COVID-19 is having a detrimental effect on the total income of 71% of Northumberland charities, community groups and social enterprises, with 54% having less than six months of reserves left, finds a recent ‘COVID-19 Impact Survey’ carried out by Northumberland VCS Assembly.
During the COVID-19 crisis, the voluntary and community sector is never more needed as people across Northumberland rely on charities, community groups and social enterprises for essential support more now than they have ever done before. The unique role of the voluntary and community sector and the services it provides have proved to be invaluable during lockdown, and they will continue to be essential to help our communities heal and re-build as we recover.
Full recovery from the impact of the coronavirus outbreak will take a huge amount of effort. Unemployment and poverty figures are growing. Soaring demands for foodbanks, benefit and debt advice, domestic abuse services and counselling support are already putting enormous pressure on the not-for-profit providers of these services at a time when much of their income from fundraising and social trading has disappeared, forcing them to rely more and more on dwindling reserves.
The VCS Assembly, managed by Northumberland CVA – a charity that provides much needed support to voluntary and community groups across the county – is a firm supporter of the UK-wide #NeverMoreNeeded campaign, which urges government not to overlook or undervalue the voluntary and community sector when it is most needed.
Anne Lyall, CEO of Northumberland CVA said, “Throughout the pandemic, despite having had their income slashed, every charity and community organisation that has been able to continue working has responded swiftly to the crisis, with many new volunteer-led COVID-response groups setting up too.
“The sector has rapidly and effectively adapted service delivery to the restrictions of lockdown in order to reach out to those most vulnerable. But in continuing to support their community when most needed, many charities and community organisations have put their own survival at risk.
“The staff at Northumberland CVA have continued to work remotely throughout the lockdown to give support to charities, organisations groups and volunteers. We created an online searchable database of the support available in our communities, we expanded the information and resources available on our website, set up a Facebook page to link together Mutual Aid/Isolation Help Groups and community activists across Northumberland and we continued to issue our fortnightly e-bulletin to keep everyone up to date.”
Following publication of the impact survey, on behalf of its members the VCS Assembly has now written a response to the COVID-19 crisis in Northumberland and the county’s recovery planning which calls for a seat at the table during consideration of all recovery planning arrangements by the public sector as well as any future emergency planning.
Author of both reports and development officer for the VCS Assembly, Ann Atkinson said, “The public sector in Northumberland is going to be relying on the voluntary and community sector to deliver a number of services for them in the coming months and years but many organisations may not have survived the crisis to provide them. Our sector needs to be a part of future planning but it also needs additional support from government so it can be an effective partner in the recovery for coronavirus and in the future.”