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Strained charities hang in the balance

Strained charities hang in the balance

Wednesday 25 March 2020

Strained charities hang in the balance


The head of Jersey Hospice says that the future of local charities is hanging in the balance, unless the community, and the government, significantly step up their support throughout the ongoing virus crisis.

As their major fundraising channels dry up, the palliative care provider is just one of many local charities hit hard by the island’s incremental shutdown in response to the virus outbreak.

Speaking to Express, the organisation’s Chief Executive Emelita Robbins urged: “The future of Hospice, the future of charitable services will depend on the resources that the community and government provide it with now. It is that bleak, I’m afraid.”

In order to abide by current public health advice, Hospice, which is one of Jersey's largest charities, has had to cancel any upcoming events and fundraisers. It has also had to close its charity shops, which brought in around £20,000 a week to provide essential clinical and community services in the island.

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Pictured: Many of the charity's fundraiser events have been cancelled.

“All of our fundraising events have been stopped, we’ve shut our shops so all of our sources of income that we work very hard to achieve throughout the year through both fundraising events and the retail outlets have had to close," Ms Robbins explained.

“We’re in a very difficult position. Our financial resources are being challenged by the circumstances and we hope to continue providing our services. So, we ask everybody to continue supporting Hospice albeit that the usual means available to us to raise funds are not there.” 

The charity’s Director of Operations and Business Development, Yannick Fillieul, added: “We always say that we run for the community and with the support of the community, so whether that’s volunteers in our fundraising shops for events or people just participating in events and raising money for us, all of those have literally come to a halt within a week or so.

“Our shop brings in about £20,000 a week and that’s completely stopped and we’re not clear at this time how long that’s going to be and we’re planning for months. So, that will have a huge impact.”

So far, the government has announced a package of support for local businesses worth up £180million – £130million of which comes in the form of loan guarantees and deferred payments on GST and social security – including a £50million fund for organisations which benefit the public good or fill a strategic purpose. 

However, the Hospice CEO doesn’t yet know what the provisions will actually mean for the charity.

She remarked that, although she was aware of the special fund, “quite how that is going to materialise and what support it might offer us, we don’t know”.

Ms Robbins was also unsure whether any of the charity’s retail outlets would benefit from some of the other support measures being offered to businesses in that sector. 

As an essential care provider, Ms Robbins said that she is seeking clarity from politicians and senior Health officials about whether any specific support for critical healthcare organisations like Hospice will be on offer.

The corona virus outbreak has not just put a financial strain on the charity, but it has also threatened its staffing levels and changed the daily routines of the very vulnerable patients currently receiving care at the Hospice.

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Pictured: Hospice want to find out if there are extra provisions for the charity due to the fact it provides an essential care service.

From removing visitor hours except in exceptional circumstances, to closing the day hospice service for individuals still living in the community and standing down a large portion of their almost 500-strong volunteer crew, the charity has already had to make some drastic changes.

Between clinical, financial and practical concerns, Ms Robbins said another significant consideration is maintaining people’s wellbeing and mental health, whether that’s amongst their patients, those who are self-isolating or indeed the charity’s volunteers who might fall into a high-risk category.

“We are reaching out to people and we are encouraging people to be the best neighbour that you can to our community. Because we all wish we knew the best way to respond to the virus; we don’t. But we do know that the best way to get through it is by acting together so that’s our message to everybody is to support those around them as best they can.” 

During yesterday's States Assembly meeting, the Minister for Treasury and Resources, Deputy Susie Pinel committed to meeting Jersey’s charities to discuss further support, saying that these organisations “are suffering as much as everybody else”.

The Minister acknowledged that “a lot of charitable volunteers are in an age group where they’re being asked to be very careful about their isolation situation”, adding that, as a chair of a charity herself, she “understand[s] what charities are facing."

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