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One third of Suffolk voluntary organisations fear closure in next 12 months

PUBLISHED: 19:00 01 October 2020 | UPDATED: 10:48 02 October 2020

Christine Abraham, CEO of Community Action Suffolk, said confidence was returning in the voluntary sector but funding stability and longer term contracts were needed. Picture: COMMUNITY ACTION SUFFOLK

Christine Abraham, CEO of Community Action Suffolk, said confidence was returning in the voluntary sector but funding stability and longer term contracts were needed. Picture: COMMUNITY ACTION SUFFOLK

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Confidence is starting to return to the voluntary and charitable sector in Suffolk, an industry leader has said – but more than a third of organisations are still under threat of closure in the next 12 months unless circumstances change.

Suffolk County Council cabinet member for communities, Paul West, said many new volunteers had started during the coronavirus pandemic. Picture: RACHEL EDGESuffolk County Council cabinet member for communities, Paul West, said many new volunteers had started during the coronavirus pandemic. Picture: RACHEL EDGE

A survey carried out by Community Action Suffolk (CAS) following the closure of Age UK Suffolk over the summer found 60% of voluntary organisations locally saying they faced closure in the next year based on current circumstances – 30% of which said that was the situation in just six months.

MORE: Warning of more charity closures following Age UK Suffolk from Covid-19

Latest data from August suggests that around half – 49% – have sufficient funds for the next 12 months, while 35% report they will need to close their doors without additional support in that time.

However, a scrutiny committee meeting of Suffolk County Council on Thursday heard that organisations still needed help to weather the coronavirus crisis.

Christine Abraham, chief executive of CAS, said: “We have only seen one substantial casualty in Suffolk, Age UK, but we already know other organisations have made significant cuts to staff and services.

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“A lot of the smaller organisations quite often live from year-to-year, so having no pipeline of income that’s planned is a real challenge for them, and I think we are going to see a lot more difficulty in the winter months and a lot more casualties are going to struggle and close down.”

Among some of the key challenges for charities are the inability to hold fundraising events because of social distancing measures, increased demand on services, and public sector contracts often being short term rather than five or 10-year contracts which would provide financial stability.

There are an estimated 15,000-18,000 voluntary sector organisations operating in Suffolk, which ranges from large prominent charities right down to informal voluntary groups serving small communities.

MORE: Age UK Suffolk announces closure

Stephen Singleton, from Suffolk Community Foundation, said many voluntary organisations were ploughing through reserves, which jeopardised the financial stability of the next few years.

County council cabinet member for communities, Paul West, added: “There are two aspects that have come out of the last six months – one is looking at individuals, and there seems to be no shortage of people who came forward to volunteer, but on the other-hand almost a counterpoint is the Covid situation has brought a real difficulty to how voluntary organisations are sustainable.”

A special task group called the funding and financial resilience group has been set up to come up with measures to help voluntary organisations around accessing grants, funding and financial sustainability.


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