The ability of the Northern Irish charity sector to deliver key services has been significantly damaged by problems with cash flow, recruitment and uncertainty caused by the region’s political situation, according to a new report.
The latest 3rd Sector Index, published today by Ulster Bank and the charity chief officers membership body CO3, reveals the findings of its latest quarterly survey of CO3 members.
The survey found that in the first three months of 2018, 86 per cent of third sector leaders reported that the lack of a Northern Ireland executive and assembly had had a negative effect on their organisations, including creating funding uncertainty. This was a nine percentage-point increase on quarter four of 2017.
More than a third (34 per cent) of leaders said their organisation’s cash flow situation was unstable, up from 17 per cent in quarter four of 2017.
And 37 per cent of respondents said that their organisations were experiencing difficulty recruiting people with the right skills. In anecdotal evidence, they said part of the problem was that the funding uncertainty created by the political situation was driving potential candidates to seek more secure employment elsewhere.
Public donations had fallen in the first quarter of the year, according to 17 per cent of respondents.
Despite the concerns highlighted by the survey, 40 per cent of respondents said they believed their organisation’s turnover would increase in the next 12 months, as demand for services increased.
The survey also found that 62 per cent of third sector leaders believed the reputation of the wider third sector had been negatively affected by the recent Oxfam crisis.
Nora Smith, chief executive of CO3, said the results demonstrated the effect of the lack of an executive.
"Late and short-term budgetary decisions have affected cash flow, and this, in turn, affects the sector's ability to plan and deliver key services," she said.
"The nature of funding has undoubtedly affected staff morale. For those on short-term contracts and for those on notice, it inhibits the ability to recruit and retain key staff members."
But she said the confidence of so many charities that their turnover would increase showed the resilience of the sector.