Reflections from our Covid-19 impact survey

Author: Carol Botten


This week we published our report on the impact of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic on the North East VCSE sector from the 400+ responses we received to our latest survey. 

It was a mammoth task to carry out the analysis (big thanks to the VONNE team for their help), but well worth it to be able to have hard evidence on the immediate and anticipated impacts on organisations that we can use to influence and lobby funders, commissioners and other stakeholders, and use to work with partners to shape our collective responses to supporting the sector for the short, medium and longer term.

The report analysis is sobering, revealing that a third of organisations expect to lose more than half their quarterly income between April and June this year, which equates to between £75m and £223m of income lost. 40 per cent of organisations have less than three months of running costs in their reserves and 13 per cent anticipate they might close. Across the 7,200 VCSE organisations in our region, that could mean 900+ closures.

In addition, the report has revealed that the VCSE sector’s capacity is severely limited, with 53 per cent of the region’s workforce not currently operational, and 75 per cent of volunteers unable to support their organisations. Not only that, but longer-term expectations are that average staffing levels will reduce by a third due to lost income, potentially 13,000-14,000 redundancies.

All of this means that almost 400,000 individuals are no longer receiving, or are receiving a significantly reduced service from the 269 VCSE survey respondents that support them. If this is aggregated against the 7,200 VCSE organisations that operate across the North East region, the total figure is likely to be staggering. Those hardest hit include children and young people, older people, and individuals with disabilities, including learning disabilities.

Although some of the findings make for grim reading, positives have also been identified. A third of organisations have secured emergency funding to support them through Covid-19, almost two thirds of those surveyed praised funders for their response to the crisis, and their flexibility with regards to the support offered, while 73 per cent said they’d identified positive impacts, most notably, a move to more collaborative working between organisations, including local authorities as well as those in the sector.

We are so proud to be part of a sector that has showed such determination, flexibility and resilience as the situation has developed, but the fact is the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, and the associated impact of lockdown and social distancing measures, are likely to be felt in our communities and in our organisations for a long time to come.

This is not only due to the reduction in organisational capacity and income across the sector, but also the increased demand for services created both directly and indirectly, due to the societal impact on health and wellbeing, poverty and debt, and levels of unemployment.

The sector needs clarity and practical advice in the short, medium and longer term across a number of key areas, and this support must be flexible, responsive and tailored to recognise the range of impacting factors.

But uncertainty and rapid change are likely to continue for the foreseeable future. Long-term thinking is required, and organisations, including funders, commissioners and support agencies, must ensure they’re geared up to respond and flex to emerging needs.

Thank you to all the organisations who completed the survey, which has enabled us to compile the key findings and recommendations in the report, which we and our Local Infrastructure Organisation partners will use to make the case on your behalf for ongoing and meaningful support and engagement with the sector as we move forward.   

You can download the full report at