Belfast Telegraph

One-in-three community groups added new staff in last quarter in Northern Ireland

Economist Richard Ramsey
Economist Richard Ramsey

By Staff Reporter

One-in-three community and voluntary groups increased their headcount in the past quarter, despite uncertainty over funding.

More than two-thirds of groups said there had been increased demand for their services in recent months, while three-quarters (74%) expect their turnover to increase or remain the same.

The findings are contained in new research produced by Ulster Bank with CO3, which represents over 800 'third sector' leaders, including some of the largest charities and social enterprises here.

Ulster Bank's chief economist, Richard Ramsey, said in spite of the political uncertainty, the community and voluntary sector was reflecting the resilience of the private sector. "Despite issues being created by a lack of decision-making including in relation to funding, third sector organisations report that they are seeing growing demand and are increasing their headcount."

However he warned: "Whether this is sustainable in a situation where political stalemate continues and the economy as a whole feels the increasing squeeze of rising inflation and stagnant wages remains to be seen."

Nearly two-thirds of respondents to the survey believe political instability will worsen over the year ahead, with almost two-thirds expecting the economy to deteriorate over the same period.

While 72% advocate a shift in the political decision-making process, there's little consensus. Some 27% said responsibility lies with the Secretary of State, 25% favour a joint British-Irish intergovernmental conference, while 20% cited a Citizens' Assembly. A quarter (24%) believed that the status quo should be maintained.

Belfast Telegraph