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A new report, commissioned by Stockport Council and Sector3, has revealed new insights into the role of the voluntary, community, faith-based and social enterprise (VCFSE) sector during the COVID-19 pandemic as well as its wider contribution to local communities.
The data and evidence in the report found the VCFSE sector makes a significant contribution to preventing need, decreasing hardship, supporting those in crisis and driving social value in Stockport.
A particular focus of the report was on the role the sector played in the frontline pandemic response. In one extract the report suggests that some of Stockport’s most vulnerable communities may have lost out if it had not been for the tenacity of organisations providing support during the pandemic.
Despite this, the report found that overall income across the sector had reduced by 40% whereas expenditure had increased by 32% in order to meet unprecedented demand and restructure services. Added to this many organisations were forced to use their reserves in order to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. For survival, organisations were forced to turn to alternative methods of generating income, including partnerships within and outside of the sector, resulting in the report’s recommendation for greater collaboration, and innovative partnership working, especially with the private sector.
The report also highlights the sector’s role as a key player in revitalising and rekindling social and economic activity following the pandemic. Many organisations were forced to adapt to new forms of work and developed creative solutions to the challenges of the pandemic. At least 63% of organisations stated they were forced to bring in another source of funding, providing added value to the borough and residents. This tenacity demonstrates the immense dedication the sector has in continuing to be there for the communities who depend on it.
With the focus now on economic recovery, the report calls for greater focus on community-led enterprise, citing the entrepreneurial ability in the sector through the diversification on income streams which the sector has developed over the past few years.
Jo McGrath, CEO of Sector3 says:
“This report demonstrates not only how valuable the sector is but also its resilience, with many organisations undergoing dramatic restructure in order to continue to be there for our communities. But the sector is operating in a hostile environment, with increased demand yet less funding and depleted reserves to deliver.
The sector has stood at society’s side during the pandemic, working hand in hand with public sector services in the emergency response, and it will play a monumental role in rebuilding our communities in the aftermath. But it can’t continue to operate on the current trajectory. If our communities are going to have any chance of recovery they will need a healthy VCFSE sector to support them to get back on their feet”
Steve Hughes, Sector3 Chair, added:
“Our VCFSE sector stood side by side with the public sector’s emergency response to the pandemic. It has proved its worth, dexterity and immense skill in supporting our communities not only on a day-to-day basis but in a global emergency.
How can the sector recover from the increased pressure placed on it over the past year? It needs increased equitable access to financial support, investment in local infrastructure to build capacity and an openness from all sectors to collaborate.”
The full Stockport State of the VCSE Sector report can be downloaded from the Sector3 website.
Research was jointly commissioned by Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council working alongside Sector3. The project, led by Salford CVS as part of 10 GM, was conducted alongside GMCVO and the other key infrastructure organisations within Greater Manchester, with research undertaken by the Centre for Social and Health Research?at the University of Salford. This report forms part of a wider collection of reports.