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Big Society won't be 'big' in all areas of Yorkshire

The potential impact of the local authority cuts to the voluntary sector in Yorkshire has been revealed in the latest third sector trend surveys.
Along with the threat to 26,000 voluntary sector jobs, the research has revealed how important public sector investment is to the health of charities and voluntary organisations. 51% of the income of general charities in the region comes from ‘statutory services’ which is considerably higher than the national figure of 42%. Alongside this, the proportion of income from individuals including donations and legacies is 26.3% compared with 36.9% nationally.
The findings, which come from three pieces of research carried out by Involve Yorkshire & Humber, Sheffield Hallam University, the Northern Rock Foundation and Southampton University, also revealed that the spending cuts are having a disproportionate affect on different areas of the region.
The cuts are biting the deepest in the areas where the numbers of voluntary organisations and volunteers are relatively lower than in, usually, more affluent areas, namely Doncaster, Hull, Bradford and North Lincolnshire. However, the significance of public funding to the voluntary sector varies considerably across the region from 51% of civil society organisations in Hull to 32% in North Yorkshire.
Worryingly, nearly 60% of charities in Yorkshire and the Humber have less than one year’s expenditure held as assets and the data revealed that larger organisations employing more staff are less likely to hold significant reserves, posing a threat to more jobs.
The research developed in partnership with the Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research (CRESR) at Sheffield Hallam University and funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, examines the key drivers of the Big Society in the region and indentifies the challenges to overcome for the initiative to work.
Involve Yorkshire & Humber is emphasising the need for voluntary sector and local authorities to work more closely together to minimise the impact of cuts on local people and services.
Mark Crowe from Involve Yorkshire & Humber, says: “The different areas of Yorkshire and the Humber provide an incredible contrast in terms of the level, density, scope and vibrancy of civil society activities. Therefore agendas to promote a Big Society must be played out very differently in different areas.”
“The fundamental point is that the Big Society is unlikely to be ‘Big’ in all areas of our region. The initiative is about bringing power to the local communities, but how are voluntary sector organisations in places like Doncaster and Bradford going to be able to deliver public services if they’ve got no money?”
Mark continues: “Liverpool has already pulled out as a key partner in Cameron’s Big Society initiative due to the Government-imposed spending cuts and if this unrealistic approach continues, I fear more will follow.”
The research is a significant contribution to the region’s voluntary sector knowledge bank and will be used proactively to influence Government and a local and national level.
Professor Peter Wells, director of CRESR, said: “This research demonstrates what is happening out there in the real world and how it translates into the Government’s Big Society agenda. The research identifies a number of key challenges to the implementation of a Big Society and until these are addressed, the initiative will struggle to find its feet in our region.”
Mark concludes: “The stark reality is that the Big Society initiative cannot be successful if organisations and individuals aren’t given the support to engage in it. Can our region support the Big Society and its aim to help communities do more for themselves when the Government is cutting the lifeline to hundreds of these vital and worthwhile groups?”
The research can be accessed at www.involveyorkshirehumber.org.uk/resources/reports/
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Notes to editors:

A Big Society In The North? was written by Peter Wells, Jan Gilbertson and Tony Gore from the Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research at Sheffield Hallam University and Mark Crowe from Involve Yorkshire & Humber. It is available to read at www.shu.ac.uk/cresr. A Big Society in Yorkshire and Humber? was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council.
Involve Yorkshire & Humber (formerly Yorkshire & the Humber Forum) is an independent social business and charity, which leads a vibrant voluntary sector in the region. Involve has over 130 members linking them to more than 20,000 front line groups. Involve Yorkshire & Humber was set up in 1997 to act as a strategic voice for voluntary and community networks in the region. It brings together voluntary and community sector organisations to ensure that the sector has the right support and structures to contribute to regional activity.
Involve Yorkshire & Humber’s membership is made up of voluntary and community organisations including locally based groups, social enterprises and large charities and independent consultants.
The voluntary and community sector contributes £2.75bn per year to the Yorkshire economy, employs 72,700 people and involves 66,000 trustees. Its 300,000 volunteers give 25 million hours per year.
Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research (CRESR), Sheffield Hallam University
The Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research (CRESR) at Sheffield Hallam University is a leading social policy research centre in the United Kingdom.
Go to www.shu.ac.uk/cresr for more details.
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Getting Started with TikTok: An Introduction to Fundraising & Supporter Engagement

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