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NI charity sector faces 'imminent collapse' new findings show - representative body calls on Executive for urgent intervention

Live survey results show many in sector only have weeks left claims CO3
Download the full report Covid-19 and the Charity Sector in NI. What is needed to protect the third sector in NI? 

The live survey results of charity leaders in Northern Ireland has revealed that shocking new evidence shows that three quarters of organisations are approaching a funding cliff-edge because of the Covid-19 crisis.

The survey was carried out in the last week by the third sector’s Chief Executive group CO3, in partnership with the Institute of Fundraising.

Of the 206 leaders who responded:

  • 76% are now reporting ‘serious financial difficulties’
  • 38% describing their cash flow position as ‘unstable’

Many charities rely on public fundraising activities which have stopped overnight with one charity reporting that despite a 70% increase in referrals to its service, its income is down by 90%.

Despite a £750m package for struggling charities being announced on 8 April, only £21m has been allocated to third sector organisations in Northern Ireland, representing around £3,400 for each of Northern Ireland’s over 6,000 registered charities.

The survey also revealed that charities have been locked out of government support schemes.

  • Around 97% of organisations are ineligible for the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan (CBIL) Scheme
  • Only 8% have managed to access government grants,
  • Only slightly more than half have been able to furlough their workers on the government’s job retention scheme

CO3 is urging the Northern Ireland Executive and UK Treasury to create a bespoke rescue package to sustain local charities and voluntary organisations which will protect jobs, protect incomes and cash flow, and maintain key services.


Nora Smith, Chief Executive of CO3, said:

“The situation for charities and third sector organisations in Northern Ireland is desperate. This survey paints a stark picture of the position many of our members find themselves in and its no surprise that over 75% of charities have reported serious financial difficulties since this crisis began.

Organisations have seen their incomes slashed overnight and are now in the position where they need serious, targeted and comprehensive Executive intervention.

We have seen very targeted and comprehensive support packages for businesses, but many charities and social enterprises are ineligible to apply for them. This is despite the fact that in Northern Ireland, over 45,000 people are employed by the sector and it contributes over £1.5billion to the local economy.

In addition, charities are providing many public services that are needed now more than ever. We’ve seen charity directors having to make very tough decisions in recent weeks about cutting services at a time when people really need them.

If we are to get through this crisis together, it is important that charities are supported by government to continue delivering much needed support."

Charities have also reported having to stop some key services due to financial pressures. Nearly 40% of respondents have already been forced to stop some of their charity services, while another third said they could take similar steps in the coming days and weeks.

Rosin Foster from Cancer Focus charity said:

“We have already been forced to take some very difficult decisions to suspend some of our most needed services. We know that this will cause distress, but this crisis has already caused huge damage to our income and hard choices have had to be taken.

“We urgently need intervention from the Executive to mitigate the worst impacts that the Covid-19 pandemic will have.”

Download the full report CO3: Covid-19 and the Charity Sector in NI. What is needed to protect the third sector in NI? 

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