Charities in north-west England contribute £2.5bn a year to the region, report finds

But study says that those in the poorest areas are the most likely to be financially vulnerable

Charities in north-west England contribute £2.5bn a year to the region’s economy, a new study has found.

Third Sector Trends in the North West 2016, which was published last week, says voluntary sector organisations in the region have an estimated 110,000 full-time equivalent employees spread across more than 10,000 organisations.

But although the report says that most organisations are in good financial health, it adds that those in the poorest areas are twice as likely to be in financially vulnerable positions than those in the more affluent areas.

The report, which was written by Professor Tony Chapman of St Chad’s College, Durham University, is part of a three-year programme of work led by the think tank IPPR North on the state of civil society and the voluntary sector in the north of England.

Chapman's report is based on an online survey completed last year by more than 1,400 third-sector organisations in north-west England.

Researchers found that 30 per cent of charities in the poorest areas believed they were financially vulnerable, compared with 14 per cent in the richest areas.

Organisations working with people from minority ethnic groups were the most likely to feel they were in weak financial positions, the report says, followed by those tackling concerns about gender and sexuality.

The report says the voluntary sector in the region "is very much a local sector", with 30 per cent of organisations working solely at neighbourhood or village level and 62 per cent within the boundaries of one local authority. Only 9 per cent operate at a national or international level, it says.

It says the voluntary sector in the region is dominated by small and medium-sized third-sector organisations, representing 6,306 and 4,425 charities respectively.

There are only about 835 charities with annual incomes of more than £500,000, says the report.

Using data from across the north of England generally, the report says the figures indicates that the proportion of part-time staff in the sector has risen from 35 per cent to 45 per cent over the past eight years.

Charities in the north west of England draw upon an estimated 440,400 volunteers who contribute more than 31.7 million hours of work a year, worth at least £228m, the report says.

Jack Hunter, research fellow at IPPR North, said the data showed charities in the region were "an economic powerhouse in their own right".

But he said the link between deprivation and a charity’s overall financial health was worrying. "Those that are arguably doing some of the most important work with the most excluded north-west communities appear to be suffering the most as a result of the government’s austerity policies," he said.

"More attention must be paid to poorer parts of our region, where charities and other third-sector organisations are most likely to be in vulnerable financial situations."

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