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Monday 22 January 2018

Charities forced to cut services and let staff go as donations plummet

Paul Melia and Shane Phelan

LEADING charities have been forced to cut services and let staff go because of plummeting public donations and cuts in government funding.

The situation has become so acute that at least one is only managing to pay interest on its mortgage, others have warned they have "virtually exhausted" their cash reserves and salaries and pension payments have been reduced; while some groups have been forced to stop providing essential services, a survey conducted by the Irish Independent reveals.

Some 40 of our leading charities responded to a series of questions about how the recession had impacted on their day-to-day activities.

It found that staff were taking unpaid leave to keep costs down, while services in one children's charity – Barnardos – were suspended twice, in 2012 and this year, to save money.

The financial situation in Inclusion Ireland, which works with the disabled, has become so acute that it is currently only making interest payments on its mortgage.

Special Olympics Ireland, which has seen government funding fall by 59pc since 2008, said there was an "ever-increasing gap" between income and outgoings.

Cash reserves had been "depleted to a critical level", and there would be a reduction in the number of athletes taking part in the Ireland games in Limerick next year, a spokesperson said.

SUSPEND

Umbrella group The Wheel, which has 930 members in the sector, found that despite some 230 charities experiencing a sharp rise in demand for services, two-thirds had been hit with falling revenues this year.

One in three has been forced to cut back or suspend services since the beginning of the year, chief executive Deirdre Garvey said.

"The evidence is that prior to the recession, 60pc of the money coming into the voluntary sector came from the State. Now, our research tells us the percentage is nearer 50pc.

"What we're seeing is state funding being cut in the order of 30pc or 40pc. Voluntary sector cuts tend to go straight through to service cuts.

"Voluntary organisations tend to be the safety net for a lot of individuals. These cuts are disproportionate. The Wheel understands the gap in the public finances needs to be closed but there are choices in every Budget in how to close the gap. The balance needs to be more even."

The vast bulk of the charities surveyed by the Irish Independent reported reducing costs, including salaries and administrative overheads. However, many have still been forced to cut services.

The National Council for the Blind said financial support for specialist aids had "virtually disappeared".

Focus Ireland, which helps those seeking a home, said any further cuts would mean "some vital services will have to close", while Irish Guide Dogs said funding for dogs for children with autism had been discontinued.

As well as closing for a week in 2012 and 2013, Barnardos has also been forced to wind down its literacy programme. The Irish Cancer Society had "curtailed or deferred" activities this year; while Amnesty International was forced to let 10 staff go.

Oxfam Ireland closed one of its Fair Trade shops, resulting in job losses, while Trocaire had closed a number of aid programmes.

Concern said it was forced to make 500 staff redundant at home and overseas.

Irish Independent

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