GaN Canny: Surveying the views of the sector in Gateshead and Newcastle

Sally Young is vice chair of NCVO’s trustee board. She has been chief executive of Newcastle Council for Voluntary Service (CVS) since June 2010, and has worked in and with the voluntary sector for over 30 years as a volunteer, staff member and trustee.

Newcastle CVS has produced GaN Canny: The views of the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector in Gateshead and Newcastle. This involved a survey of local organisations, and information from visits and meetings. We asked questions about the organisations – their status, achievements and challenges, and what pressures they had identified for the future. More importantly, we asked about what issues were impacting on the people they supported and within their local communities. 168 voluntary and community organisations completed the survey and they represent a reasonable reflection of local voluntary and community organisations and social enterprises.

The local voluntary sector landscape

In Gateshead, there are around:

  • 321 registered charities based in Gateshead
  • 24 mutuals
  • 30 CICs
  • Between 960–1,300 small, local groups, activities and organisations
  • 516 other local charities that are not based in Gateshead, but cover Gateshead in their activities.

In Newcastle there are around:

  • 627 registered charities based in Newcastle
  • 61 mutuals
  • 121 CICs
  • Between 1,900–2,500 small, local groups, activities and organisations
  • 586 other local charities that are not based in Newcastle, but cover Newcastle in their activities.

Key findings

The key issues identified were:

  • Funding and sustainability is the most pressing issue for local organisations. This is regardless of whether they are small, medium or large organisations.
  • Around 7 out of 10 organisations noted an increase in demand for their services in the last year. A number of organisations have reported year on year growth in demand for several years.
  • The recruitment and retention of volunteers is the second largest area of challenge. This concern was shared across small community organisations, which were totally run by volunteers and medium sized and larger voluntary organisations.
  • Despite the challenges, the majority of respondents remain optimistic about the future of their organisations. Over a third want to increase the number of beneficiaries, nearly half want to increase services, more than half anticipate more volunteers and a quarter want to increase staff in the next year.
  • Two thirds of organisations had developed new areas of service, projects, initiatives and events during the last year. The push to innovation was still happening, despite restructures, funding cuts and other challenges.
  • The key challenge for the people using the services and facilities was the impact of welfare reform, Universal Credit and personal debt. There was a noticeable growth of poverty and austerity within communities, set against a background of withdrawal of statutory services and a loss of general activities.
  • Growing levels of mental illness and the failure of statutory services to support people was having a noticeable impact within and across communities.
  • The rate of change was having a destabilising effect on some medium and larger sized organisations. This had a particular effect on accommodation, staffing, strategic planning and engagement.
  • There were more governance issues than previously; with trustees and management committee members having to take harder and more complex decisions.
  • Certain groups of people were identified as having additional needs that weren’t being met; in particular refugees and asylum seekers, young people and older people.
  • The themes of loneliness and isolation, not just around older people, were raised. Sometimes these were referenced to facilities and activities that no longer exist.
  • The withdrawal of the public sector was becoming more noticeable and a number of services were harder to access due to changing criteria, different locations and charges.
  • Grants from charitable foundations and trusts were the most common form of income for small and medium-sized voluntary organisations, while contracts are the most important source of income for larger organisations.
  • Just over one in three organisations noted an increase in income since the previous year. Income stayed the same for just over one in three organisations and just under a third saw a decrease in income since last year.
  • There were more comments on general health and wellbeing than previous years.
  • The big challenge for organisations is of greater demand, fewer resources and more clients having more complex needs.

The report includes local, regional and national data about the voluntary and community sector – referencing the UK Civil Society Almanac – so it shows where the local picture fits in.

To find out more about the work we’re doing in this area, follow the Twitter hashtag #GaNCanny18

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