Voluntary sector put under strain amid cuts

Judy Robinson
Judy Robinson
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A LEADING charity has warned voluntary organisations are under increasing pressure amid growing demand as it emerged the sector is worth an estimated £1.6bn to the region’s economy.

A report out today by Involve Yorkshire and Humber shows the huge contribution that charities and volunteers have made to the economy.

But Involve’s chief executive, Judy Robinson, warned that despite providing a lifeline for many people, the so-called third sector organisations are “under pressure”, with growing demand amid tighter resources.

And much of the Government’s current funding offer, such as social investment bonds and “pay by results” is not accessible to smaller organisations.

Ms Robinson said: “The impact of cuts to local government is inevitably being passed on to voluntary organisations that would have previously received grants and contracts.

“There’s a double whammy – fewer public support services and less money for voluntary organisations, so more demand. They are being squeezed in every way.”

Figures revealed last month by the UK Civil Society Almanac showed that charities lost £1.3b from the Government in 2011/12.

David Kane, a senior researcher from the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO), will speak at the launch of Involve’s report in York today.

He said: “The cuts make it very difficult for them to provide the services they provide. It’s not just the impact on the charities, but the impact on the people they are trying to help.”

Involve’s report is based on the most recent figures available, from 2011, when the sector employed more than 160,000 people in 10,278 organisations, a 
fall of nearly four per cent since 2007. It is supported by around 300,000 volunteers, who donate large amounts of their own time.

Researchers spoke to more than 1,000 voluntary organisations in the region and found the sector is made up predominantly of a large number of small groups that have a huge collective impact on the region’s economy and communities, supporting vulnerable people, creating jobs, and bringing in investment.

Despite funding cuts and a reduction in the number of organisations operating over the past few years, sector income increased, with most spent on projects that directly benefit people – service delivery and support of front-line services such as training, accommodation and social care.

Recipients range from children and young people to the disabled and disadvantaged and older people.

Gareth Morgan, a professor of Charity Studies at Sheffield Hallam University, said there was no doubt that the voluntary sector had suffered substantially through Government cuts, with some smaller organisations losing up to 80 per cent of funding.

He said: “For them, the cuts have been absolutely dire. One of the positive things is that although charitable donations did go down during the recession, they are roughly back to where they were.

“But I know of a number of cases where charities doing really worthwhile work have had to close due to lack of public sector funding.”

Despite this, Prof Morgan said the third sector’s value to the economy had been growing for many years, partly due to the transfer of some services to the voluntary sector from local authorities.

Comment: Page 12.