Cost of Living Crisis - Survey Summary

NICVA is using the information from our surveys to influence government. We are focussed on the impact on people, but also on voluntary and community organisation's and their capacity to deliver support to those most in need.

NICVA has convened a cross-section of members who are providing more information on impact and NICVA along with other organisations is engaged with the communities minister Deirdre Hargey who has re-established an Emergencies Leadership Group.  Like people themselves, the cost of fuel, heat and light are thrashing organisations’ budgets.

We have also arranged meetings with the Northern Ireland Office as the relevant UK Government Department.  It is clear that unless there is more support from government and other funders increasing costs will threaten or cut service delivery.

To ascertain the impact of the cost-of-living crisis on organisations, NICVA recently surveyed all heads of Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise (VCSE) sector member organisations in Northern Ireland. The main concern reported around the cost-of-living crisis was the increasing cost of fuel and energy (79.9%). In particular, the cost of fuel to attend meetings and to cover the ever-increasing gas and electricity bills. The cost of fuel also impacted recruitment and retention of volunteers, and staff preference to work from home. In terms of fuel and energy expenditure, almost half of organisations (45.8%) reported that they had spent between 0-10% of their income on fuel and energy, 33.5% spent between 11%-20% and 11.2% spent about 21%-30% on fuel and energy costs.

Additional concerns included the wellbeing of staff/volunteers (66.5%) often resulting in an increase in staff sick leave due to stress and anxiety. The potential increase of staff wages (52.1%) and expenses (staff/volunteers) (45.9%) was concerning with staff requesting uplifts in salary and milage allowance. Increasing cost of insurance (44.8%) was burdensome for many, with some organisations facing at least a 50% increase in their premium.

Organisations reported a strain on services due to increasing demand, with almost 14% reporting a reduction in service provision. Several organisations reduced their staffing levels which greatly reduced their ability to provide the same level of services. Reduced services included counselling and support groups for children and adults, programmes and activities for young people, befriending services, community events, door to door transport services and free food parcels.

Several methods were used by organisations to manage the cost-of-living concerns such as using financial reserves (59.8%), sourcing new donors (43.4%), making premises more energy efficient (36%), increasing charges for services (26.5%) and recruiting additional volunteers (20.1%). Organisations were also experiencing a decrease in financial support and a decrease in donations. Consequently, many are spending more time on grant applications to source additional funding; others are collaboration in an attempt to share costs and keep their organisations afloat. Downsizing, reducing office space and working from home were also methods for managing the situation. Others stated that they were not managing but rather surviving.

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