Research reveals 'most vulnerable' third sector groups

Organisations less than 13 years old that do not provide services are most at risk from cuts, Teesside University study finds

Tony Chapman, professor of social policy, Teesside University
Tony Chapman, professor of social policy, Teesside University

Third sector organisations that started up after 1997 and do not provide direct services to beneficiaries are the most vulnerable to public spending cuts, according to new findings from Teesside University.

Keeping the Show on the Road, which is published this week by the Northern Rock Foundation, examined the strengths and weaknesses of voluntary sector organisations in north-east England and Cumbria.

It found that the most vulnerable organisations were those that had emerged over the past 13 years in response to major investment in regeneration and sustainable communities. Councils for voluntary service are given as an example of organisations that are particularly vulnerable.

"Due to their smaller size, economic fluidity and frailty, lack of community embeddedness and stronger dependency on local funding, [these organisations] may be more at risk in the current economic and political climate and need to reposition themselves by finding new sources of income," the report said.

The most secure organisations were "mature" ones that delivered direct services to beneficiaries and were not so reliant on contracts or grants, it found.

Smaller, locally embedded organisations that might have thrived on public sector grants over the past 10 years were similarly secure because they were well-established in their communities and would find other means to survive, it said.

Another piece of research, called Forearmed With Foresight, also carried out by Teesside University for the Northern Rock Foundation, found that the majority of organisations were optimistic about their chances of survival, with 89 per cent believing they would continue to operate in the long term.

Tony Chapman, professor of social policy at Teesside University and author of the reports, said: "Our research shows that the sector is remarkably optimistic about the future. And one way or another, even if many organisations have to scale down what they do, the majority will keep the show on the road."

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