Charities across the south and south east in crisis as pandemic hits fundraising

  • Watch Christine Alsford's report on the challenges our charities face

Charities from across the South and South East say they're facing enormous falls in income as they deal with the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

Cancelled fundraising events and a loss of donations have cost them tens of millions of pounds, despite the help they offer being more vital than ever.

The government say it's providing £750 million to help the sector, but charities say this is only short term cash for services helping the vulnerable during the pandemic.

Among those worried about the challenges facing the charity sector is Rob Shenton, from Eastleigh in Hampshire.

He served for more than 20 years in Army, but turned to Help for Heroes when he was discharged to help him adjust to civilian life.

They provided everything from counselling and emotional support to retraining.

"I suffer from recurrent depression and it can lead to suicidal tendencies," he says.

"Without the support Help for Heroes have given me I genuinely don't think I would be here."

He is now running thousands of steps each day as part of an urgent fundraising appeal to protect the services he benefits from.

But despite an increase in requests for help from veterans and their families during lockdown, revenues at the Wiltshire-based charity have plummeted.

Sarah Jones, from Help for Heroes, says: "We saw an upsurge in referrals at the start of the pandemic.

"We've seen a 40 per cent decline in fundraising to the charity which puts a significant pressure on our ability to resource and continue to deliver in the way that we are delivering."

Although individuals are able to fundraise through sport, major events like Cancer Research UK's Race for Life have been cancelled, with huge consequences in terms of cash.

"We are talking £160 million loss of income in this year alone and that's already having repercussions," says Jenny Makin from Cancer Research UK.

"So far we have lost £44 million pounds from the research budget and that's absolutely heartbreaking not only for the scientists who are working tirelessly on the next breakthrough, but for the patient themselves who are relying on it."

The reopening of charity shops, like this British Heart Foundation store in Dover, is helping some charities restore their income.

But months of closure mean that they are low on stock, while all donated items are quarantined for 72 hours to reduce the risk of spreading the virus.

Robin Beaney, from the British Heart Foundation, says they're facing a hit of up to £50 million in income, directly affecting their operations.

He said: "We are anticipating that the research will have gone down over this period.

"And the shop income, which is usually £27 million at this point, has been halved."

Credit: Riding for the Disabled, Abingdon

Social distancing is affecting the activities that charities are able to run.

Lessons at Riding for the Disabled in Abingdon have been curtailed because they can't keep the children apart.

"We have 14 ponies that have to be fed and looked after and the cost when they are not riding is the same as if we were riding," says Ann Barlow from the charity.

The charity says it faces dark times ahead.

"It's going to become more difficult because the Covid grants are going to disappear and more and more charities are going to be applying for whatever grants are out there.

"But we just have to keep going."