Blog: Extra funding to help cash-strapped charities

The effects of the pandemic do seem to be abating which is great news for all of us. As a result of a considerable collective sacrifice Suffolk is emerging from this mother of all peacetime challenges.

The last few months have been very difficult for many individuals and businesses. Sadly, unemployment has risen markedly in spite of all the effort the government has made to keep people employed and businesses running. Enormous sums of public money have been committed to combating the effects of the pandemic and barely a day goes by without some sort of new initiative. All of this is highly commendable and, by and large, has been very welcome across Suffolk.

I am also pleased that the Home Office continues to support the extra recruitment of the additional 162 police officers in Suffolk – part of the 20,000 police officer uplift announced last year – and has agreed to cover some of the Covid-related policing costs. Again, this news does help us all to be more positive about the future.

In previous columns, I have mentioned the excellent and essential work the voluntary and charitable sector carries out across the county and how our quality of life would be severely compromised without their commitment and dedication. In spite of the recent difficulties this charitable work has shone like a bright star delivering some remarkable outcomes. I have been very impressed by so many individuals who have just knuckled down, accepted the need for change and carried on – good to know that British Bulldog spirit is alive and well in our county!

And yet the sector has suffered its share of pain and trauma. We all remember the shock announcement a few weeks ago that the Suffolk branch of Age UK was closing. I have also learned very recently of redundancies in other local charitable organisations and others have had to suspend their work because of the pandemic.

As PCC I commission services for victims and was pleased to secure over £208K from the Ministry of Justice to assist thirteen charities who support the victims of serious sexual offences and domestic abuse, to cover additional operational costs they’ve faced because of Covid-19. This government initiative has been very helpful.

Recently I visited one of those beneficiaries, PHOEBE, which provides a countywide service supporting black and ethnic minority female victims of domestic abuse. Reaching out to all communities is a key role for any Police and Crime Commissioner and I was particularly pleased to meet the trustees and discuss how we can continue to develop our working relationship.

Once again, the general question of long-term funding commitments was raised and I will certainly do whatever I can from our perspective to help. We have adopted a flexible approach during the pandemic with our grant recipients.
Some charities supported by our crime and disorder reduction grants have found delivery difficult or even impossible due to social distancing and the lockdown. The Town Pastors have not been on duty since the lockdown started back in March but I know they will be ready to swing into action again very soon. I was very pleased our flexible arrangements have enabled this essential group to survive.

Lastly I would like to ask if there is anything more you can do to support our charities. Suffolk people are particularly generous – the trebling of the Suffolk Youth Intervention fund from philanthropic donations was, for me, one of last year’s highlights. The Suffolk Community Foundation’s Rebuilding Local Lives appeal has already gathered more than £1.6 million since the lockdown started – an astonishing result, to assist those in need because of the pandemic.

So, please, spare a thought for all those charities and maybe consider making a donation, or other help, to keep them going so when the pandemic is over they are still there, fit and ready to help Suffolk recover and prosper. Any support really will be worth its weight in gold!

Published in the Bury Free Press August 2020