Belfast Telegraph

Christmas heaps financial pressure on Northern Ireland charities

By Ryan McAleer

Three-in-five charities in Northern Ireland reported an increase in demand for their services in the lead-up to Christmas, with more than half reporting financial pressure.

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The findings were contained in the latest Ulster Bank and CO3 third sector index for October to December.

The survey included input from some of the largest charities and social enterprises here, as well as small community and faith-based groups. The services they provide range from care, to counselling and support, and training and development.

It found the 76% believe a 'no-deal' Brexit outcome could lead to a decrease in fundraising due to the risk to the economy.

The quarterly survey found optimism dwindling in the sector, with just 34% expecting turnover to increase in the year ahead. It compared with 47% just three months earlier.

One-in-three organisations said they were under pressure to meet the new pay scales for the sector set by the National Joint Council (NJC).

Other sources of financial pressure included general overheads (21%), pay settlements (11%), redundancies (10%) and a downturn in funding or contracts (5%).

Against the backdrop of such pressure, charities faced another significant spike in demand for services during the fourth quarter, with 61% reporting an increase in service demand.

Three quarters (76%) said cashflow was "stable" with 26% organisations reporting a rise in public donations in the lead-up to Christmas.

"Last year was one of demand for the third sector," said Nora Smith of CO3.

"It was demanding on services and financially demanding. As the pool of funding drained, the sector continually adjusted to retain its vital services, without neglecting quality in the delivery of these services.

"Such uncertainty surrounding funding fashions an increasingly challenging environment for the sector to operate in. The final quarter of 2018 was less than ideal for the sector. Outlook for the year ahead is likely to follow suit as economic and political expectations dwindle."

Belfast Telegraph