Harrogate charities feeling the pinch as they face a tough fight against the cost of living crisis

The charity sector has faced two years of uncertainty as a result of the Covid pandemic and they are now having to come to terms with a number of other challenges - despite an increase in demand for their services.

By Lucy Chappell
Friday, 22nd April 2022, 11:39 am

The Covid-19 pandemic has caused a gaping hole in the charity sector’s finances and brought financial challenges for many charities that may continue over the long term.

However, they are now facing a cost of living crisis, as well as the ongoing war in Ukraine, which is having an even deeper impact on the financial stability of charities not just across the Harrogate district, but across the rest of the country too.

Over the past few months, the Harrogate Advertiser has spoken to a number of local groups as part of our ‘Charity of the Week’ series, highlighting how during the Covid pandemic they experienced an increase in demand for their services - whilst at the same time having to adapt the ways in which they worked and fundraised.

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Jackie Snape (Chief Executive of Disability Action Yorkshire), Sue Cawthray (CEO at Harrogate Neighbours) and Mark Dobson (Chief Operating Officer at Wetherby in Support of the Elderly) are just a number of charities across the district who are feeling the effects of the cost of living crisis

This imbalance between demand and the capacity to deliver has continued post-lockdown, putting even further strain on charities who provide all-important services to the community.

Understandable support for Ukraine and the fact that there is less disposable income due to the cost of living crisis means recovery from the Covid years has stalled.

Harrogate-based charity Disability Action Yorkshire supports disabled people and provides them with vital services that creates opportunities in achieving their life aspirations, whatever they may be.

Jackie Snape, Chief Executive of Disability Action Yorkshire, has already noticed that the income they receive is not going far enough and this is down to the number of challenges the sector is facing.

She said: “Charities have faced two years of uncertainty as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and are now facing a cost of living crisis.

“In addition, the war in Ukraine, which has led to tragic human costs, has seen people across the world quite rightly wishing to donate what they can to aid those caught in this awful crisis.

“This is a hugely difficult time for charities who are expecting an increase in demand and fall in donations, mainly linked to ever-rising household bills.

“At a time when we need to adapt and expand our services to meet rising demand, we are finding that any income we do receive just doesn’t go as far as it did, as it is costing more to pay staff, run premises and deliver vital services.

“Financial sustainability is a big challenge for us all at the moment, not all charities survived the pandemic and the fear is that at a time when our services are so needed, we will see more charities scaling their operations back or closing down altogether.

“We have some amazing charities in our local area working in so many vital areas such as food poverty, homelessness and social care - very often filling gaps in public service provision.

Donations may not always be money, although that is obviously very much appreciated, however donations of time in the form of volunteering are also so very welcome.

Jackie added: “With so many ways to volunteer, from being a trustee involved in the strategic running of a charity, to helping to deliver those vital services on the ground, if anyone has a few hours to spare, it will always be gratefully received.

“Times are tough for charities, but we will keep on doing what we always do, adapting and, where we can, expanding our services to make sure that we keep on making that all important difference.”

Harrogate Neighbours provides affordable quality care services for elderly people across the district.

Sue Cawthray, CEO at Harrogate Neighbours, said: “As a charitable organisation that supports and cares for vulnerable people living in the community, we are facing a number of challenges due to the pandemic, war in Ukraine and the rising costs of living and running a business.

“At Harrogate Neighbours we are a community within a community and whilst we do what we can to support the war, we must continue to be sustainable which means thinking differently - we need to be innovative and look at the changing environment and the economy so that we can adapt to the change.

“The old saying is that charity begins at home - this is key as we must look after our own but at the same time, we must get the balance of supporting others less fortunate.

“Everyone is feeling the pinch but the key is to continue to work together and remember all the things that we learnt during the pandemic about each other and our local communities so everyone can benefit.”

Wetherby in Support of the Elderly (WiSE) helps to improve the quality of life for the over 60s by providing community based activities, information, help and support.

Mark Dobson, Chief Operating Officer at WiSE, said: “As a small charity, a percentage of our income comes from the local authority but we still rely heavily on donations.

“Unfortunately, we are already starting to see the cost of living crisis impact the community that we support.

“Community fundraising provides value to our services for the benefit of others. We have already noticed a slowing down of community based donations which is an extremely worrying trend for smaller charities like ourselves that rely on this income.

“This reduction in funds will have a significant impact on the kind of services that we can offer and provide.”