Charities are struggling - so here's how the EDP plans to help them

Nancy Oldfield Trust offers fully accessible Canadian canoes to hire close to Barton Broad

Canoeists take to the water after the Nancy Oldfield Trust reopens after lockdown - Credit: Brittany Woodman

Charities across the country remain defiant after a tough two years - despite fears worse could still be to come.

Over the past two years many charities have seen fund-raising curtailed as demand for their services increased, while social distancing meant many had to find new ways of working.

Today, the EDP is launching a series to give charities a lift and promote the good work they do.

The Nancy Oldfield Trust, which provides boat trips on the Broads for the disabled and disadvantaged managed to stay afloat.

But Stephen Bradnock, manager of its centre at Neatishead, near Wroxham, said: "In 2020, we were down by about 60pc of our visitor numbers, we normally have 1,000 people staying and 5,000 day visitors. This last year, the 2021 season, it was down by 40-45pc. 

"When we were able to get people out of lockdown and to us, social distancing reduced the capacity of our boats."

Nancy Oldfield Trust re opens after lock down Steven Bradnock, Collin Savage and Mark Elson Pictures

The Nancy Oldfield Trust re-opens after lock down, from left Steven Bradnock, Collin Savage and Mark Elson - Credit: Brittany Woodman

Mr Bradnock said as lockdowns were lifted, demand for activities such as sailing, canoeing, pedal boating, wildlife watching and motor boat cruises surged.

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"When people have been able to return to us it's been fantastic, just being able to get out and enjoy the peace and quiet on the river or the broad," he added.

One animal charity fears there could be worse to come over the months ahead as its supporters see their living costs rise.

Lynn Cutress, chief executive of Redwings Horse Sanctuary, which has centres at Aylsham and Caldecott, near Great Yarmouth, said: "Welfare charities have been gravely concerned throughout the pandemic that we would see a knock-on impact on horse welfare and, thankfully, our concerns have not been realised to date.

Redwings provides care for horses in need Picture: Redwings

Redwings fears it may be called on to care for more horses in need as living costs rise - Credit: Redwings

"However, we are worried that the projected rise in living costs over the coming months combined with the continuing issues around Covid-19 could be the tipping point in terms of people’s abilities to keep their horses.

“On the other hand, one silver lining during the pandemic for us has been people’s enthusiasm to look towards equine welfare charities to rehome rescued horses. Amazingly we exceeded 2020’s already record-breaking rehoming number by over 50% (from 84 to the current total of 126), resulting in us rehoming almost the same number as we rescued last year."

Demand for many charities' services spiralled as families grappled with the mental strains of lockdown.

King's Lynn-based Scotty’s Little Soldiers supports hundreds of children and young people who have lost a parent serving in the armed forces.

Its chief executive Stuart Robinson said: “Unsurprisingly, the pandemic has had a huge impact on children and young people who have already experienced the death of a parent, highlighting feelings of fear, isolation and loneliness.

Independent facilities management company, Incentive FM, is helping to support Scotty’s Little Soldi

Scotty's Little Soldiers chief executive Stuart Robinson, with Nikki Scott, who founded the charity 10 years ago after her husband Cpl Lee Scott was killed in Afghanistan - Credit: Scotty's Little Soldiers

"As soon as we went into the first lockdown, support enquiries from our members increased dramatically. Furloughing our small team was never an option and the outbreak forced us to adapt, innovate and increase our service delivery.

"Like all charities, fundraising has been under pressure and we’ve identified that the charity will need to double its support by 2030 in order to keep up with demand for our services. This means the charity desperately needs to increase its income, right at the time when fundraising is most challenging.”

Many larger organisations depend on shops selling donated goods like clothes and furniture for a significant proportion of their income.

Lockdown saw so-called non-essential retailers forced to close, while working from home and fear of catching the virus that continued afterwards saw town centre footfall plummet.

East Anglia's Childrens Hospices charity shop on London Road South, Kirkley, newly opened by the May

Charity shops are vital sources of income for many charities including East Anglia's Children's Hospices - Credit: James Bass

East Anglia's Children's Hospices' 43 shops provide vital funds for its work supporting children and young people with life-threatening conditions across Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire and Essex.

Kevin Clements, its director of fund raising, said: "Our shops were closed for 30 weeks due to national lockdowns, leading to a loss of £100,000 in income every week.

"The pandemic continues to have an impact on volunteer numbers. Within our Retail operation, we are down 21pc compared to the figures pre-Covid.

"That equates to just short of 200 volunteers. Our community fundraising remains particularly challenging and we would welcome support from community groups to help us get closer to pre-pandemic levels of support and income."

The Charity Commission researched the impact of the pandemic on charities.

"Perhaps the most striking finding is that nearly all charities were impacted by the pandemic," it said.

"Over 90pc told us that they have experienced some negative impact from Covid, whether on their service delivery, finances, staff, or indeed on staff morale, resulting from the months of frustration and uncertainty.

"The majority (60pc) saw a loss of income, and a third (32pc) said they experienced a shortage of volunteers. Given these findings, it is perhaps surprising that we haven’t seen a significant number of charities fold since March 2021."

We're here to help

The EDP is launching a new series to help Norfolk and Waveney's charities recover from the damage caused to them over the past two years.

Eastern Daily Press editor David Powles speaks at the Stars of Norfolk and Waveney Awards in 2019.

Eastern Daily Press editor David Powles - Credit: Sonya Duncan

Every week, from Saturday, January 29, we will profile a different charity and give them the chance to tell our thousands of readers what they do, why they do it and who they help.

Editor David Powles said: "We realise that for many of our charities the pandemic has been devastating, leading to loss of income and, in many cases, loss of volunteers as well.

"Charities play an ever more important role in day-to-say life and we hope that by providing regular space for charities to show-off their great work we can do our bit to help them to recover."

Sarah Ravencroft takes a foody day trip out in Fakenham, enjoying breakfast at Q's Coffee Shop and B

Sarah Ravencroft who is overseeing our new campaign to highlight the work of charities across Norfolk - Credit: Archant

The project is being overseen by Sarah Ravencroft. She said: "There are hundreds of fantastic charities across the county, which have faced unprecedented challenges during the pandemic, and we're looking forward to giving them a chance to spread the word in this paper about the causes which they are so passionate about."

Any charity from Norfolk and Waveney that wishes to take part should email sarah.ravencroft@archant.co.uk.