A charity sector chief has called for the immediate release of funds to charities in Northern Ireland who have had their income slashed due to coronavirus.

CO3 Chief Executive Nora Smith, pictured above, told a Stormont committee that charities here have lost millions of pounds in income.

Despite a £15.5million support fund announced by the Department for Communities weeks ago, there is still no detail on when it will open, or what charities can apply for it.

Since lockdown, more than three quarters of local charities have said they are in ‘serious financial difficulties’. Fundraising has been decimated and most are not eligible to apply for government backed support schemes.

Speaking after briefing the Communities Committee, Nora Smith, CO3 Chief Executive, said: “We are now into week nine of lockdown and charities are existing on severely depleted funds, with many workers on furlough. This is happening at a time when demand for services is greater than normal.

“Whilst the Covid Charities Fund was welcome news, charities are no closer to knowing if they are eligible and it is taking far too long to get clarity on the details of this fund.

“The government quickly made grants available to businesses in the early days of this pandemic, but most charities in the third sector have had no financial support whatsoever.

“Time is quickly running out, and redundancies are on the way. We are now entering the third month of this crisis and have already lost millions of pounds in fundraising. Entire organisations could go to the wall.

“We are calling on the Executive to address this financial emergency now and open this fund without further delay.”

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