30/07/2018

Charity Leaders Raise Concerns Over Ongoing Political Instability

Charities and social enterprises in Northern Ireland are concerned about politically instability and believe action is needed to ensure decisions can be made in the absence of an Executive.

The views of charity and social enterprise bosses have been revealed in the latest Ulster Bank and CO3 3rd Sector Index.

Published by CO3 Chief Officers 3rd Sector, the report is a key 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. Services they provide range from care, to counselling and support, as well as training and development.

A total of 65% of respondents believe that political instability in Northern Ireland will worsen over the year ahead and almost two-thirds expect the Northern Ireland economy to deteriorate over the same period, an increase on the previous quarter (61%).

As fears for the economy and political instability continue, almost three quarters (72%) of third sector leaders advocate for a shift in the political decision-making process. While opinion is mixed, only 24% believe in maintaining the status quo, opting for civil servants to make decisions about Northern Ireland in the absence of a Stormont Executive.

Overall, third sector leaders believe the responsibility for making decisions about Northern Ireland should fall with the Secretary of State (27%), a joint British-Irish intergovernmental conference (25%) or a Citizens' Assembly (20%).

One respondent to the survey said: "Having no decision makers, having no decisions being made, having civil servants who are afraid to commission anything new and being stuck in contracts that are out of date, under paying us and undervaluing us is frustrating and leaving us unable to have much flexibility in responding to the needs of our groups."
News Image
Despite the uncertain environment though, respondents say that their organisations continue to increase employment and remain optimistic that turnover will increase.

The latest report shows an increase in employment levels to deal with an increasing demand for services, with 33% of organisations increasing their headcount in the past quarter, the highest rate of increase over the previous 12 months. This comes as organisations are once again reporting continued increases in demand for their services (67%). As a result, 74% expect their turnover to increase or remain the same.

Nora Smith, Chief Executive of CO3, said: "Once again, the political situation in Northern Ireland remains a key concern for third sector organisations and one which they don't expect to improve. Our latest report demonstrates that the lack of a government is impacting on the sector however the resilience of organisations is also apparent. What is clear is that the third sector needs government decisions to be made and the majority feel that the current situation where decisions aren't being made is unsustainable."

Richard Ramsey, Chief Economist, NI, at Ulster Bank added: "Despite no shortage of political uncertainty, the Northern Ireland economy has been resilient in the past year, with private sector activity continuing to increase and labour market statistics posting a number of records of the positive variety. The latest Ulster Bank and CO3 Third Sector Index suggests that this is being reflected in the third sector where despite issues being created by a lack of decision-making including in relation to funding, third sector organisations report that they are seeing growing demand and are increasing their headcount. Whether this is sustainable in a situation where political stalemate continues and the economy as a whole feels the increasing squeeze of rising inflation and stagnant wages remains to be seen."

(MH/LM)

Related Northern Ireland News Stories
Click here for the latest headlines.

19 August 2019
Police Murder Bid Sparks Political Outrage
An explosion in County Fermanagh designed to murder security force personnel has been met with widespread outrage from Northern Ireland's political representatives. Local parties have united in their condemnation of the bomb, along with the Secretary of State and Irish Prime Minister. The bomb detonated at around 10.
27 June 2013
NIPSA Slam Chancellor's Budget Cuts
Public sector trade union, NIPSA, has criticised Chancellor George Osborne following Wednesday afternoon's Spending Review. Yesterday, Mr Osborne revealed Northern Ireland's budget for the year 2015/16 is to be cut by 2% to £9.6bn.
18 January 2012
UK Govt. Criticised Over Public-Sector Job Cuts
Northern Ireland will be the UK region hardest hit by public sector job cuts. The Irish Congress of Trade Unions has said that 26,000 public sector jobs would go in NI by 2017. It said the executive must take firm action to defend the NI economy from the coalition government's plans.
14 October 2010
Economy Needs Fillip - Not Cut-backs
Stimulating enterprise and trade must be a priority going beyond public sector cuts says banking economists. According to the Northern Bank's Chief Economist Angela McGowan, (pictured) decision-makers need to bring forward measures for growing the private sector alongside anticapated proposals to slim the public sector.
29 November 2011
NI Set To Grind To A Halt As Strike Bites
All public transport, including trains and buses and many local services such as refuse collection are all to grind to a halt at midnight tonight as one of the largest UK-wide strikes in recent years kick-off.