Thursday 21 May, 2020
Goldsmiths’ Company Charity awards over £700,000 of grants through the COVID-19 fund
The Goldsmiths’ Company and Charity have awarded over £700,000 in grants to people working in the craft, trade and allied industries who face financial hardship because of the current crisis, following the launch of the £1 million Goldsmiths’ Covid-19 Fund on 22 April.
The emergency fund was set up to provide immediate financial relief to the self-employed, sole traders or those running micro-businesses (four people or fewer) in the jewellery and silversmithing industries. Grants of £1,500 have been awarded to almost 500 people who, according to Richard Fox, Prime Warden (Chairman-equivalent) of the Goldsmiths’ Company, had “fallen through the cracks” and were “unable to access government funding, certainly early in the crisis.” Recipients are receiving their grants in equal instalments over three months.
In an industry survey of 700 people, conducted by the Goldsmiths’ Company in April and May, 39% said that they were uncertain about whether their business would survive the crisis and still be trading in six months’ time (October 2020). Half said that they were experiencing financial difficulties such as paying salaries, suppliers, pension contributions, bills or taxes. 48% said that their operations had effectively stopped ‘for the time being’ and 38% said they were operating at a ‘significantly reduced capacity’.
Richard Fox says, “The gradual easing of lockdown restrictions will see the wheels of industry slowly start to turn again. For example, all UK Assay offices are now offering hallmarking services to customers, at a reduced level, and bullion dealers have begun trading. However, it is far too early to predict what the economic situation will be for our industry post-crisis.”
Richard believes that, to ensure the long-term survival of the industry, the Company and Charity will need to look ahead at the provision of longer-term business support. That is why the Fund is holding back some money for the time being, for allocation in the coming months.
The Goldsmiths’ Covid-19 Fund was originally set up to offer a mixture of grants and loans to the smallest and most vulnerable sole traders and micro businesses, with the £1 million split equally between the two schemes. However, demand for grants was so high that the Directors of the Goldsmiths’ Company Charity decided to increase the value of the grants in the Fund from £500,000 to £700,000 to support more people needing immediate financial relief.
“The demand for grants was greater than we had estimated,” Richard comments. “Many people in our industry have and continue to face hardship. They are struggling to keep their businesses afloat during the coronavirus pandemic, and we felt it was important to extend our support through grants rather than loans.”
The Directors of the Goldsmiths’ Company Charity have decided not to pursue the loan scheme within the Fund because the government is supporting small businesses through the Bounce Back Loan Scheme (BBLS), and because of the high demand for the grant scheme. The Company and Charity are committed to using the pledged £1 million to support the craft and trade.
Richard concludes, “We remain absolutely committed to using the full amount in the Fund (£1 million) to support people in the trade facing hardship as a result of the coronavirus crisis. We have given grants totalling around 25% more than the amount originally allocated, and we are now looking at how best to support the future of our trade from the remaining balance in the Fund. We fully anticipate, based on feedback from our industry, that there will be a need for financial assistance to support business in the months ahead, and the Goldsmiths will do our very best to help.”
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