Charities in deprived areas most at risk from the pandemic, report concludes

A study by the think tank IPPR North and the University of Durham has examined the fortunes of voluntary organisations in the north of England

(Photograph: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
(Photograph: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

Charities and voluntary organisations in deprived parts of the north of England are most at risk from the economic effects of Covid-19, a new report warns.

The findings, published today by the think tank IPPR North and the University of Durham, take into account the experiences of charities, community and voluntary organisations in the region over the past decade, including how they fared following the 2008 recession.

The report, Third Sector Trends Study 2020: Covid-19 and Potential Impacts for the Third Sector in the North, says that while the sector is “more resilient than generally thought”, one in four charities in the north are based in deprived areas.

It was these organisations that were hit the hardest following the 2008 recession.

Just as the pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on people already at the sharp end of inequality, researchers found that the financial effects on charities, community and voluntary organisations in the north can discriminate too.

In particular, organisations reliant on earned income, such as running a shop or café, might be particularly vulnerable to the crisis.

Despite the coronavirus posing significant challenges, the report says northern charities, community and voluntary organisations that have a “make-do attitude” are resilient and able to adapt well to change. 

The report calls for a new deal for the third sector in the north by building support for these organisations into plans to “build back better”, such as the creation of a northern “growth body” or “prosperity board”, which is widely expected to be announced as part of the government's Devolution and Recovery White Paper this autumn.

Sarah Longlands, director of IPPR North, said: “We simply cannot ‘level-up’ from the Covid-19 pandemic unless we ensure these organisations receive the support and the respect that they deserve to help weather this storm.”

Professor Tony Chapman at Durham University said charities and social enterprises tended to be financially prudent and could adapt to circumstance, as shown following the 2008 crash and years of austerity, when many began generating more income from self-generated trading. 

“But now, cashflow is seriously under threat because Covid-19 has limited their scope to run shops and cafés or charge for services,” he said.

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