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26.03.2020

Coronavirus: Icon writes to leaders seeking urgent support for conservation

This week Icon has written to leaders across Government outlining the serious impact the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is having on the UK cultural heritage sector that relies on audiences, visitors, public participation and a significant number of freelancers and sole traders. 

In letters to the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Chief Executive Sara Crofts called for urgent support to help the sector to cope with the unforeseen financial challenges ahead, proposing measures including:

  • Further clarity and continued communications on timescales for implementing social distancing policies to help the sector plan ahead. 
  • A targeted and coordinated emergency package of support for the cultural heritage sector. 
  • A Temporary Income Protection fund or some other measure for the self-employed to cover loss of income.

In a separate letter to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Sara commended the Government’s actions to support communities and businesses amidst the crisis and extended Icon’s extreme gratitude for the fortitude of NHS frontline staff. The letter outlined how the cultural heritage sector could play a part in supporting people and communities during and after the crisis by offering opportunities to participate in activities that can help mitigate and prevent wellbeing challenges.

Icon also sought clarity on the Government’s guidance on ‘essential working’ from the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government. Current guidance requires people to stay home unless they are going outside for food, health reasons or ‘essential work.’ This has left the construction industry and the significant number of cultural heritage professionals that work within it confused. We asked the Government to publish specific guidance on whether construction-related work is considered ‘essential’ and if heritage sector companies and conservation professionals should continue to work on site. 

Icon is working hard to lobby for support for conservators with Government and decision makers. We are collaborating closely with The Heritage Alliance and other sector bodies to coordinate our efforts and to offer guidance to cultural heritage organisations at this challenging time. We have been invited to join a cross-sector group that is providing briefings to Government via DCMS. Having access to this direct channel of communication places us in a good position to raise concerns and propose solutions. We are confident that we can use this to advantage to gain better support for the cultural heritage community and the collections in our care.

We are also collecting evidence, case studies and feedback from our members to understand key issues and challenges for the profession as they emerge. If you have personal experiences or case studies of how the pandemic is affecting you, please share them with us so we can increase our evidence base: feedback@icon.org.uk

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Image: Creative Commons 

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