Vital charitable trust grants totalling £880,000 aimed at tackling inequality and social exclusion have been put on ice as a result of coronavirus.
Shetland Charitable Trust has warned its new funding scheme has been suspended as a result of the outbreak, although “core funding grants” will still be paid with £3.7 million to be distributed next month.
The organisation says many of the new activities that were being proposed to the trust for the “Main Grants Scheme” would not have been able to proceed as planned due to the circumstances.
But solace is being offered to charitable groups – in particular the three main trusts operating in the isles, which have each had to close down their operations in light of Covid-19.
The charitable trust says it is still preparing to pay out its core funding grants from 1st April “as planned” to provide the necessary cash support. Some £3.7m will be paid in April with second installments expected to be made in October.
It comes a week after the amenity trust’s chief executive Mat Roberts berated the level of Westminster support for third sector groups in the aftermath of the coronavirus outbreak, although support is being offered to charities by the Scottish government.
Shetland Museum and Archives has already closed its doors until further notice and swimming pools, leisure centres and Mareel were all closed up even before this week’s lockdown announcement.
Shetland Charitable Trust chairman Andrew Cooper said it was “crucial” that Shetland was able to retain its network of trusts and charities.
“These activities have had to be curtailed greatly to help stem the spread of the virus but these organisations will continue to incur wage and running costs.
“Payment of grant instalments will provide some reassurance and stability for the coming months while we all watch and await developments with grave concern.
“It is still early days and the trust will aim to respond and adapt its role as required in the best interests of the Shetland community.”
Meanwhile, the trust’s externally invested funds continue to be impacted by the “difficult” financial markets worldwide resulting from the spread of Covid-19.
Dr Cooper said: “We are fortunate that trust funds benefited from strong growth early in the financial year, which helped reduce some of the impact of markets plummeting in recent months.
“As it stands, trust funds are basically back where they started the financial year. The externally invested funds are currently valued at around £280 million, having begun 2019/2020 at £284 million, before we spent around £9 million on annual funding for local organisations.
“The trust invests for the long term and trustees put in place a prudent financial strategy in September. We don’t anticipate having to amend our approach at this stage but we continue to monitor events closely.”