Fourteen million people live in poverty in the UK. That figure – shocking enough – was before Covid-19 turned so many peoples’ finances upside down. In the coming weeks, it will rise exponentially due to sickness and job loss. Already there is talk of more than one million unemployed and that is just the start.
Recent days have seen the spirit that makes Britain great in full flight: extraordinary dedication from NHS staff, amazing numbers stepping forward to volunteer, local networks supporting communities. On top of that, the Government has put forward its massive financial rescue plan.
But behind these positive headlines there lies an ugly truth: hundreds of thousands of people are heading for poverty unless they get some money fast. These are people who may never have dreamt that they would face financial hardship, people who were doing just fine until coronavirus smashed into their lives. They are people who live in your street or down your lane, not people who would ever have been labelled as “poor”. And they feel great terror and shame.
The Government is doing its best to fund benefits as fast as they can but it is not fast enough. This is not a blame game, but the stark reality is that for the many who need it now, it will be at least five weeks before they can get their hands on any hard cash.
This is where Turn2us and the Telegraph’s Coronavirus Appeal can step in. Turn2us, the UK poverty charity, knows how to get money fast to those who need it most. We have been doing it for more than 120 years and our direct grant-giving capacity is a well-oiled machine. We have tried and trusted systems in place. We already give away over £3.5 million a year. But this crisis is going to need much more.
After the Grenfell Tower disaster we found that, despite generous funds mounting to millions, many of the victims were desperate for immediate cash to pay for basics for their families. Turn2us was able to help. Afterwards, a number of people asked me why we gave victims money, when so many millions had been donated. The answer was speed.
The same applies now. In the eight years that I have been a trustee, I have learnt how a financial grant from Turn2us can save families from falling into the poverty trap – a trap that may hold them for many generations. And with that grant comes dignity and well-being, and a chance for families to thrive again.
Almost a third of applicants to Turn2us who have been affected by coronavirus have told us that they can no longer afford to buy food. We must act now. I sympathise if you are already feeling charity fatigue. But please don’t let that stop you. The lives of many will depend upon it.
Sally O’Sullivan is chairman of Turn2us
To make a donation to the Telegraph Coronavirus Appeal, visit telegraph.co.uk/appeal or call 0151 284 1927 (Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm)