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Support for Voluntary and Community Sector

Find out what support is available for charities, social enterprises, voluntary and community organisations. 

Community and Voluntary Sector Support

Current Government policy is that every organisation which generates over 50% of its income from trading will be eligible for the business support announced. There are no restrictions on legal form (i.e. CIC, registered charity, community benefit society etc.).

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

Any UK entity with a payroll is eligible for this scheme. If your business operations have been severely impacted by COVID-19, you can furlough your employees and claim 80% of their wages, up to a cap of £2,500 per month. 


Any business with a UK payroll can apply, including charities, recruitment agencies and public sector organisations, as long as:

  • they have created and started a PAYE scheme after 28 February 2020
  • they are enrolled in PAYE online
  • they have a UK bank account

Claims can be made for any employee or apprentice on any kind of contract, as long as they were on the payroll on or before 28 February 2020. Any employee hired after this date cannot be furloughed. 

If you made employees redundant, on or after 28 February 2020, you can re-employ them and put them on furlough and claim wages through the scheme.

If your employee is on unpaid leave, you can claim their wages through the scheme for any unpaid leave after 28 February 2020. 

If an employee is sick or self-shielding, if they are sick they will be eligible for Statutory Sick pay (costs for two weeks can be claimed back by the employer) after their sick leave they can be furloughed and paid for through the scheme. If they are self shielding, they can be furloughed and claimed for through the scheme.

Employees can volunteer or undertake training while furloughed, as long as the training does not generate income for the business. 

View more information


Statutory Sick Pay

The Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme will repay employers the current rate of SSP that they pay to current or former employees for periods of sickness starting on or after 13 March 2020.

If you’re an employer who pays more than the current rate of SSP you can only claim the current rate amount. Organisations with fewer than 250 employees can get support for paying sick pay to employees. 

The business must have a PAYE scheme, which was created on or before 28 February 2020. Employers can receive a repayment of two weeks sick pay provided the employee could not work because they:

  • have coronavirus
  • cannot work because they are self-isolating at home

Employees do not need a doctors fit note. 

You can use the scheme as an employer if:

  • you’re claiming for an employee who’s eligible for sick pay due to coronavirus
  • you have a PAYE payroll scheme that was created and started on or before 28 February 2020
  • you had fewer than 250 employees on 28 February 2020

You can claim back from both the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme for the same employee but not for the same period of time for that employee.

The scheme covers all types of employment contracts, including:

  • full-time employees
  • part-time employees
  • employees on agency contracts
  • employees on flexible or zero-hour contracts
  • fixed term contracts (until the date their contract ends)

HMRC will let you know when the scheme will end.

Find out more information

Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme


Organisations are eligible for the loan scheme if:

  • they are UK based
  • their annual turnover is no more than £45 million
  • Have a borrowing proposal which the lender:

They must also have a borrowing proposal which the lender:

a) would consider viable, were it not for the COVID-19 pandemic

b) believes will enable you to trade out of any short-term to medium-term difficulty

Businesses from any sector can apply, except the following:

  • Banks and building societies
  • Insurers and reinsurers (but not insurance brokers)
  • Public-sector organisations, including state-funded primary and secondary schools

The scheme is currently open. British Bank are responsible for running this scheme.

View full information on their website

Applications are open, businesses should apply through a lenders website, there are 40 accredited providers. 

Apply with Ulster Bank

Apply with Danske Bank 

Apply with Bank of Ireland

Apply with Santander

Apply with Barclays

View the full list

Tax - Time to Pay

All businesses and self-employed people in financial distress, and with outstanding tax liabilities, may be eligible to receive support with their tax affairs through HMRC’s Time To Pay service.

Call the tax helpline: 0800 024 1222 or alternatively chat online: Tax Support HMRC Webchat


Charities may be considering whether they can help the effort to tackle COVID-19 and its severe impact on people and communities. A charity should first consider the terms of your charity’s existing charitable purposes (sometimes known as objects). These are set out in your governing document. 

Purposes that might already allow you to offer support include:

  • the relief of poverty
  • the relief of need hardship or distress
  • the relief of the elderly
  • the advancement of education or advancement in life of young people
  • the advancement of health

Trustees of charities with other purposes may also be able to adapt and respond to COVID-19 either directly or indirectly.

If your existing purposes do not allow you to help, you may be able to amend your governing document to change them. But consider carefully:

  • whether there are other charities that may be better placed to respond than yours.
  • the wider and longer-term impacts if you use your charity’s money for purposes other than those for which it was raised. Your existing beneficiaries - whose needs may be less pressing but no less deserving - may also lose out

See guidance on changing your governing document

COVID-19 Charities Fund

Communities Minister Deidre Hargey has announced a Covid-19 Charities fund worth £15 million to help support local charities that have been impacted by the current COVID-19 crisis.

More information is expected in the coming weeks.

Read more

Annual Reporting

At the present time, and until otherwise advised, no charity will be penalised for missing its annual reporting deadline. This means that no charity will be marked as in default on the register of charities if they fail to meet their annual reporting deadline.

Volunteering to Support COVID-19


Volunteer Now have launched a campaign, #HelpEachOther which gives people an opportunity to register their interest in volunteering to support those who need it most. 

Organisations who need volunteers to support their efforts can register their volunteering opportunities on the Volunteer Now Website 

Volunteers who wish to get involved with an organisation can register here where they will receive dedicated COVID-19 roles and receive regular contact from Volunteer Now. 

Volunteer Now has paused recruitment of volunteers for the #HelpEachOtherCampaign

Emergency Volunteering Leave

Suitably skilled and/or experienced workers will be able to take Emergency Volunteering Leave in blocks of two, three or four weeks during any sixteen-week volunteering period.

The Emergency Volunteering Leave is unpaid; however, a compensation scheme will be set up to compensate eligible emergency volunteers for some loss of income and expenses incurred.

To be eligible for this leave, employees must be certified by an appropriate authority to act as an emergency volunteer in health or social care. In Northern Ireland, the appropriate authorities are:

  • the Department of Health
  • a Regional Health and Social Care Board
  • a Health and Social Care trust

To avail of the Emergency Volunteering Leave, employees must give their employers at least three working days' notice and the certificate provided by the appropriate authority.

Community Support within Ards and North Down Area

Ards and North Down has a strong community and voluntary sector, we also have lots of constituted community organisations. However, we are also aware that lots of localised groups have been informally set up to support their own neighbours. Ards and North Down Borough Council need information on all of these, and we need to be able to share this information with others. 

If you are a local company and have arrangements in place to help people access food or medicines please email and someone will contact you to get the details so we can share your information. 

Ards and North Down Borough Council is also involved with the Department for Communities in delivering food boxes to the most vulnerable in society. If you know of someone who needs a food parcel, please register them by:

Telephoning: 0808 802 0020 (9am-5pm 7 days a week) or


Funding: Grants

There are grants available to organisations in the sector to continue their good work in communities. 

Thomas Wall Trust

The Thomas Wall Trust charities grant programme aims to support people with an emphasis on building confidence, knowledge and skills, and therefore increasing prospects of employment. They offer grants up to £5,000 towards specific projects or core activities that support literacy, numeracy, digital and additional skills for learning that are likely to assist employment prospects. The Trust recognises that the future of the labour market will become increasingly competitive, with employers placing greater emphasis on transferable skills.

Find out more

Community Foundation Northern Ireland

The Coronavirus Community Fund is available to constituted organisations in Northern Ireland. 


The current focus is to support groups and organisations working with the following communities and issues and that are affected by coronavirus  

  • Older people (aged over 50) 
  • Those at increased risk, particularly in relation to poor mental health and wellbeing   
  • Vulnerable isolated people and families, particularly those living in rural areas, families where a parent/ both parents have lost their employment or where children are living in poverty
  • Children and young people’s projects, particularly focusing on the voice of young people and connecting through creative mediums

Grants of £1,000 - £10,000 are available. 

Find out more information

Social Investment Business: Resilience and Recovery Loan Fund

The Resilience & Recovery Loan Fund (RRLF) is a new fund for social enterprises and charities who are experiencing disruption to their normal business model as a result of COVID-19. It has been established to make an existing government scheme (the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS - see below) more easily accessible to charities and social enterprises.

RRLF is intended for those organisations who face a problem because expected income and activity has been delayed or disrupted. A loan may help with this, providing working capital until normal business can commence again.

Purposes that are included:

  1. Lending until government payments are received (e.g. contracts, furlough etc).
  2. Lending to cover delays in trade payments (trade debtors).
  3. Lending to support the rapid scaling up of an existing business model to meet an increased demand for services during the crisis.
  4. Lending to provide a bridge to cover revenue shortfall for proven and profitable trading activity.

Regarding Purpose Number 4 above: trading or retail models that rely heavily on footfall / shared office space that are likely to continue to be affected by social distancing are unlikely to be suitable/be able to prove viability.

Purposes that are excluded:

  • Loans to materially adapt or pivot an organisation’s business model.
  • Loans for pre-planned service expansion or capital projects not related to purpose 3 above.
  • Organisations that apply for a loan to provide additional financial cushion.
  • Loans that refinance an organisation’s existing borrowing

The RRLF can make loans alongside other lenders or grant providers. However, consideration will be given on how the overall investment will affect an organisations financial position and its ability to repay.

Eligible applicants will:

  • have been trading for a minimum of two years.
  • have a minimum turnover of £400k (to ensure the loan size does not exceed 25% of turnover in the last financial year)
  • have a turnover of less than £45m (whole group – if applicable).
  • have more than 50% of income from trading activity (whole group – if applicable).
  • trade in the UK and the loan will be used to support trading in the UK.
  • be able to confirm that the organisation has been adversely impacted by COVID-19.
  • be able to confirm that the organisation has a “viable” business proposition.
  • be able to confirm that the organisation was not an “undertaking in difficulty” as at 31 December 2019
  • be able to confirm that the loan will not be used in an excluded sector or to finance a specific Export Order.

This scheme is open.

Find out more information


Tesco Bags of Help COVID-19 Communities Fund

Tesco Bags of Help is responding to the current Coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis by setting up a new short-term fund to support local communities.

Eligible organisations

 Typically, the fund will prioritise organisations;

  • whose need for services has been disrupted – for example a food bank  whose stocks are running low and need an immediate donation to enable the food bank to restock. 
  • require to put in place new services – for example charities setting up a new home service for the elderly who usually attend a monthly lunch club or a charity needing to set up a telephone service to support beneficiaries.
  • Increased demand –  a holiday hunger club needs more resources due to schools closing, or a children’s centre needs an additional temporary staff member.

Businesses and ‘for profit’ organisations are not eligible.

Find out more information

National Lottery Emergency Heritage Fund

The National Lottery Heritage Fund has put together a £50million fund to support the heritage sector as an immediate response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.  

The £50m fund will be available for grants of between £3,000 and £50,000.

It is available to organisations across the full breadth of heritage, including historic sites, industrial and maritime heritage, museums, libraries and archives, parks and gardens, landscapes and nature.

This fund is open.

Find out more information

National Lottery Community Fund

The National Lottery Awards for All Fund will be prioritising applications for projects that are COVID-19 related for the next six months. 

They will prioritise applications from:

  • Organisations supporting people who are at high risk from COVID-19
  • Organisations supporting communities most likely to face increased demand and challenges as a direct result of measures to prevent the result of COVID-19
  • Organisations with high potential to support communities with the direct and indirect impact of COVID-19

Find out more information

Halifax Foundation NI

If your charity is closed at this time during Covid-19, there may be support that you can avail of to help you cover your costs.  We suggest that you contact your utility providers/landlord to seek support.

In order for organisations to be eligible to apply for our small, medium and large grant programmes, they must have an income of less than £1 million in the previous 12 months. For registered charities with a Headquarters based outside Northern Ireland, the income of their Northern Ireland operation will be the figure used to assess eligibility.

Up to £5,000 available.

View Small Grants Guidance

Find out more information

Grants Online

Grants Online is a grant support resource which details both national and regional support programmes that are available to businesses.

Go to Grants Online

Useful Contacts

NI Charity Commission

The Charity Commission for Northern Ireland is working to share and provide guidance to assist charities where possible as they navigate their way through this unprecedented health emergency.

Contact Details: 

View COVID-19 help for charities


The Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action is a membership and representative umbrella body for the voluntary and community sector in Northern Ireland.

Contact Details:

028 9087 7777

Support Form

They have launched a COVID-19 Information Hub, Go to Hub

Social Enterprise NI

Social Enterprise NI is the voice for social enterprises in Northern Ireland. 

Contact Details:

028 9046 1810

Go to Social Enterprise NI for more information and newsletter

Department for Communities

The Department for Communities works closely with Councils and organisations. 

Contact Details:

028 9082 9000

Go to Department for Communities 

Ards and North Down Borough Council: Communities

The Communities team at Ards and North Down Borough Council are continuing to work closely with organisations throughout the Borough during COVID-19. If you are a local company and have arrangements in place to help people access food or medicines please email and someone will contact you to get the details so we can share your information. 

Contact Details: 


View Directory of Services

Coronavirus Business Advice and Support

The AND business team is here to support you.

For further information or if you need help and advice, please get in touch via email or telephone 028 9147 3788