Value of the Sector

A thriving voluntary, community and social enterprise sector is an essential component of a successful society. Without it many of the services we have come to rely on simply would not exist.


Our work embraces every aspect of life from health and social care, to arts and education, to social issues and the environment, and our sector includes voluntary, community and social enterprise bodies (VCSE).

Perhaps because of this extraordinary diversity, the full extent of our collective contribution to Northern Ireland is not fully appreciated. It is important to address this.

This new project sets out to fill that gap, providing evidence of the value of Northern Ireland’s more than 6,100 VCSE organisations and bringing our work to life through a series of case studies.

Value of the Sector is intended as a resource for our members, policy-makers, the media, academics and anyone with an interest in this vital sector.

We hope it will help promote understanding, emphasise the critical importance of the sector, and be a valuable resource for our members as they build their own evidence about the value that they bring.

What all charities have in common is that they must, by law, work for public benefit. And unlike the profit-making private sector any charities that do make surpluses invest those funds back into the services they provide.  We are, quite literally, in the business of doing good. This project is all about demonstrating the extent of the public benefits we bring.

Our Research 

The first phase of this research was a survey carried out with NICVA members earlier this year.

This focused on the provision and beneficiaries of various types of benefits to NI society including health, economy, poverty, community, environment, sports, arts and culture, education, housing and homelessness, transport and travel, and rights and inclusion. Its findings will be used to demonstrate the contribution and importance of the VCSE Sector and the need to support it.

It reveals that promoting health and well-being, promoting community, and education are the three areas of public benefit most commonly delivered by NICVA members.

Health and wellbeing services tops the list with almost two thirds of organisations delivering well-being services, including the provision of health and social-care and prevention activities. 

In 2018, Richard Ramsey, Chief Economist at Ulster Bank, commented that the VCSE sector had "a central role to play in delivering key services and highlighted that a shrinking third sector could become a major concern for Northern Ireland as pressures grow on the health service and other parts of local government."

The research is categorised withing the key themes below:

Health and Wellbeing

Poverty, Housing and Homelessness

Community, Rights and Inclusion

Finding Solutions



Sports, Arts and Culture

Economy, transport and travel


Value of the Sector - Resource launch

On 22 March NICVA launched the new 'Value of the Sector' resource. The information contained within the resource is a collection of research results and case studies collected from Voluntary & Community Sector organisations.

Value of the Sector Case Studies

The work of the VCSE sector encompasses every aspect of life from health and social care, to arts and education, to social issues and the environment.

Case study - Causeway and Mid-Ulster Women's Aid

Women's Aid provides a holistic service to women, children & young people affected by all forms of domestic & sexual violence.

Case Study - Hope 4 Life

Hope 4 Life NI is a mental health organisation based in Northern Ireland works to the ethos that that everyone has a right to good mental health and is committed to working for this right to become a reality for all.

Case Study - Marie Curie NI

Providing frontline nursing and hospice care, Marie Curie is an end-of-life charity that offers a free support line and a wealth of information on all aspects of dying, death and bereavement.

Case Study - The Parent Rooms

The Parent Rooms is a perinatal mental health charity based in Northern Ireland supporting parents and their families through the provision of peer support, wellness education and awareness raising.

Case Study - Young at Art

Young at Art is one of Northern Ireland's leading children's arts not-for-profit companies and home of the Belfast Children's Festival and Young at Art Events.

Economy, transport and travel

The voluntary, community & social enterprise sector provides huge benefit to NI society, encouraging growth in social capital and the economy. Also, through community transport, the sector helps reduce the isolation felt by many.

Sports, Arts and Culture

Sports, arts and culture are intrinsic to how people feel about themselves and their place within society.

Connecting past to present or providing goals for the future, these activities can enrich, improve and inspire communities.


Education is not confined to the classroom. Learning and teaching starts at birth and can continue throughout our lives.

60% of NICVA members provide education, skills, and learning opportunities to people of all ages throughout our society.

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