Lack of support for charities in Autumn Statement will force some to close, leaders warn

Charity

A lack of measures in the Autumn Statement to help voluntary sector organisations is a “blow for charities” that will force some to close, leaders have warned.

Sector bodies had been calling for Jeremy Hunt, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, to announce measures to support the sector as it faces increased demand and reduced funding during the cost-of-living crisis.

The National Council for Voluntary Organisations has been leading a campaign calling for an uplift for grants and contracts from local and central government to help organisations handle rising demand.

But Hunt made no reference to the sector in his speech before the House of Commons today and, apart from bringing forward some grant funding for specific organisations, such as those tackling antisemitism, there was no additional support for charities in the statement.

Sarah Vibert, chief executive of the NCVO, said: “Today’s Autumn Statement is a blow for charities.

“Despite the backing of more than 1,400 charities, our call on the Chancellor to address chronic underfunding of public services was overlooked.

“Not uplifting grants and contracts to cover the true cost of delivering them means some charities will be forced to close or reduce the services they offer, leaving people at risk.”

Vibert said the NCVO had been working with the sector to warn of what will happen if the issues facing the sector are not addressed.

“We will continue to call for the necessary changes to public service funding to help secure the long-term future of public services, and make sure people can still access vital support where and when they need it,” she said.

Matt Whittaker, chief executive of the think tank Pro Bono Economics, said that, based on figures provided by the Office for Budget Responsibility, “charity sector income is likely to be £9bn lower than the pre-Covid-19 trend”.

He said charities would be called upon to step in to support people most affected by the cost-of-living crisis.

“The charity sector has already been running hot while dealing with the triple threat of elevated demand, higher costs and falling donations,” he said.

“This precarious balancing act is set to continue.

“Beyond the here and now, it is critical that after 20 years of anaemic growth, the focus moves to thinking about wider structural changes, considering the vital part charities have to play in those plans.”

Richard Bray, chair of the Charity Tax Group, said the lack of measures in the Autumn Statement to help the sector was a “significant disappointment”.

He said: “While recognising that the Chancellor’s priority was to stimulate growth and support business, we had hoped that the Autumn Statement would have contained at least some measures to help charities, many of whom are struggling to maintain the services on which many depend.

“Along with others, CTG had argued for the introduction of some simple and inexpensive reforms, particularly in relation to goods donated by businesses to charity.

“Their absence and the general lack of acknowledgement of charities is a significant disappointment.”

Bray said the CTG hoped that the measures announced today would ease some of the pressures that charities face in the longer term and that the Chancellor would include measures to support charities in the Spring Budget next year.

Richard Sagar, head of policy at the Charity Finance Group, said: “There was once again no explicit mention of charities or the charity sector in the Chancellor’s speech today, and no mention of our huge contribution to supporting a healthy, productive and sustainable economy.”

Disability charities roundly condemned plans announced by Hunt to reduce the number of people who are long-term unemployed due to sickness or disability.

Hunt said the government would require people to take part in a “mandatory work placement to increase their skills and improve their employability” if they had not found work after 18 months of support.

James Taylor, director of strategy at Scope, said: “Today the Chancellor doubled down on a plan that will ramp up sanctions and demonise disabled people.

“It was a missed opportunity to set out how disabled people can thrive. Instead, now many will be thinking how they will survive.

Sarah Hughes, chief executive of Mind, said: “This Autumn Statement is a backwards step for the UK, which people with mental health problems will feel sharply.

“Changes to the way people are assessed to be well enough to work are brazenly motivated by a desire to save money, driven by baseless assumptions about disabled people and hugely stigmatising.

“The reality is that the vast majority of people with mental health problems want to work but are consistently let down by poor support across the board. The UK government must urgently rethink these plans.”

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