Coronavirus: Worst-hit communities to receive charity boost

By Callum May
BBC News

Donations at Horncastle Food BankImage source, Pool
Image caption,
Donations at Horncastle Food Bank

A charity fund to help communities hit hard by coronavirus has started distributing millions of pounds in donations.

The National Emergencies Trust, set up after the Grenfell fire, has already raised £20m for its coronavirus appeal and is aiming to raise far more.

Its chairman Lord Dannatt hopes the fund will bring the UK together.

And Sue Fortune of Lincolnshire Community Foundation said it was "hugely important to donate".

"Those who are self-isolating with underlying health conditions need access to food, they need access to advice and they need access to medicines to keep them alive," said Ms Fortune.

As the coronavirus lockdown hits livelihoods, there has been a 300% increase in demand for food and hygiene parcels at the Horncastle food bank, in Lincolnshire.

The food bank is one of the first projects to benefit from the fund.

The National Emergencies Trust was set up in 2017 to ensure cash from the huge wave of generosity in the wake of the fire reached the people who needed it most.

Teleconferencing facilities

And the Net's Coronavirus Appeal is its first major challenge since the fire.

The money will be distributed by the UK's 46 community foundations, a national network of smaller charities.

Grants of between £500 and £1,000 have already been given to food banks, organisations helping deliver food parcels to those in self-isolation and to help groups set up teleconferencing facilities.

Most of the donations have come from major businesses but there have also been contributions from the public.

Toughest time

At Horncastle, volunteers are also distributing hot meals for vulnerable people in isolation.

Ms Fortune, joint chief executive officer of the Lincolnshire Community Foundation says it is "hugely important that people donate to this appeal where they're able to".

"It will impact on families," she says. "It may impact on your parents, your grandparents, your children, your neighbours and your friends."

The charity sector is facing the toughest time in living memory, with predictions of a £4bn loss in the next 12 weeks, due to coronavirus.

British helpfulness

And Lord Dannatt, the former head of the British Army who now chairs the Trust, has said even major charities will need government help.

"The big charities need big money," he said.

"They need support from the government.

Image source, PA Media
Image caption,
Lord Dannatt was head of the Army between 2006 and 2009

"We can't hope to give the British Red Cross £50m or St John Ambulance £50m - but the money we're raising can make a real difference on the ground."

"In many ways we would like this spirit of British helpfulness to become a virus, if you like, more contagious than coronavirus itself.

"It is a great way for the country to come together."