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Catch22 responds to Government ‘rescue’ package for VCSEs

Close-up of a lifebuoy ring.

The Government has announced a much-needed £750 million pound package for the charity and voluntary sectors. But, beyond finances, the way VCSEs are adapting could drastically affect our long-term impact.

The UK Government’s ‘rescue’ package for charities and voluntary sector organisations recognises the important work being done on the frontline in response to COVID-19 and how the sector can help reduce pressure on public services and the NHS.But compared to what’s been offered for ‘high growth’ businesses, will it be enough?

Catch22 CEO, Chris Wright, says it has to be about more than the money:

“There is hardly a sector that hasn’t been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Charities and voluntary sector organisations have been vocal in their concerns about finances and the impact that has on their ability to support their service users.

“It’s becoming increasingly clear that it’s the most vulnerable in society who are being disproportionately affected by both the virus and its associated effects. For those on low incomes or who have underlying health conditions, isolation, school closures and reliance on digital communication rather than face to face support is making lives all the more difficult.

“The Government’s announcement of a £750 million package (plus the £300m from Lottery and the Emergency Liquidity Fund being established by Big Society Capital) for frontline charities and the wider voluntary sector is therefore welcome and will undoubtedly go some way to helping them support those than need emergency relief. Alongside other measures – such as the furlough scheme and the support packages for business, which charities can also access –  it will provide some relief and allow vital services to continue.

“But this is not just about money. The Government’s guidance to local service commissioners to relax contractual and payment terms is something that will not only be beneficial during this period, but also beyond. Too often those organisations delivering alternative public services are restricted by burdensome KPIs which doesn’t allow for innovation. Or indeed, procurement regulations that prevent capacity being properly unlocked. Catch22, alongside others in the sector, are pushing for these changes to apply in the longer term. If services can be delivered with the needs of services users at the heart, and without overly restrictive targets, there is huge potential to reform for the better.  This, alongside more effective use of technology to support service users, could see charities and VCSEs emerge from this crisis stronger – and more relevant – than before.”