Hackney Council launches Coronavirus support package for voluntary and community organisations - and calls on central Government to do more

Hackney Town Hall

Over £370k will be invested in Hackney’s voluntary and community sector (VCS), as part of a Coronavirus support package outlined at this week’s emergency Cabinet meeting. 

Local voluntary and community organisations have played a crucial role in the borough’s response to Coronavirus in challenging financial circumstances. At an early stage in the current emergency the Council therefore has taken actions to:

  • Suspend rent for three-months for organisations who rent Council buildings
  • Sign up to the London Funder’s commitment to the VCS
  • Lifted restrictions on how the VCS organisations we fund can use our grants.

The Council has now brought forward further measures, totalling £370k, outlined in a report that was agreed at an emergency Cabinet meeting this week, including:

  • Funding an accelerated small grants programme to support hyper-local and grassroots-based responses to Coronavirus
  • Investing in Hackney Giving’s Coronavirus grants programme, using this investment to encourage match funding from individuals and corporate donors
  • Providing further financial support to organisations to mitigate the financial impacts that the crisis will be having on the Sector in the longer-term

However, while the Council is taking action locally to support the VCS, it is concerned that central government has not yet done enough to recognise the key strategic role of the sector nor the challenges it faces.

Last month, the Mayor and Cabinet Member for Community Safety, Policy and the Voluntary Sector, Cllr Caroline Selman wrote to the Chancellor to emphasise this. The Chancellor subsequently announced a welcome, additional £750 million grants package. However this falls far short of the estimated £4 billion loss in income that the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) estimates the sector stands to lose nationally over 12 weeks alone. It is also limited to a narrow focus on grant funding for the immediate crisis response only, ignoring the much broader role the sector has to play and the financial challenges it faces. 

In partnership with Hackney Council for Voluntary Services (HCVS), this week the Council reiterated those concerns in evidence submitted to the Government inquiry into the impact of Coronavirus on the charity sector, and set out its calls on the Government to establish an emergency grant fund and a ‘stabilisation fund’ to assist charities and voluntary organisations to continue to provide their crucial services in both the short and long term. 

The Council has a well-established relationship with the voluntary and community sector. At the start of the crisis, the Council joined forces with Volunteer Centre Hackney to set up a Volunteering Hub, which has seen hundreds of DBS-checked volunteers deployed to areas where they are most needed. Over 1,400 residents signed up to volunteer to support people in their communities during the Coronavirus crisis, and VCH is matching these volunteers with vulnerable residents who need assistance with everyday tasks, such as shopping for essential items and collecting prescriptions. 

Cllr Caroline Selman, Cabinet Member for Community Safety, Policy, and the Voluntary Sector
Hackney’s incredible voluntary and community sector has shown remarkable resilience throughout the Coronavirus crisis, adapting quickly to support our communities in these unprecedented circumstances.

We recognise the fundamental importance of the sector and the challenges it is facing.  That’s why we have worked closely with our partners to develop a sustainable support package, to ensure that our vital VCS organisations have the help that they need in both the short and long term. However, we are extremely concerned that this effort is not being met at a national level, and that this will have a drastic impact on the Sector’s ability to cope with the challenges faced as a result of Coronavirus. 

VCS organisations are paramount to supporting communities throughout this difficult time and beyond. The Government needs to recognise this, and take concrete, robust measures to support local authorities’ efforts to ensure that the Sector is given the support it both needs and deserves. 
Cllr Caroline Selman, Cabinet Member for Community Safety, Policy, and the Voluntary Sector