Voluntary sector feels the impact of the pandemic

Friday, April 8, 2022

Newly-published research has highlighted that more than one in ten voluntary sector organisations offering wellbeing services in Portsmouth have been forced to close during the pandemic.

The research, conducted by HIVE Portsmouth, has been released as a new voluntary sector hub for the city is announced.  The city-centre hub, funded by a £250,000 donation from BAE Systems, one of the city’s largest employers, will allow organisations to share facilities, reduce costs, and to collaborate on projects.  A second hub in the north of Portsmouth will also be created.

Both hubs will be delivered and managed by HIVE Portsmouth which coordinates and supports the voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) sector in the city.  In addition to the financial support, BAE Systems employees will also be able to volunteer for projects run from the hubs as well as offering professional advice and mentoring to VSCE organisations in Portsmouth.  The company is also considering providing surplus IT equipment for use in the new hubs.

During the course of its research, HIVE Portsmouth heard from dozens of VCSE organisations. Mental ill health of service users and organisation staff, increased demand for services, increased running costs, reduced ability to fundraise, lockdown restrictions, and pressure on volunteers and staff were all cited as creating a highly challenging environment for the sector.

These findings reflect those of a national report published by the Charity Commission late last year, which found that over 90% of charities reported experiencing some negative impact from Covid-19,whether on their service delivery, finances, staff, or on staff morale. The report also found that  60% of charities saw a loss of income.

In Portsmouth, for some, those pressures have proved too much.  Of the total of 254 groups which provide or provided wellbeing services in the city, 29 organisations have ceased to operate in the past two years – 11% of the total.  This includes a number of groups which provided support to disabled and elderly clients, as well as others operating in the provision of social welfare.

HIVE Portsmouth’s partnership with BAE Systems aims to address one of the main challenges faced by VCSE organisations: namely, the cost of operating premises. 

Revd Canon Bob White, Chair of HIVE Portsmouth Trustees said“Portsmouth is lucky to have an active and committed VCSE sector with hundreds of organisations providing a wide range of valued services to those who need support.  However, the pandemic has had a real impact.  Finances have been hit at a time when 55% of those organisations that responded have seen an increase in demand.

“The hubs that will be created with BAE Systems’ generous funding will allow organisations to share and reduce costs with the added benefits of increased collaboration and even better service provision.  We look forward to working with BAE Systems and its employees and creating a lasting partnership for the benefit of our city.”

David Mitchard, Managing Director of BAE Systems’ Maritime Services business, said:  “We’re delighted to be able to support HIVE Portsmouth in creating these essential new voluntary sector hubs for our community.  BAE Systems employs more than 3,000 people in Portsmouth, many of whom are born and bred in the city.  Contributing to our local community is important to us and it’s great to be able to offer some very practical help for a sector which has been significantly affected by the pandemic and which creates huge value for Portsmouth and its residents.”

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