Rotherham's voluntary sector facing 'sustainability' challenge

CONCERNS have been raised over the sustainability of Rotherham's voluntary sector after a survey found organisations are facing rising demand for their services but a drop in donations and funding as a result of the cost of living crisis.
The findings were presented to the council's health and wellbeing board meeting at Rotherham Town HallThe findings were presented to the council's health and wellbeing board meeting at Rotherham Town Hall
The findings were presented to the council's health and wellbeing board meeting at Rotherham Town Hall

More than a third (37 per cent) of organisations said the main challenge facing them was the 'level of demand for services', according to Rotherham's State of the Sector survey for the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector.

Income was the second biggest challenge for VCSE organisations (36 per cent), while 34 per cent cited the 'ability to meet demand for services.'

A quarter were struggling to recruit volunteers and just over a fifth (22 per cent) faced retention difficulties, the survey by Sheffield Hallam University's Centre for Economic and Social Research found.

Presenting the findings to Rotherham Council's health and wellbeing board meeting, SHU research fellow Dr Cathy Harris said the sector was facing “significant challenges “ due to the impact of cost of living and Covid-19.

Of the 750 registered third-sector organisations based or working in the borough, the majority (88 per cent) are involved in health and wellbeing.

Thirty-five per cent focus on improving skills and employment opportunities, a third (33 per cent) arts and creativity, and a fifth (20 per cent) the environment and animal welfare.

Feedback from organisations involved in the survey included: “It is becoming more and more difficult to remain sustainable.

“Funding from government does not cover our costs.”

Another said: “It has always been difficult to get funding for core costs but now this has become much more difficult.

“We are experiencing an increased demand for our services at a time when we have a decrease in funding.”

One had to draw on reserves to meet demand due to the cost of living crisis.

Another organisation said Covid-19 lockdowns led to an increase in mental health issues.

“Funding was interim,” they said, “but the issues have long-term consequences.”

Dr Harris told the meeting income was a “key challenge” for VCSE organisations and an inability to meet demand combined with funding failing to cover costs “could lead to a lack of sustainability” for the sector.

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