Swindon and Wiltshire charities fear impact of financial crisis

By Barrie Hudson - 21 November 2022

Charity
  • Wessex Community Action chief executive Amber Skyring, right, presents a voucher to South Wilts Mencap trustees Linda Lane and Nigel Afford. All survey respondents were entered into a draw

    Wessex Community Action chief executive Amber Skyring, right, presents a voucher to South Wilts Mencap trustees Linda Lane and Nigel Afford. All survey respondents were entered into a draw

A survey of more than 100 Wiltshire charities has revealed that two thirds worry about the impact of the cost of living crisis.

In addition, a third have admitted to feeling uncertainty about the future.

Wessex Community Action’s third State of the Sector survey was returned by 114 groups from across Wiltshire and Swindon during May and June in collaboration with Voluntary Action Swindon.

Th aim was to gauge how well they have recovered from the pandemic.

Two thirds, when asked about concerns for the future, said the cost of living crisis was a worry, while 80per cent said they had been impacted by covid in some way – with nearly half finding themselves with lower income or losing income altogether.

More than half (51 per cent) said they were moderately concerned about the viability of their group, while 15 per cent said they were extremely concerned. 

Wessex Community Action supports smaller groups across the county with training and guidance to help make them more resilient, represents the voluntary sector in dealings with council and health leaders and runs forums for small groups and charities to give them a stronger voice.

Its Partnership and Engagement Lead, Anita Hansen, who oversaw the survey, said it was part of the charity’s remit to ‘take the temperature’ of the voluntary sector to gauge its training and support needs. 

She added: “We carried out similar surveys in May and December 2020 but this current survey aims to measure how the sector is faring as the country has emerged from the pandemic and explore the new wave of challenges facing the sector.

 

“It’s important to note that the survey was carried out in the late spring and summer, before the impact of the cost of living and fuel price crisis had been felt, and the situation is likely to be far worse now.”

More than a third of groups who responded said they had seen income from fundraising events fall since covid, while a similar number said money coming in from the likes of sales of goods, services or venue hire had dropped. Just over a quarter said their donations from individuals had fallen while 16 per cent said they had increased.

Nearly 60 per cent of groups have applied for grant funding in the last six months. Two thirds were successful with the rest waiting to hear the outcome but 15 per cent they either don’t have time to make bids or couldn’t find a suitable source of funding.

Asked about increasing demand, 45 per cent of respondents said the most common demand was from people with anxiety or mental health concerns, while 34 per cent said more demand was coming from people who were feeling isolated, lonely or cut off from services and support.

A third of charities said that since covid they either had fewer volunteers or were finding them more difficult to recruit, and a quarter ere concerned they would not be able to meet increasing demand for support.

Anita Hansen said it was a concern that many had seen donations and income fall. 

“We know that groups are facing the same cost of living challenges as the people they aim to help – with energy, food, rent and transport costs rising,” she said. “It is also a worry that 15 per cent don’t have time to apply for funding – or can find suitable sources of funding – to support their work.”

The full report can be found at wessexcommunityaction.org

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