Select Committee Inquiry into the Impact of Covid-19 on the charity sector
Updated 12th May 2020
On Wednesday 6th May, The House of Commons DCMS Select Committee published the report of their Inquiry into the effects of Covid-19 on UK Charities. In total 71 UK charities submitted evidence to this inquiry.
The ASDC submission can be found at the bottom of this page.
Evidence from our sector included submissions from:
ASDC thanks Linda Conlon and Andy Lloyd from the International Centre for Life for summarising this report and the relevant information for the sector:
“We therefore call on the Government to increase the support available to charities through a comprehensive stabilisation fund, and to ensure that support is made available to charities that are not directly working on tackling Covid-19 but facing financial hardship. The Government must also adapt existing support schemes for businesses to ensure they provide appropriate support for the charity sector. It must take these steps urgently, within a month, to prevent charities from folding.”
We The Curious are quoted in relation to changing the furlough rules to allow charity staff to volunteer for their own charities:
“We understand the concern that businesses should not benefit from government support for private gain, but as a charity we operate for the benefit of the public […] This change to the job retention scheme would not result in any additional cost to the Government, as we would still eventually be left with no choice but to put all staff on furlough. The overwhelming benefit of this change to the furlough rules would be that thousands of charity staff can mobilise for social good at a time when the British public needs us the most."
The Committee concludes (on this point):
“We recommend that the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport works with the charity sector and HM Treasury immediately to review the measures in place to support businesses, and to ensure they fully meet the needs of the charity and voluntary sector. In particular, the Government should introduce a separate Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme for charities within four weeks. The scheme should enable furloughed employees of charities to volunteer for their organisations providing appropriate safeguards are met. We also ask the Government to guarantee that six weeks’ notice will be given of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme ending so that charities can plan accordingly, and to phase the ending of the scheme to support any charities that are unable to return immediately to full capacity.”
Thinking about the longer-term, the committee states:
“We back the charity sector’s calls for a stabilisation fund to secure the long-term financial health and organisational diversity of the sector. It also needs to be recognised that some organisations may take time to recover following the ending of the crisis and may need support beyond that point to get to a sustainable position. In addition to the support that has already been announced, the Government should establish further funding to assist charities and voluntary organisations to stay afloat throughout the Covid-19 crisis. This should be available to organisations facing financial pressures, even if they are not involved in the frontline response to Covid-19.”
The Chair of this committee is Julian Knight MP who has urged the Government to take immediate action to safeguard the charitable sector. DCMS Secretary of State Oliver Dowden has been called upon to confirm whether funding would be available for charitable and voluntary organisations working directly on tackling coronavirus and to charities at risk of insolvency.
And from the news:
MPs urge ministers to set up a job-retention scheme for charities
Over 70 charities submitted evidence to the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee inquiry into the impact of Covid-19 on the charity sector, which published its report today. The report criticises the government for being too slow to make funding available. It said it was a mistake to treat charities like businesses, and raised concerns about the tone used by the government when faced with the scale of the challenge. The committee is calling for extra funding in the form of a stabilisation fund and for a separate charity-specific job retention scheme. Julian Knight, Conservative MP and chair of the DCMS Committee, said: “The strong message that charities gave us was not that they have some sort of right to survive but that people have a right to the services they provide. “We warned the chancellor that charities told us they faced a £4bn gap in money coming in, with some smaller charities facing insolvency within weeks without immediate emergency support.
ASDC Submission to DCMS Parliamentary Select Committee inquiry into the impact of Covid-19 on UK charities
Impact of Covid-19 on the UK’s Charitable Science and Discovery Centres
STEM Learning for millions of people at risk
April 16 2020
Submission by Dr Penny Fidler, CEO.
Association for Science and Discovery Centres
Across the UK, in our regional cities and towns, the nation’s STEM-focussed charitable Science Centres have had to close their public venues due to Covid-19.
This has entirely cut off their income and threatens their long-term survival.
As charities, they earn their own income, with little or no public funding. Together they attract millions of children and adults to participate in STEM learning each year, who pay to take part.
The 40 UK Self-sustaining Science Centres have a turnover around £200 million per year and employ 5000 staff, 75% of whom are now furloughed.
However, they need to retain and pay some staff such as site safety staff, security, payroll, HR, staff to negotiate and reduce liabilities to current capital build and other contracts, and some leadership staff.
Redundancies are now being planned for future months, as event bookings and school bookings have plummeted for the whole year, and visitor ticket sales are unlikely to bounce back to full strength when the Science Centres are allowed to open. This is compounded by it being the busiest time of year for income, and having lost income over Easter holidays, May half-term and likely the May-June summer trips for school children.
Following research by the national STEM education charity, The UK Association for Science and Discovery Centres, an Emergency Resilience Fund of £25 million is proposed (during furlough) that would secure the Nation’s Science Centres into the future.
Science has driven so much of the UK’s COVID-19 response. This is not the time to lose our world-leading Science Centres. We are needed now more than ever to help people make sense of what has happened and to inspire future generations of scientists and engineers, from epidemiologists and vaccine researchers to climate scientists and behavioural modelers.
Overview and the critical issues
The UK Association for Science and Discovery Centres (ASDC) is the national STEM educational charity that brings together the UK’s major Science and Discovery Centres, including Science Centres, environmental and natural history centres and other national and local STEM organisations focussed on engaging the public with science.
These charitable Science Centres are cultural resources in the hearts of our nation’s regional cities and towns. Together they engage millions of children and adults each year with all areas of science, from health and the environment to physics and technology.
They collectively employ over 5000 skilled science educators and support staff and have a turnover of over £200 million. Over half of the millions they engage with STEM each year are girls and women and they are the main vital STEM engagement and learning hubs across our nation. They also engage over millions of school children with STEM each year and are vital expertise creating a wider STEM ecosystem across the communities and cities where they exist.
These major science and cultural resources, often with their iconic infrastructure, are embedded in communities across the UK from Eden Project in Cornwall to Aberdeen Science Centre in Scotland, and from W5 in Belfast, to the National Space Centre in Leicester, Thinktank in Birmingham, Life in Newcastle and We The Curious in Bristol.
They support teachers and schools, families and communities and bring inspirational science to some of the most disadvantaged children in our nation. Around them they have created a wider STEM learning ecosystem, including youth programmes and STEM programmes for families in some of our nation’s most disadvantaged communities.
Due to Covid-19, across the UK, in cities and towns, the nation’s Science Centres have closed their public venues. They are all successful education charities, and they earn their income by delivering inspirational school science workshops, lively STEM activities for communities, supporting local teachers, and providing participatory STEM days out for families. They work closely with those in their cities least likely to engage with science in communities high on the indices of multiple deprivation.
These robust and entrepreneurial STEM education charities in cities and regions across the UK had their entire incomes cut off overnight, from all revenue streams including family ticket sales, event bookings, conferencing, school bookings, car parks, cafes and shops.
The additional impact of timing
Science Centres would right now be embarking on their huge Easter holiday programmes, one of their busiest revenue-generating periods of the year, with families paying to bring their children across the UK to learn about science, technology, engineering and maths.
They will also be closed through the busiest school visit period in May and June, when teachers around the UK take their primary classes out on summer visits for special science curriculum-linked workshops, as well as May half-term. The revenue from this is vital to Science Centres survival.
If this continues for longer, and without the summer holiday revenue, most science centres would not survive the year without Government Support. Alongside this all their STEM community engagement programmes nationally working with some of the most disadvantaged children have had to stop.
Data and financial losses
The UK Association for Science and Discovery Centres has collected data from across the UK Science Centres in two phases to gain a robust picture of the financial risk level and what is needed. The first phase was before furloughing was announced, the second after.
We asked all UK Science Centres about staff numbers, numbers of jobs at risk (FTE and individuals), monthly wage bills before and after furloughing, fixed costs to maintain facilities, insurances and the like, and how many staff would need to be retained and not furloughed as part of a resilience team. These teams include, for example minimum numbers from HR, payroll, facility safety, leadership teams and skeleton digital.
From this evidence, to secure their future whilst their income has been cut off, the sector would need a National Emergency Resilience Fund for UK Science Centres of £25 million to support the UK Science Centres. This would be needed for as long as Science Centres have to remain closed and the furlough arrangements are in place.
With this Emergency Fund, the UK Science Centres would be in a resilient position for the future to better survive this forced shut down with no income, so they can keep their science centre sites secure, their payroll and HR operating for furloughed staff, deliver any charitable obligations, renegotiate existing contracts and ensure their relationships with schools and communities continue and thrive so they are ready to re-open when the time comes.
The generous furloughing scheme and claiming 80% of salaries has been a lifeline for all these science education charities. Each of these STEM charities took immediate action following the announcement, with over 70% of staff being furloughed immediately to protect the longer-term future of each Science Centre. This reduced their wage bills considerably, and a number of senior staff also took wage cuts to protect the charities through this difficult time.
However, Science Centres cannot furlough all their staff. They require payroll, HR, facilities, Site Health and Safety, digital, and staff dealing with and renegotiating current contracts and cancelling events, conference bookings at their centres and school bookings. In addition, there are fixed costs such as rents, utilities and insurances that must be paid each month.
The UK Association for Science and Discovery Centres has been running weekly zoom meetings with all the CEOs and senior staff across the sector to share approaches, processes and knowledge at this difficult time, in addition to specialist meetings on the impacts of coronavirus on capital build projects, contracts and other matters.
Another factor of considerable assistance – and no cost – would be if the furlough rules were relaxed for charities. It would be hugely helpful if staff were able to volunteer a proportion of their time back to their charity.
Other Generous Government Support
The generous £160 million offered by Arts Council England is a huge benefit however, most future-focussed Science Centres are not eligible for this funding as they are not museums. Nor are they able to apply for Heritage funds.
Charities are also not able to take advantage of the generous terms of the business loans, as the rules for charities differ in terms of taking on substantial debt in a climate such as this, as they need to pass the going concern test. Likewise, the Business Rates relief is of limited value as charities already pay only a very small proportion of this. The only UK central funding that has come to Science Centres in a decade, was secured by ASDC 4 years ago for capital programmes from BEIS, who share so many of our STEM ambitions.
The £750 million for charities announced last week is also wonderful and much needed for the hospices and those protecting vulnerable adults, however, Science Centres could not apply for this.
The UK Association for Science and Discovery Centres propose that the UK Government take measures to protect this vital STEM and cultural sector at the heart of communities across the UK that has taken decades to grow, with investment from all sectors, and is considered to be world-leading in innovation and approach. Once lost they cannot be easily replaced.
An investment now, for £25 million, would save the sector and the 5000 skilled jobs currently at risk. There has never been a more vital time to protect a sector which brings brilliant science, technology, engineering, and maths, to schools, families and communities across the UK.
Science has driven so much of the UK’s COVID-19 response. This is not the time to lose our world-leading Science Centres with staff and expertise in these areas. We are needed now more than ever to help people make sense of what is happening and to inspire future generations of scientists, technology experts, mathematicians and engineers, from epidemiologists and vaccine researchers to climate scientists and modelers.
Dr Penny Fidler, CEO of The UK Association for Science and Discovery Centres would be happy to give evidence on behalf of the sector at any stage during this inquiry, or provide further information as needed.
Please note, some items in this information above have been updated in June 2020 to take account of the changing situation nationally. Please use this in place of the original submission.