RSPCA to make nearly a fifth of staff redundant amid pandemic


Animal welfare charity is latest victim of financial storm battering voluntary sector

The RSPCA, the UK’s biggest animal welfare charity, has become the latest victim of the coronavirus-related financial storm battering the voluntary sector, announcing it is to make nearly a fifth of its 1,600 staff redundant.

The charity, which each year rescues thousands of neglected and abused animals and prosecutes their owners, faces a shortfall of £20m-£25m this year, caused in part by the collapse in charity fundraising since lockdown.

A new analysis has indicated that UK charities face collective financial losses of £12.4bn by the end of this financial year as a result of rising costs and a steep fall in donations.

The RSPCA said it was unable to say whether frontline animal care and protection roles would be affected by the cuts until the proposals had been presented to staff as part of a formal consultation next week.

The charity rescued 103,000 animals in 2018, according to its latest available figures, and rehomed nearly 40,000 animals in 2019. It prosecuted 661 people for animal abuses and gave out more than 48,000 advice and welfare notices to help owners improve how they care for their animals.

“We know this is a really difficult time for our staff and the proposals we are putting forward have not been taken lightly. This is an incredibly challenging time for charities – the current crisis has exacerbated an already difficult financial situation our organisation faces,” the chief executive, Chris Sherwood, said.

“We are a large animal charity offering many welfare services for pets, wildlife, farm animals and research animals both here and abroad. We are the only charity with a team of inspectors across England and Wales going out 365 days a year, rescuing animals and then caring for, treating and rehabilitating those animals, sometimes for many months on end, which is incredibly costly.”

Charities in the UK lost almost a third of their expected income during the first two months of lockdown, according to the Institute of Fundraising (IoF) and Charity Finance Group (CFG), with donation levels over the year expected to plunge by nearly half as the recession takes hold.

A quarter of charities had reported a 25% increase in demand during May. Of the 100 charities surveyed, 5% said they would be forced to close as a result of financial difficulties, while 77% said they would stay open but only by reducing services.

Caron Bradshaw, the chief executive of the CFG, said: “This isn’t about the survival of the institution of charity, or individual charities, but the devastating impact that this will have on those who rely on the services charities provide.”

Peter Lewis, the chief executive of the IoF, said: “The government urgently needs to review and enhance its emergency support for charities, with a further bespoke package of support, an extension to the job retention scheme specifically supporting those charitable activities which are still unable to take place, or both.”

The survey is broadly in line with an analysis published last week by the charity Pro Bono Economics that estimated a £10bn shortfall for the sector by Christmas.

In April, the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, announced £750m of extra funding for frontline charities across the UK, a move that was criticised as not going far enough to save many third-sector organisations from collapse.


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