Amid charities’ Covid crisis, wealthy should pick two or three good causes to support – Helen Martin

Charities like those which support society’s most vulnerable people, fund vital medical research and care for abandoned animals have been hard hit by the coronavirus outbreak and lockdown, writes Helen Martin.

Monday, 24th August 2020, 7:30 am
This year’s MoonWalk was just one of many charity events called off during the lockdown (Picture: Scott Louden)
This year’s MoonWalk was just one of many charity events called off during the lockdown (Picture: Scott Louden)

THE UK’s in recession, some local businesses are closed down, large firms such as Pizza Express and Debenham’s are shedding stores, pubs and restaurants are dealing with far fewer customers – if they’ve re-opened at all . . . well, I could fill the whole column listing financial losses, redundancies and the shattered economy.

With furloughs in the UK limited to October (in comparison with Germany extending furloughs to 24 months), and a horrific lack of new jobs those made redundant can apply for, many people are struggling to support their families.

Some are lucky. Their work at least carries on or in some cases, such as Amazon, business is booming.

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We’re all aware of the economic effects of coronavirus. But something that isn’t widely covered is the devastating results for charities.

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Cash-strapped charities ‘under financial siege’

The whole concept of public fundraising started 900 years ago but over the last several decades charities have become powerful money-raisers for just about everything from human medical research and tragic overseas populations who don’t have access to clean water or whose sight is lost through fly infestation, to the homeless, vulnerable elderly and children’s hospices.

There are many charitable causes that should be funded by governments, but in recent years have become dependent on public donations.

We have hundreds of thousands of charity organisations who, added together, made millions of pounds from marathons, night walks, TV special shows and commercial appeals. Most of that has been wiped out.

In Edinburgh and all other cities, some charity shops have reopened, others have stayed in shutdown and some have permanently closed. Volunteers, particularly the elderly, have been unable to continue their work amid Covid-19 whether that’s making teas or serving at counters. Many charities have been unable to maintain their staff.

The Edinburgh Dog and Cat Home has been forced to close some of its shops and make 15 employees redundant. Even England’s RSPCA has had to lay off more than 250 staff.

Fewer people can afford to donate and fewer volunteers can wield collecting cans in quieter streets. During lockdown barely a penny could be raised but donations haven’t remotely returned to norm yet.

One charity I regularly support is the Greyhound Trust in Liberton which re-homes ex-racers or the abandoned. The national Greyhound Gathering at Musselburgh Racecourse, monthly raffles, plans for next year’s fundraisers, have all been swept aside or postponed. No-one right now is permitted to gather with dozens of others for such events and there’s no room for social distancing.

So, I can understand how all charities have had to curtail their usual fundraising efforts.

Many of the public will be concentrating on the rules of face masks, distancing, how to use a pub or a restaurant, how to apply for benefits, find a new job, pay mortgage or rent and domestic bills, afford everything children or grandparents need, and fearing a second wave.

There are concerns about tourist revival over Christmas and New Year and the risk of more Covid cases, not to mention saving up for Christmas Day and gifts, which is just over four months away. Potentially more job losses, price rises, food and medicine shortages are looming with Brexit, and the other political aspect – independence or not – is on our minds.

Charities have plummeted lower down on the agenda for most of us. But those young, old, sick, lonely, unemployed, depressed, homeless people, and abandoned animals, all of whom are helped by public donations, are hard hit.

This is a time when it would be admirable and satisfying if the comfortably off could choose two or three causes they care about and bung some money into the charity pots.

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