An emergency £750 million hardship fund has been set up to help charities survive the coronavirus crisis.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced the move following reports that multiple charitable organisations could face financial ruin as a result of the outbreak.
The Treasury announcement will see the Scottish Government receive an extra £30 million in Barnett consequentials, putting pressure on First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to make more cash available to charities north of the border.
The announcement came as the coronavirus death toll in UK hospitals hit a record 938 in 24 hours, taking the total beyond 7,000.
Though significantly larger than the previous highest toll of 786, deputy chief scientific adviser Professor Dame Angela McLean said new cases are not “accelerating out of control”.
Nevertheless, the increasing daily death rate has led to warnings that the UK-wide lockdown could now last another month.
Downing Street said yesterday that the social distancing restrictions would be reviewed “next week”, but officials cautioned the public against thinking the measures would be lifted anytime soon.
Mr Sunak, speaking at the daily Downing Street press conference, said: “There will be a Cobra meeting tomorrow chaired by the Dominic Raab, involving the devolved administrations to talk about the approach to the review.
“But I think rather than speculate about the future, I think we should focus very seriously on the here and now and the present.”
Mr Sunak went on to reveal that Boris Johnson’s condition was “improving” and that he had been been “engaging positively” with treatment after spending two nights in intensive care with coronavirus.
“The latest from the hospital is the prime minister remains in intensive care where his condition is improving”, he said.
“I can also tell you that he has been sitting up in bed and engaging positively with the clinical team.”
The update came as Mr Sunak announced a huge rescue package for the charity sector which, like the rest of the UK economy, has been grappling with the fallout from the virus.
Mr Sunak said: “Our charities are playing a crucial role in the national fight against coronavirus, supporting those who are most in need.
“It’s right we do everything we can to help the sector during this difficult time, which is why we have announced this unprecedented £750 million package of extra funding.
“This will ensure our key charities can continue to deliver the services that millions of people up and down the country rely on.”
Tens of thousands of charities are expected to benefit, including hospices, St John’s Ambulance to help it support the NHS, vulnerable children and victims services and Citizen’s Advice, to increase the number of staff providing advice.
Charities have never been more needed than they are now, and they’ve never faced such a sudden fall in their funding.”
Announcing the funds for frontline charities at a Downing Street press conference, Mr Sunak said: “For them, shutting up shop at this moment would be to contravene their very purpose, their entire reason to exist.
“Those charities have never been more needed than they are now, and they’ve never faced such a sudden fall in their funding.”
He added: “At this time, when many are hurting and tired and confined, we need the gentleness of charities in our lives. It gives us hope, it makes us stronger and it reminds us we depend on each other.”
Sue Ryder CEO Heidi Travis welcomed the news, saying: “This will come as a huge relief to our doctors and nurses.
“Normally we only get 30% of our funding from statutory sources. The rest comes from our shops and fundraising.
“This has been a really worrying time and we have been trying to keep our staff positive.
“This will make such a tremendous difference in the weeks going forward.”
Richard Meade, head of policy at Marie Curie Scotland, urged the Scottish Government to now pass on the extra cash from the Treasury.
He said: “The Chancellor’s announcement for hospices in England today is very welcome. We hope that the Scottish Government will pass on the consequential funding to Scottish hospices and healthcare community services.
“Charities providing frontline palliative care services, supporting terminally ill people and those coming to the end of their lives, including some with Covid-19 have faced a devastating loss of fund-raised income.
“Without that income our essential services will struggle to continue to support those patients who need us the most.”
Karl Wilding, chief executive of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, said the announcement was an “important first step” but warned “it will not be enough to prevent good charities around the country from closing their doors”.
He added: “Even the many that do survive will look very different in a few months time, with a severely reduced capacity to provide the support that people rely on.”
Mr Wilding called on the UK Government to “review the level of this support as the crisis continues”.
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