'Time to talk about the value of CO3 sector' says report

Valerie McConville, chief executive of CO3, launches the 'Valuing Our Sector' report alongside Brendan Mulgrew, managing partner of MW Advocate, which undertook the research
Gary McDonald Business Editor

A NEW study has laid bare the acute challenges faced by the charities sector in Northern Ireland as a result of the Covid pandemic, including loss of income at a time of greater demand for services.

The report, which was commissioned by CO3, the representative body for leaders across charitable and other third sector organisations across the north, also revealed that the sector still contributes £2.4 billion to the local economy and directly employs nearly 37,500 people.

But it also stressed that Stormont "needs to engage positively and proactively with the third sector and its representative bodies to ensure that fiscal pressures do not negatively impact the provision of funding and of services".

A number of recommendations are contained in the ‘Valuing Our Sector’ report (details at, the data for which was gathered by communications and advocacy company MW Advocate.

It assessed the challenges faced by third sector locally in the wake of Covid and the current cost of living crisis.

Current sources of funding are mapped within the report with 36 per cent of income coming from government sources in the form of grant funding or contracted work.

In the face of current difficulties the sector remains ambitious, with 46 per cent of organisations planning to increase the service they offer in the years ahead.

CO3 chief executive Valerie McConville said: “The cumulative impact of increased demand on our services, aligned to reduced funding and resources creates a stress which is in danger of becoming the new post pandemic normal for the third sector.


“Covid, the lockdowns, vastly reduced fundraising opportunities and a cost of living crisis all create a huge pressure on our organisations.

“And against this backdrop, Northern Ireland remains politically paralysed, with no local ministers taking new funding decisions or implementing new policies, all of which means that there is no better time to examine and highlight the role played by third sector organisations.”

In revenue terms, the third sector’s value is £2.4 billion a year and, through spending, contributes 4.3 per cent of the north's overall GDP.

The sector employs 37,425 people, with a direct weekly salary contribution of £19.4 million, equating to £1 billion annually, which means that for every additional pound invested in the third sector which is paid as salaries, £1.71 in additional value is generated to the wider economy.

There are also 81,492 volunteers engaged by third sector organisations and 10,849 working registered as charitable trustees.

That means a total of 129,700 people are directly engaged with the sector, representing 9.3 per cent of the entire Northern Ireland working-age population.

Ms McConville added: “CO3 members and the organisations they represent are job creators who help the economy run. They are health and wellbeing advocates transforming the lives of patients and families; they are the 'shock absorber' to support people in tough times; they are the backbone of communities. Day and daily they are doing great work.

“It’s time now to talk about the value of our sector.”