Significant loss of income felt across the voluntary and community sector amid Covid-19 pandemic

11 Sep 2020 Déarbhla Sloan    Last updated: 11 Sep 2020

Over two thirds of voluntary and community sector organisations have reported  a loss of income despite an increased demand for their services according to a recent study carried out by NICVA.

In addition, a sizable reduction in the numbers of staff/volunteers able to carry out the required services put a further strain on organisations already feeling the fallout from the Covid-19 crisis.

With lockdown and the cancellation of social events and mass gatherings implemented with immediate effect in the early part of the year, fundraising events which are a vital source of income for the sector were adversely affected. As a result, many organisations faced significant crisis as they witnessed their usual methods of funding rapidly come to a halt. Over two thirds of organisations reported a loss of income during the initial months of the Covid-19 pandemic with almost one third having further indicated that their predicted financial position in the next six months will be challenging with a potential income loss of between 26-50% . Almost three quarters of organisations surveyed stated that they had to bring many of their normal activities and services to a halt, yet despite facing new and unprecedented financial hurdles almost half of organisations reported introducing new services as a specific response to the Covid-19 crisis. Reacting to the individual needs in their communities, as well as within their area of work, many organisations introduced new services including food parcel and prescriptions delivery, mental health support, befriending and support services for older people and wellbeing programmes for families.

As a result of the increase in supply of new activities and services paralleled with the decrease in finances, many organisations indicated that their outgoing expenditure from heightened transport needs and equipment costs was higher than their actual income. With a difficult six months over however, the voluntary and community sector organisations do not forecast an easier year ahead with more than half of organisations stating that they expect to see a further reduction in their overall capacity to deliver services. Although the first months of the pandemic witnessed an increase in funding applications by organisations, many have suggested that the sector has a much recognised need for longer term funding packages rather than annual funding as well as easier access to grants and an extension to the financial provision to support organisations through the furlough period.

NICVA are continuing to support the voluntary and community sector in Northern Ireland during the current climate. Further information on the Covid-19 Impact Survey carried out by NICVA as well as information on training, policy and funding opportunities can be found on their website at www.nicva.org

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For further information or interview contact Geoff Nuttall, Head of Policy and Public Affairs at NICVA.

Notes to editors:

The Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action (NICVA) is a membership and representative umbrella body for the voluntary and community sector in Northern Ireland.

This survey was disseminated in August 2020 to 1,037 heads of VCSE sector member organisations in Northern Ireland. A total of 200 participants responded to the survey, indicating a response rate of 19%.

Survey findings:

-       73% of organisations indicated that services/activities had been stopped due to the Covid- 19 crisis

-       66.8% of organisations indicated that they had lost funding/income

-       Over a quarter (25.3%) said they were delivering only a quarter or less of their normal services or activities, and over a third (35.5%) said the loss of their services was affecting over 100 service users a week

-       Over two fifths (42.3%) said up to a quarter of their services were new services developed in response to the Covid-19

-       Over a fifth (21.6%) said between a quarter and half of their services were new, Covid-19 related services, such as prescription runs, food deliveries and mental health support

-       More than one in six organisations (18.3%) have lost 75% or more of their normal income while more than quarter (26%) have lost between a quarter and half of their income

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