This is Children England's main page of information and support for the children and families voluntary sector during the Covid-19 crisis. We'll update it as regularly as we can but if you have any queries about the information here, or want to receive regular updates, please consider:

What's happening for front line staff in children and families services?

Children England is part of a project with many other children's charities to understand what issues are being seen by professionals working with children and young people during the pandemic. An ongoing survey is gathering input from as many front line staff as possible, and regular briefings will be published to share analysis of the issues emerging. These will inform communication with government departments and children's services. All briefings will be published here and the first three are now available.

Every day counts

This is a critical time for the children's voluntary and community sector. Services are being closed or significantly re-organised to minimise contact with families, staff are being furloughed and face to face fundraising activities have been suspended. And yet, while many charities are seeing a significant fall in their income and reduction in their staff capacity, the needs of children and families are growing, and becoming more difficult to recognise. Most children are now at home rather than school, many looked after by parents whose income has dropped, without the support of a children's centre, food bank or visit from a support worker that would previously have helped them through tough times. The economic strain, and the stress of social isolation, could push families into crises that damage children's wellbeing in the long-term, as IPPR's report this week warns.

It's almost unthinkable that whilst children are facing one of the biggest challenges of their life so far, many of the charities trying to help them are facing closure. It's also unthinkable that, when the effects of the pandemic itself are over, swathes of our brilliant sector might not have survived to nurture children and communities back to full strength.

The government has included voluntary sector employers in its guarantee of 80% of the wages of any furloughed staff, but has not offered any support for charities to continue paying staff who must carry on working - and whose work is so vital right now.  With the voluntary sector expecting to lose 48% of its income - a total of £4 billion across the sector - both organisations continuing to operate and those temporarily suspending services need urgent financial aid to avoid closure.

Voluntary sector infrastructure bodies are campaigning hard for a package of support from the government, with calls from councilsSelect Committeesmainstream media and over 300 MPs and Lords.

Government package of support for the voluntary sector

As of April 8th, the government has announced:

  • £370 distributed by the National Lottery Community Fund for 'small, local' charities 
  • £360 million allocated through government departments to 'essential' services and those serving vulnerable groups (of which £2 million will go to hospices)
  • As well as matched funding for public donations to the 'Big Night In' appeal on the BBC on April 23rd

These funds, once distributed, will be welcomed by the organisations receiving them. However, the support announced so far is not enough, and falls far short of recognising the diversity of charitable activity that is keeping communities and children safe and supported through this crisis. Read our full statement on it here.

Update 6th May

The DCMS Select Committee has published an urgent and hard-hitting report criticising the Department's response to charities' requests for support. Clearly listening to evidence and proposals from individual charities and infrastructure bodies, the Committee is calling for:

  • A comprehensive stabilisation fund for charities, including those not working directly in response to Covid-19
  • Urgent review and adaptation to make sure existing support measures are accessible to charities, not just businesses
  • A new furlough scheme specifically for the voluntary sector, allowing staff to volunteer for their own charities

"The committee is concerned at this answer from the Secretary of State, given the scale of the loss the sector is warning of, or the impact it would have on those in society who rely on charities’ support. Moreover, charities are not the same as businesses, and thus to suggest that they should be treated the same ignores the fundamental principles upon which their work is based and the nature of their contribution to society. In particular, it undermines the efforts of the many charity workers whose commitment to serving the public is demonstrated by the efforts they are making, and risks they may be taking, to assist others. Many charities and voluntary organisations perform essential work that, while not directly tackling Covid-19, underpins the fabric of our society. Losing their services in either the short term or after the country emerges from this crisis will cause untold damage to individuals and communities. It cannot be allowed to happen."

It has requested that the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport responds with its progress on arranging additional support for charities by Friday 5th June.

Share what your organisation is facing

Decision-makers at local and national levels should be in no doubt about how essential the voluntary sector is to the survival of society as we know it. This is not the time to be quiet! If your organisation is in the constituency of an MP who has NOT signed the letter, led by MP Stephen Doughty, calling for government support, you can use the template created by Directory for Social Change to tell them from your own perspective why the charity sector needs their support.

We know many children's charities will be focused on managing day to day in these changing times, and we want to hear your experiences and concerns so that we can communicate them on your behalf. Please just get in touch with Chloe or Kathy to let us know how the current crisis is affecting your organisation and what support you need to get through it. Issues such as -

  • Funding
  • Staff deployment and support
  • Commissioning
  • Safeguarding
  • Anything else

On a brighter note, here is Greater Manchester's statement on how it will work with and support the local voluntary sector. We urge every local, regional and national authority to follow their example!

And for organisations in London: check out 4in10's list of what the boroughs are doing to ensure charities and communities can support each other through the crisis.

Useful resources including funding

An inspiring range of free resources and funding opportunities are being shared to help charities and the families they work with to survive the current challenges, which we will try to pass on to you wherever we can! 

Resources to support practice with children and families

Resources to support governance and commissioning relationships

Funding resources