Charities and community groups in the north of England could be worth as much as £6bn to the regional economy, researchers have found.
The research report, The Structure, Dynamics and Impact of the Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise Sector, was published earlier this month and looks at the value of civil society in West Yorkshire and Harrogate.
The work of these groups helps relieve pressure on the NHS and other local services, campaigners said.
Researchers found that around 43,000 people work at 15,000 registered and unregistered local charities, representing 3.7% of all employment, which is broadly in line with the national average.
The sector is represented by around 5,000 registered charities, charitable incorporated organisations and community interest companies, as well as thousands more smaller community groups.
This work is supplemented by 147,000 volunteers.
The report acknowledges the complexity of measuring the financial value of this work, but estimates that the economic and social value of local civil society is between £5.2bn and £6.2bn.
The overwhelming majority of the income commanded by local groups – 70% – goes to the largest charities worth £1m or more.
Local groups told researchers that they see their main impact in three areas:
- Improving personal health
- Improving personal and community-wide wellbeing
- Financial security
Jo-Anne Baker, from Harnessing the Power of Communities, said that civil society in West Yorkshire and Harrogate was “larger than the finance and insurance industries, and larger than the arts, entertainment and recreation sector”.
Baker added: “The significant contribution made by the VCSE sector to people’s health and community wellbeing is evidenced throughout the research.
“This not only contributes to financial savings for the NHS and other public services but produces immediate benefits for thousands and thousands of people accessing their help and support.”
Tracy Brabin, the former Labour MP and elected mayor of West Yorkshire, said: “The sector gives invaluable support to those who wouldn’t otherwise receive it and it is right the report sets out the hard work and commitment of individuals working in the sector who regularly share their life experience to help others.”