Charities have expressed overwhelming fears that leaving the EU will be bad for the economy and bad for society
Scottish charities believe leaving the European Union (EU) will be bad for the economy and make it harder for them to support people in need.
More than eight in 10 charities responding to a Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) survey said they believe Brexit will have a negative impact on charity funding alongside cuts to public spending and donations.
The sum of it - charity views on Brexit
400 charities responded to SCVO's recent State of the Sector Survey. On the issue of Brexit:
86% felt that leaving the EU would have a negative impact on the Scottish economy
81% felt that leaving the EU would have a negative impact on poverty and social exclusion
80% felt that leaving the EU would have a negative impact on human rights and equality
6% thought it would bring about significant positive opportunities
68% agreed EU policies have been a good thing for the voluntary and community sector in Scotland
Some charities are also worried that restrictions on movement across the EU will impact on their ability to recruit high-quality staff in areas such as social care, which employs a high number of EU nationals. Others are worried about losing funding from Europe for under-supported activities such helping disabled people or refugees find work.
There are also real concerns that leaving the EU will lead to an erosion of human rights and reduce the quality of life of people who turn to charity for help.
A total of 86% of charities told SCVO they were worried about the impact of Brexit on the economy and their funding.
And just 6% of charities said they thought that leaving the EU would provide significant positive opportunities for their organisation.
SCVO director of public affairs John Downie said the Scottish and UK governments need to start listening to the concerns of charities, which play a major role in supporting society’s most vulnerable.
“It’s time to recognise the fact that Europe has been critical to the makeup and success of civil society in Scotland,” said Downie. “From funding for medical research to the sustainability of the health and social care workforce, there is a huge amount at stake. The voluntary sector needs to be heard as Brexit negotiations go forward.”
“Uncertainty and a lack of clarity around what leaving the EU will mean is causing alarm within the sector, particularly on issues such as the economy, movement of people and fighting poverty. There is deep unease that the people aspect of the debate is being forgotten in favour of a hard-nosed emphasis on business.”
More than a third of charities interviewed said they had been involved in European projects including learning exchanges and collaborations. Many of these organisations have also received European funding.
Case study: EU workers are vital to the Action Group
A total of 18% of support workers at social care charity the Action Group are EU nationals. The charity, which employs over 500 people, said 14% of its total workforce are from EU countries.
Robert Farquharson, chief executive of the charity, said: "EU staff are hugely important given the well-known problems of recruitment and retention in social care.
"The potential crisis has two parts: first, whether existing EU workers in the country can stay and second, whether the flow of workers into Scotland is cut off.
"It is too early to judge the impact of the Scottish Government’s recent efforts to introduce the Living Wage to social care. There will be some impact on recruitment, but nothing like enough to close the gap if we lose EU workers.”
The Bridges Programmes supports the social, educational and economic integration of refugees, asylum seekers, migrants, and anyone for whom English is a second language, living in Glasgow. It works with employers and partners to help its clients find work, education or further training.
Its director Maggie Lennon said the programme gets half of its funding from Europe.
“We find ourselves as a sector in the eye of a perfect storm with not very much to be optimistic about,” said Lennon.
“We are in receipt of approximately 50% of our funding from a wide range of European funding, and with no idea or plan as yet as to what might replace that, it's difficult for us to plan beyond 2018 with any confidence.
“Meaning the habitual short term funding curse of the third sector just got a lot worse.”
Many charities also said that the EU has been a force for good and 81% of respondents are worried about advances in human rights and equalities legislation being rolled back.
Lennon added: “Working with both forced and voluntary migrants we are also hugely concerned about the impact of new immigration rules, and any attempt now or in the future to decouple the UK from the UNHCR without the protection of EU law.”
Scottish Government Brexit minister Mike Russell will address the charity sector at the annual Gathering conference in Glasgow on Thursday, 23 February.
He said: “I am greatly looking forward to speaking to SCVO delegates at the Gathering later this month. I will listen keenly to the views and concerns of attendees on how they fear Brexit will impact Scots and the third sector.
“Withdrawal from the EU poses a real threat to people and communities across Scotland – the social protections and human rights which make Scotland the open and inclusive country we want to be are seriously at risk.”
Third sector organisations concerned about leaving the EU can still sign up to attend Breakfast with Mike Russell on Thursday, 22 Feburary at thegathering.scot. The event will include an open Q&A with the minister.