Charity leaders have expressed significant concern about the current political situation in Northern Ireland and the prospect of direct rule.
These are part of the findings of The Ulster Bank & CO3 3 rd Sector Index for Q3 2017.
It is a barometer of Northern Ireland’s third sector, involving a quarterly survey of CO3 members who include the leaders of some of Northern Ireland’s largest charities and social enterprises through to small community groups. There were almost 200 responses in the last quarter.
Over 90 percent don’t believe the political institutions will be restored this year, and almost two-thirds believe that direct rule would be bad for their organisation.
Linked to this, almost 90 percent say that the lack of an Executive and Assembly operating has had a negative impact on their charity over the past quarter, and 68 percent are of the view that the Northern Ireland economy will worsen during the next 12 months.
Other findings of the survey include that almost two-thirds (63 percent) of third sector leaders saw demand for their services increase in the past three months. But more (28 percent) saw their cashflow position weaken than saw it improve (14%).
Nora Smith, Chief Executive of CO3 said: “The lack of an operational Executive continues to take its toll across the charity sector. Funding cuts, lack of progress in policy and legislative change and the uncertainty that surrounds our members’ ability to lead and deliver services is extremely challenging. We need our Executive reestablished in order to create the stability that the economy needs to support our most vulnerable in society. We are now in a position whereby we have a democratic deficit and the lack of accountability that implies is deeply concerning”.
Richard Ramsey, Chief Economist NI, Ulster Bank, said: “Clearly, third sector organisations have been grappling with difficult issues, including the ongoing reductions in government funding, plus the prospect of EU funding coming to an end. This is manifesting itself in cashflow pressures, and falls in real wages in the sector. They are also finding the current political environment challenging. On the positive side, though, third sector organisations are clearly seeing big demand for their services and are working in collaboration with other bodies to grow and meet demand in a sustainable way.”