By Steve Duncan

When the coronavirus pandemic is a distant memory one word will stand out for me more than any other – that word is UNPRECEDENTED. Every Government press conference, every interview every news bulletin described the spread and impact of covid-19 as ‘unprecedented’. There was an unprecedented use of the word unprecedented!

The Government, following the scientific advice of SAGE (scientific advisory group for emergencies) and the Great British public, through their adherence to lockdown restrictions have ‘flattened the curve’. Talk is focusing more and more now on when the restrictions will be lifted and when we can return to our offices, community centres, nurseries, sports grounds and leave the confines of our homes and start to be around people again; albeit at a safe distance!

Returning to our place of work would obviously be welcomed but what sort of ‘normal’ are we about to move into? This scenario is unprecedented and therefore it’s almost impossible to predict what the Government will do and when they will do it. And importantly nobody really knows what this unprecedented pandemic has done to our voluntary sector in Calderdale?

Casualties are inevitable

The voluntary and community sector (Third Sector) in Calderdale is a rich tapestry of organisations from large charities with healthy reserves and paid staff to volunteer run self-sufficient community groups.

The impact of the coronavirus on the UK economy is unprecedented and we will all be feeling the effects of, and in some way paying for, the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s supportive measures to help preserve jobs, prop up businesses and charities for many years to come.

Covid-19 is not all doom and gloom, it presents us with a fantastic unprecedented opportunity…

What we need now is real honesty, maturity and a collective responsibility from our voluntary sector leaders, and we need to lose the sense of entitlement some have around funding and practical support. We have all seen established household brands collapse one by one and the stark reality is that we will also lose well known charities. Local funders such as Community Foundation for Calderdale (CFFC) will not have the financial resources to bail out all the Calderdale charities in need of a cash injection and neither will the Council or other previously reliable sources of funding. Funders will have to make life or death decisions on funding applications…

Using coronavirus terminology… We therefore need to triage the voluntary sector organisations in Calderdale urgently to determine which require oxygen, which require a ventilator, and which organisations can’t be saved.

Determining whether to support an organisation with practical support and/or funding will depend on how robust (healthy) an organisation is both from a governance point of view and financially.

If your organisation has ‘underlying conditions’ such as a weak board of trustees or little or no reserves, then your organisation is most at risk. If you cherish your organisation, it’s mission and the people you help then please, please don’t mask over the problems or bury your head in the sand, do something about it before it’s too late.