workers become unwell and/or self-isolate will impact on the many thousands of children who rely on them for support. Care providers should plan for these coming staff shortages to ensure children remain safe and supported.
  • Many charities supporting the care sector, such as Home Start, rely on volunteers who are often retired. Similarly to food banks, these support charities are facing threats to their survival as their volunteer base increasingly self-isolates. 
  • The situation of children living in  homes that are economically marginal will likely get worse as the economic impact of Coronavirus begins to be felt. Parents or caregivers could lose their jobs or income in the coming weeks.. The benefits system is also likely to be under strain, but must be able to respond quickly to the needs of vulnerable groups if the worst effects of this are to be avoided.

4.11 Discrimination and community cohesion

  • Charities across the country are already reporting increased community tensions, fuelled by panic-buying, stockpiling, distrust and fear. More vulnerable immigrant groups are more likely to be the eventual target of any coronavirus hate crimes. 
  • In addition, some immigrants will be facing a cocktail of challenges: being already separated from their support network; more likely to have pre-existing health conditions; more likely to be in living in poor quality/overcrowded housing; and more likely to have difficulties accessing healthcare. These multiple vulnerabilities increase the likelihood of sickness and/or homelessness. 
  • The current emergency is also likely to impact LGBTQ communities, particularly older people living with HIV who are at greater risk of developing cardiovascular or cerebrovascular diseases. 
  • On the upside, communities are mobilising to support those with coronavirus vulnerability. Effort should be taken to ensure this includes immigrant groups and those with English as a second language and that there doesn’t follow a backlash against any particular groups. For example, in the US, the Nellie Mae Education Foundation created the rapid response fund ‘Racism is a Virus Too’ to respond to the hate crimes and bias against Asian American communities resulting from Covid-19. 

4.12 Refugees

  • Refugees are especially vulnerable to the coronavirus (or other diseases) due to high geographical mobility; instability; living in overcrowded conditions; lack of water, sanitation and hygiene facilities; and lack of (or sporadic) access to decent healthcare or vaccination programmes in their host countries. Displaced people sometimes end up sleeping without shelter in the streets, or in overcrowded camps that often lack clean water.
  • Governments may not prioritise healthcare services for refugees. Indeed, refugees face the additional risk of stigmatisation. Politicians in Italy and Greece have already started using the rhetoric of asylum seekers and migrants carrying the virus across borders to drum up support for hard-line migration policies. In reality, the real risk is to refugees themselves.
  • Organisations such as national Red Cross societies have prioritised migrant communities as part of coronavirus preparedness programmes. Towards the end of February, the UN’s migration agency, IOM, had launched a response plan with a heavy focus on migration, including fighting stigma and risk communication.

4.13 Arts and culture

  • The arts sector is facing a funding drop of hundreds of millions of pounds. The vast majority of arts venues are now closed–from the National Gallery and the Tate to smaller organisations like Watts Gallery have taken the decision to close.  For those institutions that rely on one or two big events a year for tickets–such as Garsington Opera–this will have dramatic effects on their ticket sales and fundraising. 
  • More than half of the arts sector income comes from trading – from ticket sales, tea rooms, renting rooms, and gift shops. All of this will be on hold. The National Trust has made the decision to close its cafes and shops, but keep its open spaces open so that people who are social distancing can still visit spaces. 
  • Smaller venues – and the artists that rely on them for income –  are especially vulnerable. The Arcola Theatre in Dalston, East London, has already stated that it would not be able to survive three months of closure. A third of people working in the arts industries are freelancers, which will be especially hit. Initiatives are already emerging to support them:  Marguerite London, a social membership group for women in the visual arts, has launched a networking list to connect creators with available jobs and gigs.the London-based listings project.  Seb’s Art List has also launched a platform containing information and resources for those impacted by coronavirus in the London arts community,
  • Many arts funders in the US are switching funding to focus on basic living maintenance grants for artists, making available emergency payments of $1000-2000. As many artists would not be covered by the UK government’s proposed wage support, this may be a model that UK arts philanthropists wish to follow.

5. Supporting the solutions

What will of course have the biggest impact in mitigating the effects described above is advancing the twin medical processes of finding a vaccine and substantially increasing testing capacity. The sector can even have a role to play here.

5.1 Finding a vaccine

Huge amounts of investment will be needed to develop, produce, scale, and distribute a coronavirus vaccine. A major international effort is underway, with several key organisations leading the effort to fund and coordinate R&D of the vaccine. The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (Cepi) has so far committed $23.7 million. The Gates Foundation has pledged $60 million, Wellcome Trust $50 million and the Mastercard Impact Fund has pledged  $25 million towards a ‘Therapeutics Accelerator’. However, more funding is urgently needed, with Wellcome suggesting at least $8 billion will be necessary and Downing Street also urging donors to join the funding efforts. 

The charity sector can further support this process in the following ways: 

  • Organisations like Gavi, the vaccine alliance, have come up with innovative funding mechanisms to raise money on the markets for ensuring supply to poorer countries.
  • Collaborative funding, through Cepi or initiatives like the ‘Accelerator’, can provide fast and flexible funding at key stages of the development process and can decrease the risks associated with the process of vaccine development, helping to improve access in lower-resource countries.
  • Once a vaccine is developed charity and community networks can provide communication and distribution systems to ensure vulnerable populations are adequately reached.

5.2 Testing, testing, testing

Testing is vital to reducing the need for blanket lockdowns. South Korea has got coronavirus under control through massive scale of targeted testing, and the government has promised 25,000 tests per day within four weeks. Working in partnership with public services, the sector can play a vital role in expanding access to testing through volunteering, space utilisation and funding. The sooner widespread testing is available the sooner charities can return, with precautions, to delivering services to vulnerable populations, to restarting fundraising, reopening venues and rebooting our sector.

Share your ideas by emailing us at info@thinknpc.org or posting in our LinkedIn group.

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