Herts charities hit hard by coronavirus plea for your support

PUBLISHED: 08:28 27 March 2020 | UPDATED: 09:44 27 March 2020

Keech Hospice Care CEO Liz Searle said coronavirus could cost the charity hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Keech Hospice Care CEO Liz Searle said coronavirus could cost the charity hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Keech Hospice Care

As coronavirus wipes out thousands of jobs and threatens the lives of the vulnerable, demand for help from charities is set to soar.

Jonathan Aves, CEO of the Willow Foundation, said his charity was exploring 'virtual' fundraising.Jonathan Aves, CEO of the Willow Foundation, said his charity was exploring 'virtual' fundraising.

But just when they are most needed, charities are being hit by an unprecedented financial crisis, as Government’s social distancing rules force the cancellation of lucrative fundraising events.

The Centre for Social Justice has warned that a quarter of charities with an income of under £1million a year have no reserves, meaning cash flow will become a “serious issue” in the coming months.

“At worst, we may see organisations that society and Government depend on face closure,” it said in a report last week.

Some Herts charities said the crisis had already left them facing difficult decisions and worried about their futures.

Suzy Moody, strategic manager at Home-Start Herts, said the charity faced a funding dilemma.Suzy Moody, strategic manager at Home-Start Herts, said the charity faced a funding dilemma.

Suzy Moody, strategic manager at Home-Start, which supports struggling families, said the charity could lose tens of thousands of pounds.

She said: “We don’t have an infinite amount of money to keep going at a loss.

“We have built up reserves over the last year, but there’s a limited time that they are going to last.

“We can’t continue for the whole rest of the year without generating any income.

Suzy Moody, strategic manager at Home-Start Herts, said the charity faced a funding dilemma.Suzy Moody, strategic manager at Home-Start Herts, said the charity faced a funding dilemma.

“There’s a lot of positivity, and people saying ‘what can we do to help’ - but essentially, we’re going to have to generate a whole 12 months of funding in the remaining six months of the year left after this, and that clearly isn’t realistic.”

Jonathan Aves, CEO of the Willow Foundation, which arranges trips for young adults with serious illnesses, said: “We are an events-based organisation. All our activity is around bringing people together and obviously, with social distancing, all of that income has dropped off the edge of a cliff.”

Mr Aves estimated that events like golf days and charity balls had generated roughly half of Willow’s funds – and added that it had also been forced to close its shops.

He said the charity would rely increasingly on charitable trusts and individual donors – but the Centre for Social Justice warned those income streams were also at risk.

“Lower levels of income will also mean lower levels of charitable activity,” it reported, adding that the UK stock market crash would have damaged investment portfolios set up to sustain charitable foundations.

Keech Hospice has been forced to close 34 shops, which raised roughly £1m a year.

If the UK remains in a form of lock-down for months, as some experts predict, the children’s hospice will lose hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Other income streams are also expected to dry up, said hospice CEO Liz Searle.

The charity usually makes almost £3,000 a month from fundraising by schools, which are now partially closed. Fundraising by Herts companies generated over £85,000 last year.

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But now many businesses are closed and companies are struggling with their own finances.

The hospice had been on the cusp of launching a campaign to raise roughly £1m over several years, to fund extra nurses and therapists for sick children.

But, said Mrs Searle, that had been “severely curtailed”.

“Our main worry at the moment is keeping our current services going on,” she said.

The hospice costs £16,000 a day to run, but expects demand to increase as coronavirus spreads.

“All our children are already very unwell and so are hugely vulnerable. These are going to be a hugely challenging few months for us,” she said.

“We have reserves, which means we have enough for rainy days.

“The question is, how long will it go on for? There’s no doubt that losing this amount of income is going to be massively challenging.”

Home-Start and Willow are both exploring virtual fundraising opportunities, with Mr Aves announcing that popstar James Morrison has signed up to perform an online concert.

“The feel-good message is, we are looking at virtual ways of fundraising that we can take forward,” he said.

“It’s interesting, because it brings about a bit of creative thinking,” added Ms Moody. “And in the long run, we could keep doing those things.”

*All three charities are receiving donations online at www.willowfoundation.org.uk, www.home-startherts.org.uk and www.keech.org.uk.

Children’s Hospice uses protective equipment donated by vets and dentists

A Herts children’s hospice said it had sourced personal protective equipment (PPE) for its staff from local vets and dentists, amid reports of a national supply issue due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Liz Searle, CEO of Keech Hospice, said she placed an order for PPE weeks ago, but it had still not arrived.

“PPE has been something on my mind ever since the news broke and we started seeing cases being reported,” she said. “We had orders in for PPE. We were waiting for it to be delivered. We were assured by the Department for Health that that would come.

“We had some PPE, but we decided not to just wait for the order. We contacted our local vets and dental practice. They provided us with some PPE that we needed, which was a wonderful example of communities coming together. So at the moment, we’ve got enough for our staff. We are expecting delivery this week on our order.”


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