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Localgiving Sustainability Report Highlights Brexit Uncertainty

  • Over the last year, the UK's impending exit from the European Union has had a significant impact upon the organisations working at a grassroots level to support their communities. However, the impact of Brexit is yet to be understood. Localgiving’s 2017/18 Local Charity and Community Group Sustainability Report highlights the uncertainty and fear of negative consequences of those working in the charity sector in Northern Ireland.

    Each year our report provides a snapshot of the local voluntary sector in the United Kingdom, highlighting both the unique value of local charities and the key challenges they face. Now in its third year, this report demonstrates the widespread uncertainty about the impact of Brexit on the local voluntary sector across the United Kingdom, with only 2% of organisations in the UK feeling that Brexit will have a positive impact on their organisation. The report, however, shows deeper concerns are particularly prevalent among charitable groups in Northern Ireland where there is widespread uncertainty about Brexit’s implications:

    ‘Derry is border city. Our whole community will be impacted by Brexit as we will become isolated. This will impact our service users, all of which lived through the closed borders of the troubles. The uncertainty for the future adds to the stress our service users experience. And we will not be able to access EU funding and the other opportunities being in the EU brings’ - Anonymous Charity Respondent

    64% of Northern Irish respondents to our survey believed Brexit would have a negative financial impact compared to an average of 24% across the whole UK. What is particularly alarming is the fact that no groups in Northern Ireland believed Brexit would have a positive financial impact. In terms of future service delivery to the Northern Irish public, the results were equally disheartening. 50% of groups said Brexit will have a negative impact on services they can provide, and again no groups saw Brexit as having any positive effect on service delivery.

    ‘Our organisation operates in Armagh city and surrounding area, regarded as a border town. Some of our members and those who attend our events come from the nearby town of Monaghan. After Brexit, this will mean that they will have to leave the EU to attend events and classes and vice-versa. We believe that there can only be a detrimental effect to the organisation as it may lead to a decrease in cross-border activities. While our organisation was never in receipt of funding directly from Europe, we believe that funding will now be refocused along the line of the European frontier. It will, therefore, become harder to source funding from the south of Ireland’. - Anonymous Charity Respondent

    As Localgiving’s report highlights the decision for the UK to leave the EU, compounded by the fragile political situation in Northern Ireland, has created an atmosphere of concern and uncertainty across civil society.

    ‘The potential impact of Brexit on groups in Northern Ireland is a major concern.

    Local charities and community groups have a unique, in-depth understanding of their communities. It is absolutely essential that the voices of civil society groups in Northern Ireland, particularly those representing border communities, are carefully listened to, and used to inform key decisions’’. - Lewis Garland, Localgiving 2017/2018 Local Charity and Community Group Sustainability Report Author

    What is clear is that there is increased strain on future service provision and anxiety about future funding streams across the third sector in Northern Ireland. Given the suspension of the Executive at Stormont, it is imperative that the European, British, and Irish governments, and Northern Ireland’s political parties, work to allay the fears disclosed by Northern Irish civil society in this report.

    Conor Kelly is the Localgiving Training & Development Manager based in our London office.

    You can download the Localgiving 2017/18 Local Charity and Community Group Sustainability Report here.