A devastating report into the impact of the lockdown on the North East’s Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise (VCSE) sector reveals that a third of organisations expect to lose over half their income by June.

This could mean between £75m and £223m of income lost between April and June this year, and that is just one of the findings following a comprehensive survey compiled by Voluntary Organisations’ Network North East (VONNE), which supports the VCSE sector in the North East, with its partners in Local Infrastructure Organisations (LIOs), and the North East and Cumbria Funder’s Network.

The report shows that the VCSE sector’s capacity is severely limited, with 53% of the region’s workforce under house arrest, and 75% of volunteers. Longer-term expectations are that average staffing levels will reduce by a third, due to lost income.

VONNE’s CEO, Carol Botten, said: “All of this means that almost 400,000 individuals are no longer receiving, or are receiving a significantly reduced service from the 269 VCSE survey respondents that support them.
“If this is aggregated against the 7,200 VCSE organisations that operate across the North East region, the total figure is likely to be staggering.”

Those hardest hit by the government’s lockdown include children and young people, older people, and individuals with disabilities, including learning disabilities.

However, some positives have been identified. A third of organisations have secured emergency taxpayer funding support, and only 13% of respondents said they consider it likely or very likely that their organisation will close as a result of the lockdown.

Almost two thirds of those surveyed praised funders for their response to the crisis, and their flexibility in regard to the support offered, while 73% said they’d identified positive impacts, most notably, a move to more collaborative working between organisations, including local authorities as well as those in the sector.

Carol, who also sits on the Board of the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), added: “We’re so proud to be part of a sector that has shown such determination and community spirit as the situation has developed, but the fact is the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, and the associated impact of lockdown and social distancing measures, are likely to be felt for a long time to come.

“This is not only due to the reduction in organisational capacity and income across the sector, but also the increased demand for services created both directly and indirectly, due to the societal impact on health and wellbeing, poverty and debt, and levels of unemployment.
“The sector needs clarity and practical advice in the short, medium and longer term across a number of key areas, and this support must be flexible, responsive and tailored to recognise the range of impacting factors.
“But uncertainty and rapid change are likely to continue for the foreseeable future. Long-term thinking is required, and organisations, including funders, commissioners and support agencies, must ensure they’re geared up to respond and flex to emerging needs.”

The report has been shared with stakeholders including local authorities, LEPs, private sector organisations and the health system, to make the case for additional help for the North East VCSE sector, and with national infrastructure partners to help VONNE effectively represent the sector, and influence where support is focused, both now and in the future recovery period.

Download the full report at vonne.org.uk/news/ne-vcse-sector-covid-19-impact-survey-report-published.

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