CHARITIES AND VOLUNTARY GROUPS FEAR FOR THEIR FUTURE AND THEIR CLIENTS

Charities and voluntary organisations fear they could go to the wall as costs spiral and grants and donations decline.

A survey of 40 organisations in Torbay revealed that 67.5% are concerned about their financial viability over the next twelve months, with a further 22.5% saying they are unsure.

The cost of living crisis and running costs have negatively impacted more than two-thirds of those surveyed by the Torbay Community Development Trust and the Imagine This Partnership, which has led to concerns about staff and volunteer recruitment and retention.

More than 40% say it will directly affect their service delivery and 35% are already planning cutbacks, with more than 47% carefully monitoring the situation and not knowing the full impact.

More than 80% fear for the mental and physical wellbeing of their beneficiaries and anticipate that they are at risk of homelessness and job losses. Nearly half the respondents also predict that despite the risk of cutbacks, the demand for their services will actually increase.

As one respondent reported: “Our funding is finishing in March 2023 which will mean staff redundancies, and a cut to services when demand is at its highest. Our highest client issues are debt, fuel poverty and benefits. We are currently using our own reserves to maintain staff and service levels, but this is not sustainable in the long term.”

Another organisation that relies on entrance fees, grants and donations to keep going reported that they had just had to renegotiate their electricity bill which had led to it being tripled “We are careful with our money but it is inevitable that we will have to raise our entrance fees and this is a worry as people may stop attending.”

The survey was carried out between November 2022 and January 2023 and covered a wide range of charitable and voluntary organisations working in the community supporting everything from mental health charities to sports clubs, and from young people’s groups to animal charities in Brixham, Paignton and Torbay.

Potential suggested solutions to the ongoing crisis mainly focussed on finding additional funding from new sources, making cutbacks, and recruiting more volunteers to find innovative ways of surviving.

In the words of one group: “In an ideal world we need financial support to go towards our wages and we could then offer local families a reduced rate or even subsidised sessions meaning families can continue to access their weekly sessions and we can remain working with our very small team – we rely on volunteers as part of our team.”

The findings are broadly similar to a county-wide survey carried out by the Devon Community Foundation who among other things reported: “There is overwhelming concern for the wellbeing of staff and volunteers, facing a double whammy of increased pressure of work, alongside pressure on their own household finances in a poorly paid sector. Recruitment and retention of staff and volunteers is a huge issue for organisations struggling to meet the needs of vulnerable Devon residents.”

Tracey Cabache, director of TCDT, said: “Sadly, none of the conclusions come as a surprise, things have been tough in our sector for a long time and there will be casualties unless we can get additional help.

“We have gone from a long period of austerity which affected our beneficiaries and hit funding sources. That was followed, of course, by COVID, where we threw all of our available resources into keeping people safe and well, and from that, we went more or less straight into the cost of living crisis.

“Demand for services has increased across the board from energy costs for those with their own premises to the cost of providing services by staff who are also being hit hard.

“We know of several organisations that have already had to close, and the situation is getting worse by the day. People who are already struggling will suffer further unless something is done.

“We will be sharing the results with various funding bodies, local councillors, and our MPs urging them to act. It is critical that they help us find solutions.”

Bills and invoices photo courtesy of Freepik.com

Author