11 August 2020, The Tablet

Catholic charities press government to raise Gift Aid rate

By increasing demand and significantly lowering revenues, the coronavirus pandemic has hit UK charities hard.

Catholic charities press government to raise Gift Aid rate

Volunteers from the Step to Hope charity carry meals in the grounds of The Parish Church of St Cuthbert in Edinburgh, April 26 2020
Andrew Milligan/PA Wire/PA Images

The Catholic Bishops of England and Wales along with leading Catholic organisations are calling for a higher rate of Gift Aid to be introduced.

Their request, made in an open letter to the Culture Secretary, Oliver Dowden, stressed that the change, which would provide charities with a cash boost, was urgently needed as lockdown measures are lifted.

Pointing to the difficult financial situation faced by many charities and churches as a result of the coronavirus crisis, the signatories, including the Catholic Union and Caritas Social Action Network, have requested an enhanced Gift Aid Scheme be introduced as soon as possible. With revenue falling and demand for services rising, the coronavirus pandemic was a “perfect storm” for many charities. 

Facing “extraordinary demand for their services,” many charities “also face extraordinary pressures”, according to the letter, and a new Gift Aid Scheme “would be a great help” as recovery from the pandemic begins. 

The coronavirus pandemic has hit charities hard, with one study by an independent thinktank estimating that one in ten UK charities face bankruptcy as a result of the pandemic. Pro Bono Economics estimated in June that the crisis would lead to a £6.4bn loss of income for charities over the next six months just as demand for extra services increased cost by £3.7bn.

The vast majority of the UK’s 170,000 charities are classified as ‘small’, with an income under £100,000, and have been particularly vulnerable to disruption caused by the pandemic. 

Currently, Gift Aid allows charities to claim an extra 25p for every £1 donated, a decrease on a previous scheme that allowed charities to claim 28p from the government for every £1 donation. Although the letter does not stipulate a specific level of Gift Aid, it does reference a recent campaign by the Institute of Fundraising calling for the rate to increase to 33p. According to the signatories of the letter, an increase to Gift Aid would mean that every £1 donated to charity would have the greatest possible benefit.

A spokesperson for the Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales, speaking in support of the letter, commented that “society must be reopened not only to healthy, employed and financially stable members of society but also to marginalised and vulnerable people”. Expressing the hope that the Gift Aid rate would be increased, the spokesperson praised the “crucial work” of charities in this regard.

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