High demand on charities' services will continue, NCVO warns

The organisation's annual Road Ahead report says the sector should refocus its energies on 'the bigger picture'

Charities must prepare for continued high demand for their services in the face of a "gloomy economic outlook", according to the National Council for Voluntary Organisations’ annual report The Road Ahead.

The report, published today for NCVO members, reviews the operating environment for charities every year and examines the challenges they are likely to face.

The 2019 report warns that a combination of Brexit, economic uncertainty, tight government budgets and a slow economy will continue to put increased pressure on beneficiaries and front-line services.

A weak pound, high inflation and declining investment in the UK after Brexit could leave the economy fragile, the report says.

Faced with a "gloomy economic outlook", the key message for charities, the report says, "is therefore to prepare for continued demand for their services and support, as the individuals and communities they serve will struggle to make ends meet".

And, the report says, the way in which the Brexit negotiations have dominated the news cycle has taken up space that would otherwise have been used to think about pressing social issues.

"For too long, British politics has been an ideas-free zone," the report says.

It adds that "civil servants and decision-makers have admitted that the business of government and the usual search for eye-catching policies has been paralysed by Brexit".

Rather than give up on creating policy change, the report says, in 2019 charities, campaigners and funders should "refocus their energies on the bigger picture, demonstrating the role that our organisations have in society and the economy, and how much more we can do in building the future of our country".

It also urges charities to establish relationships with politicians of a range of political persuasions in the midst of splits within the major political parties.

And the report says that the increased scrutiny charities have experienced in recent years is here to stay and, as a result, the narrative of "charities living by their values" will have to be "taken seriously and embraced" by the sector.

Paul Winyard, senior finance analyst at the NCVO, said: "‘The uncertainty around Brexit makes it difficult to accurately predict where the UK economy will go over the coming year, although most experts remain downbeat about the short-term prospects.

"While government finances have somewhat improved since last year’s Road Ahead, limited growth and existing spending commitments made by government mean pressure on voluntary sector funding and support is likely to continue for the foreseeable future."

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