An increasing number of councils for voluntary service are optimistic about taking on staff members and extending their range of services, according to a study out today.
The local infrastructure body Navca has assembled a representative panel of about 30 members who take part in quarterly surveys that are designed to give a snapshot of the mood among the organisations it represents.
The results from the latest survey show that out of the 24 members who took part this time, 17 per cent said they were optimistic about increasing staff numbers and 4 per cent felt they would need to decrease them, although 80 per cent said they expect staffing levels to remain the same. It is the first time since the quarterly studies began in July 2012 that more Navca members are planning to take on staff rather than reduce numbers.
The study also found that 39 per cent of respondents planned to extend the services that they offer – the highest percentage since the quarterly studies started – and 9 per cent said they intended to decrease services.
Overall, however, the majority of respondents (58 per cent) felt that their prospects would stay much the same over the next three months, and 30 per cent felt that their prospects would improve slightly or greatly during the period.
The prospects for the local voluntary sector follow a similar pattern. Two-thirds of respondents (67 per cent) said prospects for their local voluntary sector would be about the same (up from 52 per cent in April), and 17 per cent said that the prospects for local groups would be slightly improved. Some 17 per cent thought that the prospects locally would be slightly worse.
The majority of respondents (58 per cent) saw the NHS as key to their success and a similar number (54 per cent) said their relations with local NHS bodies were improving. But more respondents this quarter said relationships with local authorities had got worse (21 per cent) rather than improved (17 per cent).
Neil Cleeveley, acting chief executive of Navca, said in a statement: "It’s too early to tell if this marks a turning point. We need to dig a bit further to understand how things are changing. We know, for example, that there are significant cuts in public spending on the horizon, whatever the outcome of the general election."