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Charities fear austerity's cutbacks far more than Brexit, claims report

By Staff Reporter

Charities and social enterprises see austerity as a bigger threat than Brexit, says a new report.

Although the UK's withdrawal from the European Union is still a significant concern, 75% of third sector organisations cited cutbacks as their major worry in the latest Ulster Bank and CO3 Third Sector Index.

Pension issues were also highlighted - with around a quarter of organisations which have the funds currently in deficit, it said.

Ulster Bank chief economist (NI) Richard Ramsey said the survey raises the wider point that austerity is "not over".

"While the Chancellor may go down the route of increasing infrastructure spending in the Autumn Statement, there is unlikely to be much of a change in direction when it comes to the UK Government's austerity policy," he said.

"The Chancellor faces a choice of maintaining the rate of austerity or easing the pace and implementing it over a longer time frame. Overall, the third sector in Northern Ireland doesn't have its challenges to seek, with austerity, Brexit, and the onset of the pension crisis, which will only intensify as falling bond yields make pension provision much more expensive. This environment makes it all the more important for the sector as a whole to continue to adapt and to find new streams of revenue."

The leaders of some of Northern Ireland's largest charities were questioned as part of the quarterly survey. Some 80% they believed Brexit would have a negative impact, with just 1% believing it would be positive.

A further 65% were concerned about the long-term implications of the UK's decision to the leave the EU for their sustainability.

The vast majority (86%) criticised local politicians for not giving the matter sufficient attention.

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