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-termHowever, 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. 

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