Norfolk charities lose up to £120m in pandemic

East Anglia's Children's Hospices (EACH) has seen income and donations soar as charity shops reopened 

East Anglia's Children's Hospices (EACH) has seen income and donations soar as charity shops reopened - Credit: EACH

Norfolk's charities are estimated to have lost £120m during the Covid pandemic, putting the squeeze on the county's most vulnerable people. 

Services and staff were cut as 12 months of restrictions deprived organisations of their traditional ways to generate income.

The difficult situation is revealed in a report by the Norfolk voluntary, community and social enterprise sector (VCSE) into the impact of Covid.

But, despite the problems, the report said many organisations were confident of bouncing back.

The bleak financial outlook was reflected by East Anglian children's charity Break launching an emergency appeal this week to help recover some of the £2.1m reduction in income due to Covid. 

The Norfolk VCSE Covid report said organisations on average reported a £2,713 fall in monthly income during the pandemic. And nearly half of all organisations locally reported financial concerns.

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Jon Clemo, chief executive of Community Action Norfolk, said there was an expected £198m loss to the local sector during the pandemic, with national figures suggesting an overall 31pc fall in general income for charities. 

Jon Clemo, chief executive of Community Action Norfolk. Photo: Bill Smith

Jon Clemo, chief executive of Community Action Norfolk. Photo: Bill Smith - Credit: Archant © 2011

The VCSE report states Norfolk's annual income is approximately £384m, with 31pc of this being £119m.

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Mr Clemo said: "What we have seen is that around three-quarters of organisations operated on some level throughout lockdown but we are increasingly seeing that fall of income result in cutting the cloth with reducing services and redundancies."

He added that there had been a "perfect storm" of financial struggles combining with increasing demand for services due to the demands of community hardship and mental health during the pandemic. 

Sean Moore, chairman of Norfolk Blood Bikes, which transports urgently required medical items to hospitals in Norfolk and the East Anglian Air Ambulance, said the loss of supermarket collections, fetes and carnivals had a big impact financially.

All fundraising events were cancelled apart from two collections in December along Gentleman's Walk in Norwich. 

Mr Moore said: "We do get regular support and donations via private means and donors on a monthly basis but this is a fraction of what we would normally raise." 

‘Red Army’ and ‘Red Army Too’ at the Norfolk and Norwich University HospitaL. Picture SERV Norfolk B

‘Red Army’ and ‘Red Army Too’ at the Norfolk and Norwich University HospitaL. Picture SERV Norfolk Blood Bikes. - Credit: Archant

Between February 1 and March 31, Norfolk Blood Bikes used 1,238.4 litres of diesel, which is the equivalent of £1,500.

Gina Dormer, chief executive of Vision Norfolk, which supports people with sight loss, said there was financial pressure before Covid but the pandemic made the "situation a lot worse" with fundraising activities on hold. 

Mrs Dormer said: "I can't put a monetary value on it but it has been very, very difficult. We are currently in the process of meeting about restructuring the charity and regrettably reducing some of the activities we do to rebuild in a better environment.

"From our point of view it is really sad times but we want to continue to help people with visual impairment and continue to give them the support they need."

The charity has hubs in Great Yarmouth, King's Lynn and Norwich with online sessions and telephone calls increasing during the pandemic.

Gina Dormer, NNAB chief executive addresses the charity’s 212th annual meeting. Photo: Andy Newman

Gina Dormer, chief executive of Vision Norfolk - Credit: Archant

The Purfleet Trust homeless charity in King's Lynn has already adapted to the pandemic after the government instructed it to close its day centre at the beginning of the first lockdown.

Paula Hall, chief executive, said: "We identified that in order to recover from initial impact of the pandemic we needed to respond not just to immediate needs of our clients but also to future proof the organisation. 

The Purfleet Trust in Kings Lynn host their Christmas dinner with the Mayor Carol Bower as a guest.

Paula Hall, chief executive of the Purfleet Trust - Credit: Sonya Duncan

"The main financial impact of Covid for us has been through loss of fundraising events over the last 13 months and whilst this has had an impact on our finances we are now planning ahead for the next 12 months and looking at innovative ways to involve our ever supportive community.”

Dr Christopher Bushby, chief executive of the Big C, said the charity thought it would lose money during lockdown but it managed to generate £1.5m.

He said that was because of financial intervention from the government, including furlough, the fact the charity did not have to pay business rates and grants, and a cash windfall from the National Lottery.

Elsewhere, the Merle Boddy Centre in Swaffham, which provides services for people with dementia and mental health issues, has achieved the support it needs to survive. 

Ian Pilcher/Merle Boddy Centre in Swaffham. Picture: Matthew Usher/Mick Kenmore

Ian Pilcher/Merle Boddy Centre in Swaffham. Picture: Matthew Usher/Mick Kenmore - Credit: Matthew Usher/Mick Kenmore

Marketing director Ian Pilcher said the charity adapted quickly to restore services through socially distanced 'bubbles' with reduced numbers of daily attendees. 

Mr Pilcher said: "Throughout these months the administrative, and especially the financial support from Norfolk County Council (NCC) adult social care, has been outstanding. They have been guaranteeing fees paid for all their clients every month.

"Whilst we do serve several local private clients, this bedrock from NCC has been the basis for possibility and ongoing delivery. We are hugely appreciative."

Jamie Kowalyk of Norfolk Community Foundation said many charities had faced stark challenges over a year of restrictions, but praised the "surge in commitment" to help charities out in crisis from supporters and volunteers.

He added: "As demand for help has risen, so too has the cost of doing things differently, from extending staffing hours and adopting digital approaches to launching new outreach services. Many charities have faced unplanned costs in order to continue their work."

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