As the state has rolled back with the force of a retreating tsunami over the past five years, the pressure on charities to plug the chasms in front-line service provision has increased and the sector has adapted to need by changing its parameters.
But as charities step up to the resulting challenges, the pressure they face continues to increase. After four years working in and with charities, I have come to understand the perennial problems posed by budgets. Need is great, money is tight, and financial catastrophe is rarely more than a few steps away.
The steady decline in state funding is cause for serious concern; government grants are at one third of the level of 10 years ago, and figures from the National Council for Voluntary Organisations show a fall of £2.3bn in overall government spending on charities between 2009-2014. At the same time, vitriolic attacks spearheaded by national media have led to greater levels of mistrust and raised problems about some forms of fundraising.
Public outrage at the poor behaviour of some charities is justified, as are the calls for practices to be reviewed and malpractice to be exposed. But public vilification of charities and their need to fundraise is dangerous ground. What is happening is tantamount to a two-pronged attack, where the government strips back both funding and services.
Whether state-funded or charity-run, no service can come for free. We must recognise this before it's too late, because what is happening at the moment puts us at serious risk of living in a society where charity cannot function and the state will not provide.
Eleanor Rosenbach is campaigns and causes account manager, PHA Media