A CONFERENCE for charities across Worcestershire highlighted the looming cliff edge for charity funding because of rapidly declining income and increasing demand.

Worcestershire Voices held a virtual conference on July 6 to discuss the impact of Covid-19 on the voluntary and community sector in Worcestershire.

The conference, chaired by the High Sheriff of Worcestershire, Mark Jackson, brought together over 40 charities from across the county.

Worcestershire Voices reported findings from a recent survey of the sector with the conference focusing conversation on finance, physical and mental health and new relationships.

Worcestershire Voices report that up to 20 per cent of organisations expect their income to fall by at least 50 per cent in the coming months, highlighting the need for financial support to enable the continuation of services for those in need and most vulnerable in society.

Working with the National Emergencies Trust, Worcestershire Community Foundation has been able to distribute £400,000 in grants to 130 mainly small charities and community organisations. The grant funding has been a vital lifeline for recipients to deliver support to local communities.

One key concern arising from the conference was that the financial scenario facing the VCS once the emergency is over and immediate financial support is no longer available may result in a cliff edge in early 2021.

The pandemic has highlighted the importance of supporting local communities which are life blood of civil society. Many charities have experienced a significant increase in demand which looks set to continue or even increase.

Worcestershire has over 1,600 registered charities, employing over 8,200 full and part time staff with an estimated 24,000 volunteers.

Only half of respondents to the survey indicated that they intend to retain all staff.

A positive outcome of the pandemic has been a seismic change in volunteering with organisations seeing a significant increase in the number of volunteers. With many people on furlough, they have felt compelled to give something back to the community and volunteer time and knowledge. This has been welcomed by charities who have seen demand soar and their existing volunteers having to shield due to age and health reasons.

With a potential crisis in civil society on the horizon, Worcestershire Voices findings and conference has highlighted key challenges facing the sector in the county.

78 per cent of organisations expect the increase in demand from the pandemic to continue and 62 per cent expect the need for their services to increase in the months to come.

The VCS require both practical and financial support to aid the recovery of charities and provide vital services with demand due to increase in the future.

Worcestershire Voices is determined to help charities rise to the challenge. Discussions are underway with local and central government about ensuring a new and more collaborative approach designed to give the people of Worcestershire the best possible support as we all seek to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic.