"Charities must be able to survive": Nuneaton and Warwickshire Wildlife Sanctuary owner discusses the impact of Covid-19 lockdown
In conversation with The Parliamentary Review, Geoffrey Grewcock, owner and founder of Nuneaton & Warwickshire Wildlife Sanctuary, discusses how the Covid-19 outbreak has affected the day-to-day running and potentially the very future of animal sanctuaries across the UK and further afield.
One of the key challenges for Nuneaton & Warwickshire Wildlife Sanctuary that Grewcock highlighted was the enforcing of the UK lockdown and the difficulties of continuing to operate while adhering to social distancing guidelines.
“At our sanctuary, we have always provided a 24/7 service for injured and sick wildlife”, Grewcock said.
“This has remained the case but there are new measures that are now in place to adhere with government social distancing guidelines, namely by operating with a no-contact drop box.
“Fortunately, these changes have not compromised the treatment and care of animals, but what it has done is abolished our ability to inform, reassure and educate, which does hamper our ability to work effectively. Gaining background on an injury or providing feedback to a person who has found an injured bird or other creature and brought it to us for medical attention, is an important element of community spirit and it truly helps raise awareness of our cause. The outbreak has certainly had an impact on this”.
However, one of the greatest challenges that Grewcock felt he had to contend with was informing the sanctuary’s network of volunteers that they would no longer be able to report for their duties.
He said: “It has been, for me, one of the hardest decisions to implement: having to tell most of my dedicated team to stay at home during lockdown. It also throws up the challenge then of having to operate at our full capacity with what is essentially a skeleton crew.
“All of the sanctuary staff are unpaid volunteers, and this has always been a major part of our success,” Grewcock explained.
“We have found that people who volunteer their free time are always filled with passion for the role. This means that best practice standards of care, cleanliness and kindness are always achieved.
“This works both ways of course, and our volunteers have always been very vocal about what it means to them to work with our animals, especially in terms of their mental wellbeing. Knowing that coming to work at the sanctuary was quite often their highlight of the week and having to take that away from them was heart-breaking”.
The economics of the sanctuary have also come under huge strain as a result of the outbreak, as has been the case for businesses and organisations all over the UK.
Grewcock said: “The sanctuary economics are both driven by money and consumables both of which have severely declined in the face of the Covid-19 outbreak.
“Donations which we rely heavily upon have completely stopped due to us placing the sanctuary on physical lockdown. Online donations have also declined rapidly, which I imagine is due to the decrease in salary for those individuals who have been furloughed under the Job Retention Scheme.
“With regard to the animals in our care, we rely very heavily on donations of consumable items including bedding and food. Our intake of these items has completely halted”.
Grewcock believes that generating enough resources at this time to help sustain the 80 animals under the sanctuary’s care will be the greatest challenge that it will face.
“Providing sufficient amounts of food, clean bedding and proper medical care to our animals will be the biggest hurdle”, Grewcock said. “Public donation in any form, be that money, consumables or even time, is the most valued gift that any animal sanctuary could possibly receive in these times.
“As a charity, we can only hope that in these unprecedented times we are able to survive, and that goes for the entire charitable sector. In our case, it is not solely about what the sanctuary’s survival means for Britain’s local wildlife, but also about the importance of the sanctuary to the local community.
“All charities have a part to play in their communities, and it is for their sake that charities must be able to survive these trying times”.