The cost of living crisis and the impact on NI charities

31 Jul 2023 Shauna O'Neill    Last updated: 2 Aug 2023

With more and more people struggling through the Cost of Living Crisis, and a NI voluntary and community sector still under severe pressure due to Covid, charities themselves are struggling to survive.
The Cost of Living Crisis graphic

Voluntary and community organisations are on the front line of the cost-of-living crisis supporting people and communities, all while facing rising demand for services, falling income and rising costs.

As the membership body for the voluntary and community sector we wanted to find out how the rising cost of living has impacted on demand and delivery to build a picture of the support needed by the sector and how this can be provided with a lack of functioning government.

We began engaging with our members in July 2022 through a series of surveys and discussions with sector representatives. While this engagement provided great insight we felt we needed to go out into communities to establish the full extent of the impacts of the cost of living on our sector and hear the stories behind the statistics.

Throughout the spring of 2023, we hosted a series of events with community networks across Northern Ireland to bring the sector together to talk about the issues they’re facing. Here is what we heard:

Challenges facing the sector

Voluntary, community and social enterprise organisations supporting communities through the cost of living crisis are themselves reaching crisis point. They are facing unprecedented demands, at a time when the sector has never faced as many cuts.  The sector can't continue to respond to this crisis without support.  

The key challenges for organisations are: 

  • Increased levels of need in communities  
  • Increased demand for services 
  • Increased need for volunteers to meet this demand but a reduction in the number of volunteers that are available to provide support 
  • Services having to scale back what they were doing because they do not have enough resources. 

Many of the organisations are facing multiple pressures and staff are concerned about the cumulative effect of all the other cuts in services.   

We grouped what we heard into the following themes: 

  • Financial Pressures facing the sector in the form of rising bills, particularly the rising cost of fuel and energy.  
  • Increased pressure on sector - more people need services when funding is at an all-time low and the pressure on staff is immense. 
  • Lack of long term and substantial funding - organisations cannot plan ahead, and cannot offer long term employment to staff with the skills and experience to make a difference.  

Recommendations from the sector

Consistent themes emerged throughout our engagement with the sector on what support organisations need now and into the future.  These included:  

  • support individuals in communities to reduce their expenditure and maximise their income  
  • support organisations to work more efficiently and collaboratively
  • change the nature of funding to provide some stability to the sector 
  • lobby on the sector’s behalf on key areas. 

Support needed from NICVA and network organisations

These insights will inform NICVA's work with partners across the voluntary and community sector and support our engagement with the Government and partners on issues of public policy.

Key areas of work include:

  • highlight the value and impact of the sector
  • lobby for changes to support communities and those working with them
  • support the sector to work more sustainably and strategically.
  • support the sector to become more connected and collaborative
  • promote a cohesive story from the sector that is well told
  • make events and training more accessible and available online / hybrid 

Next steps

The roundtable discussions provided valuable insights into the challenges being faced by people and organisations across NI and the devastating impact of the cost of living crisis. NICVA will continue to work in collaboration with others to address these concerns.

Download the full report attached.'s picture
by Shauna O'Neill

Communications Officer

[email protected]

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