Scotland's voluntary sector bigger than its NHS

Scottish voluntary organisations now employ more people than the NHS in Scotland, according to the latest statistics from the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations.

The umbrella organisation’s annual survey reveals that voluntary sector employees now account for 5 per cent of the country’s total workforce. About 10,000 new jobs have been created in the charity sector since 2004, bringing the total number of full and part-time employees to 129,000.

However, the rise in paid positions is, in part, due to a downturn in volunteers, the SCVO claims. The number of volunteers dipped from 43 per cent of the adult population to 38 per cent between 2004 and 2005. It is estimated that this decrease has cost charities £2.52 billion a year because they have had to replace them with paid staff.

The survey also reveals a dip in the amount of money Scottish households donate to charities every week. An average of £6.30 was donated per week during the period 2004-2006, compared with £7.20 between 2003 and 2005.

“In 2006 the funding base has shifted away from grants, donations and voluntary income towards trading and public funding,” the survey reads.

The SCVO is particularly concerned about a decrease in the sector’s income compared with charities’ expenditure. It says the gap between income and expenditure has narrowed to its smallest in years – a trend which is blames on the problems many voluntary organisations north of the border experience in recovering the full cost of the services they provide on behalf of local authorities. “The sector is on the wire,” the report says.

Meanwhile, OSCR, the Scottish equivalent of the Charity Commission, has conducted a survey of 1,000 charities to determine what they think of charity regulation in Scotland.  The results show that charities now view OSCR more favourably than when it was set up in 2005 as a part of the 2005 Charities and Trustee Investment (Scotland) Act.  However, many charities would like the regulator to carry out investigations more publicly, the survey showed. 

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