Scottish government announces £20m Third Sector Resilience Fund to respond to Covid-19

The Scottish government is among those stepping up quickly with new funding for social enterprises and charities through the Covid-19 crisis.

£20m will be allocated to a Third Sector Resilience Fund, to help third sector organisations that are playing “a key role” in the national response and which are now affected by cash flow and other problems, according to a statement on Wednesday.

Further details of how and when the money will be disbursed are expected in the coming days.

The £20m is part of a £350m package to support welfare and wellbeing in Scotland. It also includes, among others:

  • a £70m Food Fund to help organisations in the public, private and voluntary sectors address food insecurity
  • a £50m Wellbeing Fund to help charities and others who require additional capacity to work with at-risk people including homeless people and those experiencing fuel poverty
  • a £40m Supporting Communities Fund to support local efforts helping people at risk including older people, carers, homeless people or asylum seekers and signposting people to help
  • £25m kept in reserve “to allow swift and flexible responses to rapidly changing circumstances”

Duncan Thorp, policy and communications manager at Social Enterprise Scotland, welcomed the new fund as “a significant first response” to the current crisis, saying it would – along with other new financial support for businesses and charities – ”go some way towards mitigating the impact and help us on the road to recovery”.

The CEO of the Scottish Council of Voluntary Organisations (SCVO), Anna Fowlie, said she was “delighted” that the government had “listened to the voices from the voluntary sector looking for urgent support at this time of unprecedented uncertainty.” 

Chris Hellawell, founder of Edinburgh Tool Library, tweeted: “Really important news for they fun #thirdsector. We need to still be there after this comes to an end. And it will end.”

Outside of Scotland, some called for their governments to follow suit.

Colin Jess, director of Social Enterprise NI, tweeted: “Congratulations to the Scottish government who have injected £20m into a Third Sector resilience fund. We need to see similar support in NI for businesses that work with and help the most vulnerable in society”.

Northern Ireland’s Communities Minister, Deirdre Hargey MLA, said on Wednesday that she would “bring forward very quickly a COVID-19 related Community Contingency Fund”.

And Cooperatives UK tweeted: “Scottish Government showing the way in helping the social economy to cope with and combat COVID-19 disruption, including £20 million Third Sector Resilience Fund. Nice one ! Will or do this for 'the third sector' in England?” 


'Deeply concerned'

Charity sector representatives in England have been vocal in recent days, warning of a rapidly unfolding crisis.

Karl Wilding, CEO of membership body NCVO, tweeted yesterday that his organisation is already “being rung by [organisations] that need to lay staff off”, while a survey by the Small Charities Coalition has found that just one in five small charities are currently offering a normal level of service, according to reports. The Coalition yesterday gathered 700+ signatures in an open letter stating that it was “deeply concerned and worried about the apparent failure of the UK Government to recognise the need for financial support for the not for profit sector at this critical time”. It appealed to the government to make “public commitments that offer financial stability for the not-for-profit sector, just as you have done for the business sector”.

The government’s Department for Culture, Media and Sport has promised to "help coordinate a major volunteering push to help support people through the COVID-19 outbreak". Pioneers Post has contacted DCMS for a response on urgent funding needs.

Social enterprises are waiting for further details on government measures announced earlier this week, including business rates holidays, grants for small businesses, and state-backed loans. On Wednesday Social Enterprise UK’s Andrew O’Brien told Pioneers Post the government seemed “quite open” to helping social enterprises as part of this package.

  • UPDATE 20/03/2020, 8pm: The UK chancellor this evening announced that any employer in the country, including charities and nonprofits, would be eligible for its new coronavirus job retention scheme, where the government will cover 80% of the workers' salaries (up to £2,500 a month). The scheme will be open initially for at least three months, and extended if necessary, with "no limit on the amount of funding available".

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Header photo: Aileen Campbell, Cabinet Secretary for Communities, visits Centrestage at Kilmarnock Academy in August 2018 (photo credit: Scottish Government).