There is a stark divide between where charities are most needed and where they are actually located, according to a new report published today by New Philanthropy Capital (NPC).
The report, Where are England's charities?, is authored by Dan Corry, chief executive of NPC, and looks at the density of charities across England. It assesses the number of registered charities, noting such charities do not fully represent the whole of civil society.
It finds that struggling areas, often classified as ‘left behind’ and generally located in post-industrial or coastal regions, have fewer charity organisations in their locality.
Data on registered charities shows that at the regional level charity density varies a lot, but that it is generally lower in more deprived regions. “These places have often suffered the deepest cuts, as a result of austerity, and were likely to have strongly supported Brexit—indicating that they want change”.
For example, there are around 2.1 charities per 1,000 people in the South East but under 1.4 in the North East.
There are only 0.6 charities per 1,000 people in Blackpool, much less than the average for that region of 1.4. In Stoke-on-Trent, the figure is 0.8 and is just 1.1 in Middlesbrough.
The national average for charities per 1,000 people is 1.8 and in some more affluent areas such as the Cotswolds it is as high as 5.5.
Corry reports: “The need to have a strong civil society, especially in our more deprived areas, is clear. And the fact that in many of these places we do not, is equally clear.”
Why are there fewer charities in deprived areas?
The report states that to set up and run a charity, a lot of resources are necessary. Access to finance, specialist ‘civic’ skills and access to volunteers tend to be less present in areas with more deprivation.
“All of this needs to be available over a sustained period if the charity is to thrive,” the report finds.
It notes academic study which shows recession and austerity hit charity organisations in more deprived areas the hardest. “There was a 9 per cent fall in charities’ real income between 2008 and 2014 in the least deprived local authorities in England and Wales, compared to a 14 per cent reduction in the most deprived”.
NPC's head of policy, Leah Davis, said: "There is a strong political appetite right now for levelling up the so called 'left behind' areas of our country, and the government needs to target funding on social infrastructure, not just physical infrastructure.”
The report recommends that government should open up information on the geographical spread of its funding, including tax and grants data. Government should also look at the charity tax system, especially Gift Aid and consider how it can help ‘left behind’ areas.
Davis added: “But there's plenty that charities and funders can be doing too. Larger charities can support the smaller ones across the country by sharing resources and expertise, or by working with communities to form new groups. And funders can make their data available on platforms like 360Giving, so others can better target their giving as well, and fund for the long-term so communities have a better chance of sustained change."