Cobseo Chairman, General Sir John McColl has written the following letter to The Rt Hon Michael Gove MP, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Minister for the Cabinet Office, and Johnny Mercer MP, Minister for Defence People and Veterans.
Dear Chancellor and Minister
COVID-19: IMPLICATIONS ACROSS THE SERVICE CHARITY SECTOR
Cobseo – The Confederation of Service Charities has been working with Members across the Service Charity Sector to adapt to the measures required in light of the coronavirus pandemic. We face the twin challenges of striving to maintain vital care and support to those in need across the Armed Forces Community, and ensuring that our employees and volunteers continue to work safely where possible, within the context of a catastrophic loss of our fundraising revenue.
We are in regular communication with Armed Forces Charity Chief Executives and other key stakeholders to coordinate and share key information; identify and put into effect new ways of working; and look at how we can best contribute to the good of the Nation during these difficult times. These measures have covered a broad spectrum including putting premises at the disposal of local authorities, standing up local coordination centres and mobilising (virtual) military wives choirs to boost the morale of those who are isolated. The Cobseo website carries updates from many Members setting out how they are responding to the crisis, and we are keen to continue to work with Government to identify additional ways in which we can bolster the national effort. However, we should be clear that there are charities currently making a vital contribution to our society that are within weeks of closure. There are two areas where I would be grateful for your specific support.
First, review the Chancellor’s furlough package as it applies to charities. Those dealing with the vulnerable are unable simply to close their doors and turn those in need away. Cash flow is required for those charities supporting the response to the coronavirus, both directly and indirectly. Prior to the outbreak of the virus, many of our charities were providing support that had previously been provided by Government, and this continues to be the case. Some of these charities will be alleviating pressure on the health service; others will be providing support to those members of the Armed Forces Community suffering from the economic and social impact of the coronavirus. A significant number of veterans are in the medically vulnerable category, and the need for support will only increase. The staff of the Service Charity Sector are committed, experienced and critical to effective delivery; we need to retain them in the front line.
My second concern is how best to ensure that we navigate this crisis, and still have a sustainable Service Charity Sector capable of supporting our beneficiaries, both now, and in the future. The Sector depends on the public’s goodwill and generosity, but the total shutdown of the fundraising events and activities that underpin this support will threaten the continued viability of many charities, both within the Service Sector and beyond. Charities are already eating into their reserves, but the introduction of a Stabilisation Fund, say for three months, would give many charities the breathing space needed to emerge from this crisis with the capability to maintain their support to the Armed Forces Community intact. Should we allow charities to close, for example in the areas of homelessness, criminal justice, and mental health, many will not resurrect themselves after the crisis is over, with a significant and long-term deficit in support.
While I am advocating on behalf of the Service Charity Sector, I am conscious that these are challenges faced by the entire Third Sector. Cobseo is fully in support of the broader ‘Every Day Counts’ campaign launched by the National Council of Voluntary Organisations.
Finally, I should like to assure you that we are actively considering what more we can do to mobilise our employees, volunteers and capabilities to better support the wider community in the weeks ahead.
I am copying this letter to Karl Wilding at NCVO, David Richmond at the OVA, and James Greenrod in the MOD.