Northern Ireland economy to lose out if third sector shrinks
A shrinking third sector could become a major concern for Northern Ireland as pressures grow on the health service and other parts of local government, it's been claimed.
Richard Ramsey, chief economist at Ulster Bank, said the third sector - a term covering charities and social enterprises - had a central role to play in delivering key services.
But he said the third sector, which is represented by lobby group C03, was coming under increasing pressure, thanks to a scaling back on public spending as well as pressure on the health service.
He spoke as the latest Ulster Bank and CO3 3rd Sector Index showed that nearly 60% of third sector leaders expect it to shrink over the next three years.
According to the index, more than 75% of leaders say that the lack of a Northern Ireland Executive is harming their organisations, bringing funding issues, a lack of decision-making and uncertainty.
Over 70% said they expected the political situation here to become less stable, while two-thirds said they expect the economic situation to deteriorate.
Nora Smith, chief executive of CO3, said: "The political and economic outlook for the third sector in 2018 is a challenging one, with the political deficit a key issue for our members, including a lack of confidence in the Brexit talks and how Northern Ireland is being represented in them."
And she said there was a growing need for the services which the third sector could provide.
"Despite a challenging and unpredictable environment, the sector continues to focus on delivering value to society.
"Indeed, a small number of organisations are even experiencing an increase in their funding, and overall demand for services provided by the third sector is rising.
"This highlights the need for an important role of our sector in society. The third sector plays a significant role in driving forward and leading social change, as well as adding to economic growth in our region, and it is worrying that such a high proportion of respondents expect a reduction in the overall size of the sector within the next three years."