Leah Swain, Chief Executive of voluntary sector infrastructure organisation, Community First Yorkshire
Leah Swain, Chief Executive of voluntary sector infrastructure organisation, Community First Yorkshire

40% of voluntary and community organisations across the Harrogate district may close due to financial pressures and volunteer shortages

14 December 2020

The impact of the government lockdowns continues to be felt by voluntary and community organisations across Harrogate district as they express concerns about their future.

Over 40% of voluntary and community organisations across the district may not stay open beyond March 2021 without greater support, reports Community First Yorkshire.

Charities and voluntary groups were invited to take part in the ‘Voluntary & Community Sector (VCS) Resilience Survey’ in October to help measure the impact that the coronavirus continues to have. Community First Yorkshire has analysed the results with help from the universities of Sheffield, Leeds and Hull.

The survey is part of Community First Yorkshire’s Community Support North Yorkshire service which is funded by North Yorkshire County Council and NHS North Yorkshire. Financial contributions were also made by Craven, Richmondshire, Ryedale and Selby district councils.

Almost half of the organisations who responded rely on volunteers to deliver their services.  With many people still shielding, volunteer numbers are down by almost 50% across the district which means that many vital community services are not able to be offered to the public. Organisations have reported that they are finding it increasingly difficult to re-engage with volunteers – especially the over 65s – to open services again. Without support from volunteers to deliver their services, these organisations face an uncertain future.

Half of the respondents earn half of their income through trading – such as through a charity shop. Such organisations have seen a dramatic drop in their income during the pandemic with many needing to make the difficult decision to dip into their financial reserves since March 2020 to survive.

Leah Swain, Chief Executive of voluntary sector infrastructure organisation, Community First Yorkshire, said:

Many voluntary sector organisations in Harrogate rely on their volunteers to deliver their services to communities. Without them, many Harrogate residents who rely on their support are going to struggle. Many volunteers need to stay at home because of the coronavirus, but we want to encourage those that can to consider giving their support in any way they are able.

This winter and beyond, we are asking people to ‘Donate Local’, be it through money, time or skills, to support their local charities and community groups. Our local charities and community groups have stepped up, adapted their service delivery, and been there for our residents when they have needed help during the Covid crisis. Local authorities, health partners and local people have told us how they have valued the support of the voluntary and community sector. It is our time to try and give back to them in whatever ways we can.

The #DonateLocal campaign has three strands: Donate Money, Donate Time (volunteering) and Donate Skills (becoming a trustee). For more information about #DonateLocal, please visit the Community First Yorkshire website communityfirstyorkshire.org.uk or follow us on social media. Twitter: @CommFirstYorks Facebook: @Comm1stYorks #DonateLocal

Leah said:

We’ve been supporting many organisations through the pandemic by giving them advice on managing their finances, recruiting volunteers and finding ways to adapt their services. If you think you need some support, don’t leave it until it’s too late and your reserves are depleted. Our research has shown that those organisations who have accessed support, from whatever source, are predicting a more resilient future than those who haven’t had any help.

Community First Yorkshire can support community groups, charities and social enterprises in North Yorkshire with advice and guidance on: volunteering, funding, governance and trustee support, financial support and exploring ways to develop your organisation. Their range of training sessions has been developed to respond to the survey findings by offering the support you need now. Take a look at their training calendar: communitysupportny.org.uk



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