09 Apr 2020

Some good news to start…

Government funding for charities

Yesterday the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, announced £750m of funding for the charity sector comprising:

  • £370m for the support of small, local charities working with vulnerable people
  • £360m cash grants to charities providing key services relating to the current crisis
  • £20m to the National Emergencies Trust appeal.

The government will also match pound-for-pound whatever the public donates to the BBC’s Big Night In charity appeal.

This is a much needed boost for parts of the charities sector and we will be providing insights into the finer detail of the announcement over the coming week and how this support can be accessed.

Charity Commission Guidance

The Charity Commission reformatted its Coronavirus (COVID-19) Guidance on 7 April from that published in March however there are no significant changes to the content that you need to get up to speed with.

DBS checks

Temporary changes to DBS guidance mean that ID can be checked via video link rather than in person and scanned documents can be accepted in advance of the DBS check being submitted. This change now applies to basic, standard and enhanced checks. Employees and volunteers will however still be expected to provide original documents when they attend their role for the first time in person.

Gift Aid

Where a charity has had to cancel an event, it can claim gift aid on the total face value of any ticket where the supporter has agreed not to receive a refund and instead to donate the face value of the ticket to the charity. Likewise if a supporter donates a proportion of the value of the ticket to the charity, gift aid can be claimed on that proportion. In the usual way such supporters must be eligible for and have provided a gift aid declaration. Note this approach will not be possible where the charity holds the sums to be applied against tickets for a future event (as there will be no donation in such circumstances).

Volunteers

The current position is that staff who are furloughed cannot work for their own charity in any capacity but may volunteer elsewhere. With an increase in volunteers anticipated here are some key points to note for charities with new (or existing) volunteers:

  • Charities should avoid back-filling furloughed staff with volunteers. To do so will run the risk of a clawback of any job retention scheme grant received.
  • To support volunteers in their movements, provide them with a text or email confirming their volunteering task and your charity's contact details so they can explain their movements to the police if required.
  • Volunteers must still follow government advice on social distancing and spend as little time away from home as possible.
  • The definition of a "key worker" applies irrespective of whether some is paid or a volunteer. Therefore some volunteers will be subject to the Key Worker Guidance rather than the general public Stay at Home Guidance.
  • You will need to consider whether volunteers require hygiene items such as plastic gloves and hand sanitiser to perform their role and if so if they can reclaim these as expenses. As is usual volunteers should keep receipts and submit them with any such claims.

Residential property

Charities with residential properties may be taking difficult decisions about seeking possession if rents remain unpaid. Such charities should be aware of an update from our colleague, Jason Hobday, where he explains where to find updated versions of the prescribed forms of statutory notice that now apply for landlords and property managers intending to seek possession. These will be in force until at least 30 September 2020. Using the correct notice is crucial as using the wrong notice could result in your possession claim being struck out.

Commercial property

Charities that are also commercial landlords of their property investment portfolios and those that have business tenancies (for example for their charity shops) will need to be aware of new law brought in under the Coronavirus Act 2020 that temporarily suspends a landlord's ability to forfeit commercial leases for non-payment of rent until 30 June 2020 (or longer if extended by the Government). 

Whilst this does not negate the requirement for tenants to pay rent, it is likely that many business tenants will be withholding rent, requesting rent holidays, rent-free periods or a re-structure of how rent is paid. Landlords and tenants alike will need to work together to find suitable solutions to minimise the impact on both parties. If you need support in considering what your options might be please get in touch.

NECC webinar

Charities who are members of the North East England Chamber of Commerce are welcome to join us on 21 April for a charity specific webinar for NECC members looking at key themes coming out of the current pandemic. Places can be booked here and we look forward to seeing you then.