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Charities face financial ‘meltdown’ over coronavirus

Traditional fundraising has dried up with the closure of charity shops, childcare centres and cafes and enforced cancellation of sponsored events.

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Nora Smith is head of CO3 (CO3/PA)

Nora Smith is head of CO3 (CO3/PA)

Nora Smith is head of CO3 (CO3/PA)

Charities face financial “meltdown” due to coronavirus, representatives in Northern Ireland said.

Traditional fundraising has dried up with the closure of charity shops, childcare centres and cafes and enforced cancellation of sponsored events from marathons to coffee mornings.

Organisations have appealed to government and the general public to help them survive.

Nora Smith, chief executive of CO3 which represents charity bosses, said: “Charities exist to protect the most vulnerable people in society, so when we struggle it is harder to help them, and when charities close down those that so desperately need them go without.”

Community centres have been shut.

Face-to-face sessions for older people, those who need counselling and youth services cannot operate and charities offering food banks are facing shortages.

These are desperate times and nobody wants to see organisations that do such good work go to the wallKate Clifford, Rural Community Network

The entire arts section has shut down.

CO3 is one of a group of charitable representative bodies including Social Enterprise NI (SENI), the Rural Community Network (RCN), the Community Foundation for NI and Northern Ireland Environment Link (NIEL) that is calling for Stormont to step in.

Colin Jess at SENI said the Scottish Government had established a £20 million Resilience Fund to help charities.

He added: “We need a similar financial support programme for charities and social enterprises.”

Kate Clifford from RCN said: “These are desperate times and nobody wants to see organisations that do such good work go to the wall.

“The communities minister (Deirdre Hargey) has taken a strong, positive stance and we need the rest of government to follow.”

Andrew McCracken with CFNI said his organisation was offering online and telephone support but many of the most vulnerable people did not have internet access.

Craig McGuicken at NIEL said many charities faced severe cash flow problems.

“Their funding is drying up – and where it does exist we need funders to be flexible and help us to offer support to vulnerable people and places in different ways.”

PA