Voluntary and Community Sector in Northern Ireland significantly impacted by Covid-19

COVID-19 Impact Survey

Following a difficult six months for the voluntary and community sector in Northern Ireland, the next year could see a further reduction in vital services, underlining the crucial need for ongoing and future support for the sector.

A survey just carried out by the Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action (NICVA) has revealed that voluntary and community organisations across Northern Ireland have faced a detrimental impact upon their ability to provide their core services due to the ongoing Covid-19 crisis.

Nearly three quarters (73%) of organisations stated that services or activities had been stopped due to Covid-19, with over a quarter (25.3%) only able to deliver between 1-25% of their normal services or activities.  Over a third of organisations (35.5%) said the loss of their services due to Covid-19 was affecting over 100 service users a week. 

Despite the adverse impact felt across the sector, voluntary and community organisations have shown a resilience to the Covid-19 crisis and the ability to adapt services in response. More than two fifths (42.3%) of organisations have reported that up to a quarter of their services were new and had been developed in response to the pandemic, while more than one fifth (21.6%) of organisations stated that  between a quarter and half of their services were new, Covid-19 related services, examples including  prescription runs, food deliveries and mental health support.

Whilst every sector has witnessed a noticeable impact on their income, the voluntary and community sector has lost, and continues to lose, vital investment and funding due to the global pandemic. More than one in six organisations (18.3%) have lost 75% or more of their normal income while more than a quarter (26%) have lost between a quarter and half of their income. The impact however is not solely income based as the necessary social distancing measures implemented have resulted in staff and volunteers unable to work or provide the vital community services. Over half (50.4%) of organisations acknowledged that between 76-100% of their volunteers had been unable to volunteer because of Covid-19.

As other sectors begin to reopen and see a return on their income, voluntary and community organisations feel they still have a long way to go with the impact of Covid-19 continuing long after the new normal returns.   Almost one third (31%) of organisations state that they expected their income to fall by between 51-75% in the next 6 months, while 4.3% said that Covid 19 may mean they have to close their doors and bring to an end the services that they provide to the community. Looking to the next twelve months, over 60% said they expected to see a continued reduction in their capacity to deliver services, with over a quarter expecting a reduction in capacity of between 25-75%.  

Geoff Nuttall, NICVA’s Head of Policy and Public Affairs, said,

“This survey shows just how much the Covid crisis is affecting the ability of voluntary and community organisations to keep delivering services and activities for thousands of people across Northern Ireland.  It also highlights how much these organisations have stepped in to meet new needs brought about by the crisis and how important it is to ensure they can continue to this in future in these very challenging times.”       

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