Business

Stormont dithering "is robbing charities" says report

Charities in Northern Ireland are struggling without an Executive, a report says
Gary McDonald Business Editor

STORMONT'S dithering could be charities' downfall, a new report says.

And their "indecision and piecemeal approach to funding" is effectively taking the bread from vulnerable people's mouths, it claims.

One in three charities in Northern Ireland - many already struggling for support - have seen their government funding reduced.

And those organisations, surveyed for the latest quarterly CO3 Third Sector Index for Ulster Bank, say the lack of an Executive has had a "negative impact" on how they function.

The report points to a near-doubling in the number of charities reporting a reduction in their government funding – up from 17 per cent last quarter to 32 per cent now.

Charities' finances are under more pressure this quarter too – with an increasing number of leaders in the sector saying their organisation is experiencing cash flow issues.

“This is a strong indication of the extent of the challenge the current political impasse is presenting for Northern Ireland's charities," Ulster Bank's regional chief economist Richard Ramsey said.

"They provide a wide range of important services, from care provision to skills development, and while we've heard business organisations in recent days talk about the impact the lack of a budget is having on them, the third sector bodies are perhaps even more on the front line."

Ramsey added: "An Executive in place to agree a budget is one important part of the jigsaw for the economy, and the recently announced extra funding from Westminster will no doubt be helpful.

"But we also need to see timely and effective delivery across government including in areas such as planning, procurement and public services at large.”

The survey, carried out by Perceptive Insight, found that 65 per cent of third sector leaders believe political stability in Northern Ireland will worsen over the next year (just 16 per cent felt it will improve).

Nora Smith, chief executive of CO3, said: “In addition to the cuts in funding that members have reported this quarter, the financial uncertainty due to a lack of a local budget makes the current operating environment extremely challenging.

"Yet 62 per cent of our members reported an increase in demand for their services this quarter."

She added: "Just under a third of respondents highlighted that the lack of an Assembly has had a large negative impact on their organisations.

"Indecision, uncertainty and the instability that the current political vacuum has caused is impacting on morale across the sector. A third of our charities say their cash flow is very unstable."

"The piecemeal approach to funding raises vulnerabilities on the situation our charities," she said.

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