It's a challenging time for the UK charity sector. We have been thrown into an episode of doubt and there is significant opinion that leaving the European Union will have harmful and negative implications for the third sector. When the results were announced on 24 June, my first concern, as a CEO of a charity run predominantly on donations, was the affect the economic uncertainty would have on our finances, particularly our reserves and the £5.5 million we need each year to run our service.
Whilst we're not amongst the UK charities that receive over 200 million in EU funding, our concerns are still considerable. At Helen & Douglas House, we rely on voluntary donations for our work - the incredible generosity of the public and our supporters' accounts for 88 per cent of our funding. If the economy is weakened, so are our fortunes, as they are so inextricably linked. If the UK goes into recession, necessary support from volunteers and donations will reduce, whilst in turn the demand for charitable services will increase.
A strong economy is vital for charities. A recession could lead to growing levels of unemployment, which, when combined with a fall in earnings, would mean more demand for services of charities - a double whammy. It is also likely that contributions from the business community would fall, as firms face up to an economic uncertainty on their own operations and finances. The fall in sterling will have a sizeable effect. It will hit invested and disposable income which in turn will effect charitable giving, as this will become impossible for those hit hardest.
There are likely to be repercussions on volunteering - there are currently 23 million volunteers in the country who must be taken into account when we consider the impact. Volunteers are what distinguish and separate us from the private sector; they are the lifeblood of many charities and each has a very different role to play in contributing to a charities impact. Volunteers will have a variety of different challenges as a result of Brexit that will affect their ability to donate their time and support - this, we are yet to see the extent of.
Longer term - one of the biggest problems for Helen & Douglas House and others will be the recruitment of staff, in particular nurses, as a notable proportion of our staff are non-UK nationals. The UK health service has benefited hugely from employing overseas nurses from Europe and my main concern is that we will lose many of the valuable European staff who are dedicated professionals and care for our citizens in their hour of need following the decision to leave the EU.
At this point, the full extent to which Brexit will impact the third sector is still relatively unknown, although this should become clearer as the UK government begins to negotiate the terms on which we exit from the EU. But one thing is clear - charities are in a compromised and vulnerable situation and one which may be is not sustainable long term.
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