Charities and other organisations need your help
The coronavirus outbreak is the biggest problem the country has faced for decades, and many want to help others overcome the effects of the disease.
But doing this is not simple. There is an array of charities and organisations aiding those in need, but it can still be hard to track the right one down and work out how to donate.
Volunteering your own time to help can also be off putting to many, who understandably worry about the risk of contracting Covid-19 and passing it on to others.
A further complication is that scammers are pretending to be good Samaritans to defraud those in need, leaving those with genuine intentions unsure how to help and not hinder.
Here we explain some of the ways you can give your time or money to help those affected by the pandemic. However, the most helpful thing most of us can do is stay at home.
1. Giving money to good causes
Giving money is the safest way to help offset the effects of Covid-19, as if this is done online it does not require contact with others.
Those who can spare some money can donate to a number of charities. There are many that only offer help in local areas, so keep an eye out for any near you.
Alternatively a countrywide one is the National Emergencies Trust. This is a supercharity that redistributes donations to smaller charities around the country. It is running a coronavirus appeal, and you can donate to it online or by texting the word 'APPEAL' to 70141 to give £10.
A spokesperson for Resolver, the complaints resolution service, says: “The National Emergencies Trust is one of the most highly recommended charities for donations in these times, as they channel the money into localised causes all around the UK via grants.”
The Association of Charitable Organisations also has a list of British charities taking coronavirus donations here.
For those who want to give money to groups fighting the virus across the world, the Disaster Recovery Network (DRN) is a good option.
The DRN is part of the philanthropic crowdfunding organisation Global Giving, and is running a coronavirus fundraiser.
Cash raised will be spent around the world on activities such as sending medical staff into areas of need and buying equipment such as ventilators and face masks.
Ways to give money to the DRN include online payments, text messages and bank transfers.
Many non-coronavirus charities are struggling at the moment as the pandemic has hit their fundraising. If you are able to, now is a good time to set up a direct debit to one to help ensure they survive. Give time to any decisions to cancel pre-existing charity direct debits.
2. Tick the Gift Aid box
If you pay tax in the UK, you can add gift aid every time you make a donation to charity. For every £1 you donate, the charity can reclaim an additional 25p from HM Revenue and Customs. If you are a higher rate taxpayer you can claim the difference between the basic and the higher rate on your donation when you fill in your annual tax return.
3. Donating your time
Volunteering your time is a potential health risk if it involves contact with others outside your house, and Government advice is that the safest way to help tackle Covid-19 is to stay at home.
But if you can, there are many good causes to volunteer your time to and help overcome the social effects of coronavirus.
The NHS was overwhelmed with 750,000 volunteers late last month after it asked for the public to help deliver medicine, bring patients to appointments and more. The healthcare service has now paused the application process while it handles this backlog of volunteers.
One such volunteer is Peter Izard, 48, who lives in Sussex and works for Investec Private Bank. Izard has put himself forward for tasks such as delivering prescriptions to those in need.
“I volunteered as I had a sense of wanting to help, and of public duty,” Izard says. “We are on a sort of war footing against something we cannot see. I wanted to help in any way I could, within the Government guidelines.”
Izard, who has not had coronavirus, says he is mentally and physically well and that for him volunteering is a calculated risk.
“There are also many things you can do to mitigate that risk”, Izard says, “such as using hand sanitiser and keeping social distancing. But I can't stand by and do nothing.”
Aside from helping the NHS there are other ways to give your time to organisations tackling coronavirus.
Caroline Wells, of Different Petal Consulting, says: “Masses of people have volunteered for the NHS volunteers programme, which is amazing, but there will be local community groups crying out for volunteers to help meet the needs of isolated and vulnerable people.”
Wells says the National Council for Voluntary Organisations is a good place to find those needing help, as is Facebook.
The charity Business in the Community has also set up a website to connect organisations that need coronavirus help with businesses and people able to give it.
For example, elderly charities Food Train and Age Scotland want volunteers to do shopping for older people and deliver them medicines.
Other organisations need help with phoning people who are isolated, or donating money or technology to help people stay connected during the coronavirus lockdown.
If you volunteer your time then be careful to keep your distance from others as much as possible. If you help someone by shopping for them, combine that with your own shopping trips to minimise the risk of spreading Covid-19.
4. Donating food and goods
The coronavirus outbreak also means many have lost income and cannot make ends meet. The Government has promised to pay up to 80% of salaries for those struggling due to coronavirus, but these payments can take weeks to arrange.
Many have turned to food banks in the meantime. These can struggle not just from increased demand but from decreased donations due to panic buying meaning less stock on supermarket shelves.
You can donate to your local food bank. Alternatively the Trussell Trust is a network of food banks, and is taking donations of food, money and consumer goods.
5. Giving to the NHS
Tens of thousands of NHS staff are on the front line of the fight against coronavirus, putting themselves at risk to help others.
The NHS is organised into regions, and most areas have their own charity, as do many individual hospitals. But if you do not want to choose you can give to NHS Charities Together, an umbrella body for all of them.
Cash raised will help pay for treats for NHS staff, mental health support and help for coronavirus patients, among other causes.
If you would rather donate to healthcare in a specific area, many NHS charities have set up their own fundraising pages.
These include the St George’s Hospital Charity, which raises cash to help the staff of St George’s Hospital in London.
Jacqueline Totterdell, chief executive of St George’s, says: “The money raised by donating to this thank you appeal will help provide support to our staff at a difficult time, in an organised way.”
But the NHS also needs donations of another type – blood. The NHS Blood and Transplant division says it needs more donors, as many are staying away due to Government advice about staying home during coronavirus. However, going to give blood is permitted under lockdown rules.
Stay safe from scams
But be careful of giving your money to a fraudster posing as a legitimate charity or organisation. One scam involves fraudsters pretending to be NHS staff and collecting money for a coronavirus vaccine. The National Fraud Intelligence Bureau has also had reports about coronavirus-related phishing emails attempting to trick people into opening malicious attachments or revealing personal or financial information. To stay safe, be wary of cold callers and do your research on any cause you are thinking of donating to.