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Sally  Sally Young, Chief Executive 

A few years ago I was accused by a well-respected commentator on the voluntary sector of ‘crying wolf’. I had predicted the closure of some local charities because of austerity. I reflected that maybe my perspective was disproportionately negative as CVS often supports organisations in difficulties.

Let’s flip forward a few years - there is no end of the recession in sight, welfare “reforms” are making life so difficult for many people that a number of Conservative MPs are asking for more money for Universal Credit, and the only growth in banks is in food banks.

There have always been charities and community groups closing and starting up, but this feels different now. Each year we report the CVS Membership in our annual report; for the first time this has started to fall, not because organisations are leaving us, but because there are actual closures.

There have been some very high profile failures - Lifeline and Kid’s Company nationally and Age UK (Newcastle) locally. There have been a relatively small number of mergers. But something new is shifting.

We are aware that several organisations are technically alive, but often in a shell form; they have an outer casing but are hollow inside. They have lost workers and are kept going by volunteers and staff working for more hours than they are paid.

Many commentators, including ourselves, and lots of publications, most recently ‘A Quiet Crisis’, have noted the increasingly dire funding position of many local authorities. The Big Lottery Fund has a reduction in available funding. Grant-making Trusts and foundations are oversubscribed. Although organisations are exhorted to be entrepreneurial, it’s hard to generate income when you haven’t got an asset, or your customers have no/ low income. So where is the money to fund organisations going to come from?

There has been a rhetoric that organisations fold because they are badly managed. In some cases this is true, but in many it’s because they just haven’t got enough funding. It isn’t the fault of the trustees / management committee or staff. Costs are constantly rising, needs are growing and the funding gap widens. The UK Inflation calculator is quite frightening as it illustrates current and historic values.

I think the wolf has reached the door now.