The Third Sector Interface Scotland Network has polled more than 1,000 organisations of all sizes across the country #NeverMoreNeeded
The outlook for social enterprises in Scotland is perilous and charities are under considerable pressure, a new survey has revealed.
The Third Sector Interface Scotland Network carried out a national poll to gauge the issues that voluntary sector organisations are facing as they battle through the coronavirus crisis.
The study took place over a two month period and questioned community groups, charities, social enterprises, and the people and communities they support. A total of 1,184 organisations took part, from local neighbourhood groups to national level organisations, across Scotland’s 32 local authorities. A quarter of participants defined themselves as community groups, 61% as voluntary organisations and 14% as social enterprises.
It found social enterprises are facing considerable immediate challenges. The financial situation of social enterprises as a consequence of Covid-19 was described as perilous, and the study concludes many will not recover without financial support. The vast majority (81%) of social enterprises are experiencing a reduction in income from trading and 86% of social enterprises expect their financial position to worsen.
More than two thirds (68%) of organisations who responded said they expected their financial position will worsen and 45% said their income from fundraising has decreased.
On the plus side, 77% of organisations said they are doing well or coping with the crisis, and half of all organisations have changed what they do, or have modified delivery support to their community/ service users. Some social enterprises (9%) have started online trading during this time.
The study highlighted the cessation of the Job Retention Scheme as a key pinch point for the financial recovery of organisations. More than half (58%) of social enterprises and 39% of voluntary organisations with staff have furloughed workers, and support will be required to avoid job losses.
Ian Bruce, chief executive of Glasgow Council for the Voluntary Sector (GCVS) said: “Charities and other community-led organisations are an important part of our lives and society. They have never been more needed, but these findings show that many organisations are under considerable pressure. The sector has a key role to play in the recovery and in building a better society, but only if it is supported through this.”
Mhairi Wylie, chief officer at Highland Third Sector Interface (HTSI) said: “We knew the third sector had played an outstanding role in our communities during this crisis, and the TSI survey has illustrated the extent community groups and volunteers have really kept the Highlands going in this period.
“Thousands of people in our communities have supported communities in an emergency situation with food deliveries, prescriptions pick-up and befriending calls. But now, the focus is shifting on to the next stage of this, the recovery phase, the survey has indicated. This stage could end up being even more challenging that the initial phase and there are concerns around funding, both in terms of how to access but also what the impact of Covid will be on the ongoing funding position and how that relates to demand on Third Sector Services.
“Significantly, our members have indicated massive concerns about wellbeing, mental ill health and loneliness and in the context of an area which has historically struggled with provision, a higher than average suicide rate and remote and rural isolation we desperately need decision makers and funder to hear this plea for more support and compassion around this here in Highland.
“We strongly believe that the need for the third sector has never been greater, but members are worried about continuing past ovid with little guaranteed funding, collaborative and productive partnerships and soaring demand. The survey has confirmed that many third sector organisations are struggling for their survival.”
“The sector has been delivering support where it is needed and immediately it was clear we were in a deep crisis,” said Ella Simpson, chief executive of Edinburgh Voluntary Organisations' Council (EVOC).
“We have never been more needed. Covid-19 has shone a spotlight on the issues of deep-rooted inequality and poverty which is exists in our society – crisis or no crisis. Our sector has a key role in the long hard recovery and in building a better society. As always, our mantra at EVOC is People, Place and Partnerships – we must re-double our efforts to work together across all sectors as we move forward.”
Maggie Hepburn, chief executive of Aberdeen Council of Voluntary Organisations (ACVO) praised the way that organisations have responded to the crisis.
She said: “Across Scotland, the third sector has provided crucial support to communities throughout this pandemic and it has been heartening to see, particularly here in Aberdeen, how organisations have adapted and stepped up. It is clear from the results of this survey that many of these organisations continue to struggle financially through the loss of much needed income and fundraising and that this situation will continue for some time. The challenge for TSIs is how we support these organisations locally. ”
The full report can be accessed here and it is intended that each TSI will produce their own local version of the study.