Coronavirus (COVID-19) – help and support for charities
In these difficult times the Charity Commission is providing specific advice to the charity sector. In this update, we summarise the advice announced so far.
As more details emerge, we will update this webpage. Please visit on a regular basis for all the latest news or contact us directly for help and advice in relation to your particular circumstances. Please also visit Coronavirus (COVID-19) – help and support for businesses as much of the advice included there will be relevant to charities.
The Commission has confirmed that their approach at this time will be ‘flexible and pragmatic’ and that they will be concentrating their resources on registrations, permissions, reporting and other COVID-19 related matters. There is also an emphasis on good governance throughout the guidance.
Specific general matters addressed by the Commission are as follows:
1. Can our charity assist with COVID-19?
The starting point is to consider your objectives, as set out in your governing document. If these are quite wide you may be able to offer help immediately. You should be careful to work within any restrictions that apply to your organisation.
You may be able to adapt your role to help – for example a religious charity may be able to provide pastoral care.
You could consider amending your objectives, but you need to consider:
- if there are other charities better placed to help; and
- the long-term impact on your charity.
If you decide to change your objectives, you would need to follow the requirements of your governing document and the Commission. Changes should be ‘reasonable, consistent with what your charity does, and not undermine your existing objects.’
2. Can we use reserves and restricted funds to help our charity through the crisis?
The Commission recognises that charities will be concerned about their finances. It advises organisations to revisit their financial plans to take account of the situation. Matters to consider include reviewing projects and expenditure to see what can be stopped or delayed.
They also confirm that reserves can be spent to cope with the crisis. Charities can consider revisiting designated funds and changing how those monies are spent.
The same is not true of restricted funds, which can only be used for the defined purpose of the restriction. It may be possible to amend restrictions, but you should take legal advice or discuss with the Commission before doing so.
Financial decisions should be done on a collective basis and remember to document your decisions in writing.
3. Can we cancel or postpone our AGM or other key meetings?
You should follow government health advice, and this may mean you have to postpone or cancel meetings.
This decision should be documented to show good governance.
4. Can we use video, teleconferencing and the internet in place of face-to-face meetings?
Check your governing document to find out whether this is allowed. If there is no specific permission included, you should document your decision to hold virtual meetings.
5. What do we need to report to the Commission?
The main aim is ‘looking after the public and communities that we serve.’ This means that serious incidents should still be reported to the Commission in accordance with current guidance.
The Commission will prioritise ‘those incidents that place individuals at risk.’
6. Can we delay filing our accounts and/or annual return?
The Commission is still encouraging charities to file their accounts on time. However, if you will be filing your accounts late you should get in touch with the Commission at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In addition, if you are a corporate charity you should obtain a 3 month extension from Companies House (see Company secretarial matters on our Coronavirus (COVID-19) – help and support for businesses webpage).
The Commission has specifically covered the late submission of the Annual Return. Their advice is that if you are unable to submit your annual return you should contact the Commission and apply for an extension. The contact centre telephone number is 0300 066 9197.
The Government has announced it will be providing an extra £750 million to frontline charities
This additional funding is aimed at supporting frontline charities, such as hospices, vulnerable children charities and those supporting domestic abuse victims, to continue their work during the coronavirus outbreak.
The money will be provided as follows:
- £360m direct from government departments to charities providing key services and supporting vulnerable people.
- £370m for small and medium sized local charities providing help such as those delivering food, essential medicines and providing financial advice. Some of this funding will be through the National Lottery Community Fund.
- At least £20m to the National Emergencies Trust appeal as match funding to the BBC’s Big Night In appeal.
Work is now ongoing on how this funding will be allocated with the aim that money is paid to charities in the coming weeks.
Additional sources of help
Click here for Government guidance for the charity sector.
Click here for further information on Government funding for frontline charities.
Click here for National Council for Voluntary Organisations guidance.
Click here for Civil Society’s summary of funding sources for charities.
We have also provided an important document regarding the impact of coronavirus control measures on charity financial reporting, which you can find here.
You may be able to increase you gift aid claim if you have had to cancel an event. More information can be found here.
We understand how worrying the current situation is. We will continue to keep you informed and seek ways to ensure the support you need from us is available.
If you have any questions or queries, please direct them to your WMT client service partner in the first instance or email email@example.com.