Charities could become 'de facto state', warns CVS

A paper from Newcastle CVS argues that years of austerity have seen the state retreating from all services in the region and charities have been assumed to be able to step in

The report
The report

There is a danger that charities will become "the de facto state" after years of austerity, a new report from a council for voluntary service has warned.

In a paper called Canaries in the Coal Mine, Newcastle CVS says that the state has been retreating from all services in the Newcastle-upon-Tyne area except those that are statutory, and charities have been assumed to be able to "step in and step up" to ensure provision of services continues.

The report provides a snapshot of the charity sector in Newcastle and Gateshead, and is based on 118 responses to a survey run by the CVS in April and May.

Eight in 10 charities in the region said they were experiencing rises in demand on their services, with many reporting that this had been happening for several years.

The report also covers concerns about austerity, with poverty and food banks being normalised and an "acceptance of austerity as the normal position".

Welfare reforms and personal debt are also having an effect on organisations and communities in Newcastle and Gateshead, the report says, with many charities reporting that referrals to food banks are "an everyday activity".

The report says: "The shift to more contracts of lower value, greater competition for grant funding, increases in the National Living Wage, pension contributions and the general cost of inflation are putting further pressure on charity resources."

Recruiting and retaining volunteers is also a challenge, the report suggests, with a lot of movement in and out of roles at charities.

This is happening despite government initiatives designed to boost volunteering rates, such as the National Citizen Service, according to the report, and retention rates of volunteers are falling even as the overall number of people volunteering increases.

The report says that funding is becoming "increasingly precarious" for medium-sized organisations, which are unable to compete for contracts and focus instead on raising "relatively small amounts of money" from trust funds.

Despite this, a third of charities surveyed for the report said they would increase staff numbers in the year ahead, half wanted to increase services and two-thirds expected a rise in the number of volunteers.

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