Charities braced for massive cuts in state funding

The leader of Northern Ireland’s voluntary sector has issued a stark warning over the future of charities after a report warned of multi-million pound cuts.

Seamus McAleavey said some charities could be “damaged beyond repair”, with many losing 25% of their funding as grant cuts already introduced in England reach Northern Ireland.

Yesterday, the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) said charities across the United Kingdom were facing cuts totalling nearly £3bn over the coming five years from Government spending reductions.

It used figures on the Government’s spending plans produced by the Office for Budget Responsibility to calculate what they believe is the first authoritative figure for the impact of the austerity programme on charities.

Included in its report was a £7.9m reduction in spending on the voluntary sector via the Northern Ireland Office.

Mr McAleavey, chief executive of the Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action, said: “I think that is quite a conservative estimate.

“It’s pretty serious – we don’t want charities to be damaged beyond repair.”

Public sector support for the broad charity sector in Northern Ireland is worth about £260m every year and 44% of voluntary sector support comes from the Government, with 30% coming from public donations.

The Government acted immediately on grant cuts after the 2010 General Election, with local authorities in England quickly following. Many councils passed cuts to so-called area-based grants directly onto charities that had been providing services in areas including mental health, youth work and social care.

Following this year’s Stormont elections, Mr McAleavey predicted a similar process here.

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The NCVO report found that the voluntary sector would lose around £911m a year in public funding by 2015/16, with a cumulative loss of £2.8bn over the five years 2011-16. Karl Wilding, its head of policy and research, said: “Putting an authoritative figure on the extent of the cuts to date has been like trying to pin jelly to the wall.