Local heroes step up: over a quarter of North West residents rely on small charities

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New data released today to mark Small Charity Week (24 – 28 June) reveals how frequently people in the North West use and rely on small charities.

35% of people used a community-based food bank in the last year, with over a quarter having to rely on them as frequently as once a week. As charities in the North West plug the gap in people’s finances, over a quarter of people in the North West said they used a small charity because they needed support with the pressures caused by the cost-of-living crisis.

The research commissioned by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) shows 18% of people in the North West have used a small charity because ‘they had nowhere else to turn to’ and 15% said that public services were insufficient. As many as 63% in the region said small charity closures caused by underfunding would have a negative impact on their community. While over 1 in 3 (39%) people described small charities as ‘under supported’, ‘under resourced’, ‘essential’ and a ‘lifeline’; exposing how integral they are to people’s daily lives.

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Cheshire Phoenix Wheelchair Basketball Club, a small charity in the North West was founded in 2014 by ex-Paralympian AJ Jackson and is dedicated to creating a safe and inclusive space for individuals with disabilities.

Stephanie Taylor at the Cheshire Phoenix Basketball ClubStephanie Taylor at the Cheshire Phoenix Basketball Club
Stephanie Taylor at the Cheshire Phoenix Basketball Club

The club aims to provide opportunities for members to participate in sports, build confidence, and foster a sense of community. Operated entirely by volunteers, Cheshire Phoenix has grown significantly, supporting its members through both sporting activities and personal development.

Stephanie Taylor, Volunteer at the Cheshire Phoenix Wheelchair Basketball Club said: "I was on the verge of quitting wheelchair basketball until I joined Cheshire Phoenix, where the support reignited my passion and transformed my life. It’s given me confidence, and I’ve got my spark back. All because the club believed in me. It’s changed my whole life. Now, I strive to give back to this incredible community.”

Other key findings and reasons for using small charities include:

  • The main reason Brits in the North West say they used a small charity in the last year was to ‘meet new people’ (26%)

  • Almost 1 in 6 (15%) have used advice and support centres and more than 1 in 4 (27%) have accessed animal shelters in their community

  • Over 1 in 6 (18%) of Brits in the North West say they used a small charity because they said they had nowhere else to turn to

  • Over half of Brits in the North West (58%) think the government should do more to support small charities, and (43%) say it should be easier for small charities to get funding

  • Over a quarter of Brits in the North West (27%) say that the public should donate more money to charities, if they can. And almost 1 in 5 people (19%) say it should be made easier for people to volunteer for a small charity

Responding to the research, NCVO Chief Executive Sarah Elliott (formerly Vibert) said:

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“Today’s findings are a stark reminder that small charities in local communities across the North West often those with the least resources, are plugging the financial gap caused by the cost of living crisis that millions of people in this region are grappling with. It’s clear that many are accessing small charities for regular support for essential issues like being able to eat and feed their families.

Every day, small charities in the North West are making a big difference, but they need better support and more volunteers to be able to stay open and continue the work that so many people depend on. Small charities are not just a nice to have; they provide services that underfunded public services can no longer do. As the country gears up to choose the next government, charities in the North West must be heard, recognised, and given the support they need to ensure communities are stronger tomorrow than they are today.”

During Small Charity Week, NCVO is highlighting the lifeline that small charities provide to communities, and the precarious situation many charities find themselves in with increasing demand, falling income and increasing costs. As shown by previous NCVO data the combined effects of the pandemic and the cost of living crisis are likely to impact the voluntary sector as a whole but leave smaller charities particularly vulnerable. To help charities make our communities stronger, they must be at the forefront of people’s minds during the election and beyond. NCVO are asking the public to show their love for small charities by making a pledge on social media.

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