Surviving or Thriving?

Organisations working with children and young people in the North East

Earlier this year, we worked with VONNE to develop a survey aimed at understanding how austerity measures were affecting voluntary organisations delivering services to children and young people in the North East. 39 organisations from 10 out of the 12 local authority areas responded to the survey and whilst the findings of the survey therefore aren’t particularly robust, the responses we received painted a very complex picture of how the cuts to service providers are impacting on large and small charities that work with children and young people every day.Rather than producing a report based on the findings, we discussed the potential with VONNE of doing something a little bit more interactive and, with their support, we are hoping to post a series of blogs over the coming 10 – 12 weeks exploring the situation facing organisations working with children and young people in the North East. These blogs will include some posts relating to the responses from the survey, some case studies of organisations that responded to the survey and some interviews and guest posts with some reasonably influential individuals who work with children and young people in the region. We may even get some young people to contribute their thoughts….

The National Picture

The future for voluntary organisations does not look particularly bright and there is some evidence that children’s services in local authorities and small youth charities are faring particularly badly when budget decisisons are made. The North East is also disadvantaged as research carried out by JRF suggests that “Government spending cuts are hitting poorer northern councils much harder than their richer southern counterparts”, according to the Northern Echo. Meanwhile, IPPR North produced a report last year which questioned, from a North East perspective, whether the ‘Big Society’ could be a ‘fair society’. The report noted that:

“the withdrawal of public funding and a move to greater reliance on philanthropy could doubly disadvantage organisations in some areas, such as the North East”

The North East perspective

VONNE have been carrying out their Surviving not Thriving surveys since 2009. (They also run a very informative and thought provoking blog – one recent post asked ‘Is the sector crying wolf’ in relation to the responses to the Surviving not Thriving surveys). These surveys have attempted to understand how voluntary organisations across the region are coping with changes to their funding and how they are organising for a future that, at best, appears uncertain. The survey has been adapted on a number of occasions to provide a focus on a specific geographical area within the North East and we decided to develop a survey specifically for organisations working with children and young people in the region. Here are some of the headline findings from the organisations who took part:

  • 76% worked with ‘children’ and 72% worked with ‘families’
  • 20% relied on public sector contracts for over 50% of their funding
  • 84% received less than 10% of their income from charitable donations or fundraising

These initial responses suggest, as the IPPR report noted, a move to a greater reliance on philanthropic investment in charities and voluntary sector organisations does not bode well for organisations in the region.

Questions looking at the future brought the following responses:

  • 66% thought their funding would decrease
  • 79% thought there would be an increased demand for their services
  • 50% thought they would engage with additional volunteers
  • 35% thought they would have to close some of their services

When asked to decribe the long term future of the organisation, a number of people responded with ‘Bleak’, but there were some bright spots in amongst all the gloom and the picture was far from clear. Many organisations felt that there was still a great deal of uncertainty over how the future may pan out and we hope that the blogs in the coming weeks will provide an opportunity to explore some of the issues in more detail, as well as providing an opportunity for people working with children and young people in the region to take part in the discussion.

The next post in this series will look in more detail at how the cuts have affected organisations, communities and children and young people in the region, drawing on the responses to the survey. It will be published here on Wednesday 1st August.

As always, we’re keen to hear your views.

Best wishes,


(The photographs were taken as part of the Children North East photography project that took place last year)

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