Impact of the economic downturn on the Voluntary & Community Sector in North Yorkshire- March 09 A piece of work funded by Capacity Builders Resilience Grant and undertaken on behalf of the York and North Yorkshire Infrastructure Consortium in partnership with North Yorkshire Partnership Unit.(NYPU)
Consultation • Survey- through North Yorkshire Local Infrastructure Organisations to their memberships • Events- e.g.Ripon CVS put on the ‘Real help for Communities’ event which gave feedback which informed the report • ANY (Advice North Yorkshire -North Yorkshire CAB Consortium)
Some of the Questions asked • Question 1: Are you experiencing more or less demand for your services as a result of the recession? • Question 2: Is your organisation able to meet/tolerate this increase/decrease in demand? • Question 3: Has your income/expenditure been affected and in what way? • Question 5: Have you or are you planning to make changes to your staffing and volunteer levels in the next year due to the recession? • Question 6: Is there any support, information or resources you would like to help you cope with the challenges you may be experiencing or expect to experience?
Early days • Understandably at the early stage of the recession there was a mixed picture from VCS regarding demand. There have been signs of increase; however in many cases organisations can’t be sure that it is necessarily as a result of the economic downturn. • There is no doubt however that demand for services around benefits, debt advice, homelessness and other more individual focussed work has been significant and notable across the whole sub region. (there is more detail regarding CAB activity a little later)
At this point in time • The consensus is that funding hasn’t been noticeably affected yet. Organisations are often funded from a range of sources and those sources will have different impacts in different timescales. • Where contracts are in place there is no change to that income but costs have increased in terms of both utilities and expenses related to meeting extra demand. The modest percentage increase on contracts doesn’t cover these extra costs. • The issue over full cost recovery on statutory funding isn’t new or related to the recession but it makes the pressure even greater when organisations are trying to meet increased demand. • Where organisations are reliant on donations, subscriptions and\or fundraising the situation is less settled.
Planned changes due to the recession? • Clearly in this financial climate; caution is in peoples minds but generally the recruitment of more volunteers, fundraising for more staff as well as flexible staffing patterns are in the forward planning of many of the organisations. • One organisation stated that their staff had taken a voluntary 20% pay cut but this had resulted in losing a member of staff. • Another organisation has already cut back staffing to the bare minimum which has put a strain on coordinating their services,
Capacity • Most of the responders felt that in the short term and medium term they could cope with the current levels however in the longer term virtually all acknowledged it wouldn’t be sustainable. • CABs and organisations providing health and social care state that they are already working at capacity and for agencies giving advice relating to debt and benefits the worry is that if clients can’t be seen in good time they may feel driven to go elsewhere for their debt management. • There is concern that organisations reserves are being or may have to be eaten into to sustain services and that more medium to long-term increases will have an effect on quality of services if not adequately funded.
Support • Organisations expressed the need for help to recruit more volunteers, information and sources of funding, support around commissioning and procurement and transitional change and concessionary rates and peppercorn rents for empty premises. • Clearly proportionate and timely increases in funding are required to ensure the high level of service provided by the sector and as mentioned in answer to previous questions it is anticipated that additional resources will be required sooner rather than later. • Marketing and promotion were also mentioned.
‘Real help for Communities’ event • Pension visiting service had noticed a significant rise in requests from the elderly now that investments were suffering. • Age Concern commented that older people were uncertain about the future and were making drastic choices, food or heating. They don’t want to give out lots of personal information and therefore miss out on benefits. The stress can lead to health problems. • The issue of compulsory volunteering raised much concerned in relation to ‘resentful’ or reluctant volunteers and who would resource and support such schemes. • VCS in general said they were struggling with the lack of funding and that some projects have to close having worked hard to build up peoples confidence. • The Police reported an increase in the use of drugs, burglaries etc as the recession bites harder and redundancy and money worries effect relationships, health and general well-being which in turn increases demand on the VCS.
North Yorkshires experience of a recession? In general terms it is felt that as North Yorkshire has more small\medium size workforces rather than large\heavy industry i.e single large workforces, the effect of the recession may feel less severe than in other areas of the country. However the effect on the individual; particularly in a rural economy; can’t be overlooked. Farming communities, market town economies and tourism are already vulnerable.
Challenges • Recruiting more volunteers-It has been acknowledged that some volunteers are being lost as they have to return to work as they themselves have financial needs. Also the number of ‘early retired’ volunteers in some areas appears to be dropping but in other areas the number of those unemployed is rising. • The agenda around ‘compulsory’ volunteering • Adequate and timely funding to ensure good planning and best value. • Increase of demand for VCS services at a time when the resources to do the work are constantly being squeezed. VCS are a key employer and are vulnerable from many sides. • All partners need to recognize the knock on effect of even subtle changes in peoples circumstances, particularly if already vulnerable.
Solutions? • Partnership • Pragmatism • Proactive • Positivity