Scope to cut staff by two thirds and see income fall by 40 per cent

21 Jul 2017 News

In an essay written for NPC, Scope’s chief executive Mark Atkinson has said that the new strategy being pursued by the charity will see it lose two thirds of its staff and initially reduce its income by 40 per cent.

In his essay How we’re building a greater Scope for greater impact, Atkinson said that Scope would be transferring “all our regulated and day services” to other providers, along with “so much of the estate and current services” built up by the organisation since it was founded.

Atkinson wrote that this would “allow Scope to refocus on doing less, reaching more and having greater impact,” but he said it would “mean an initial reduction in our annual income by 40 per cent and see the number of employees reduce by two thirds”.

He wrote that the charity’s shift from being a social care and education provider to an advocacy and campaigning organisation would be “littered with risk but none greater than doing nothing and hoping for the best”.

‘We want to be known as a social change organisation’, says Atkinson

In his essay, Atkinson said that divesting Scope of its “geographically scattered” services will allow the charity to focus on creating a platform for disabled people across the UK to achieve “everyday equality”.

Atkinson said that “disabled people’s aspirations have changed” since the organisation was first founded as the National Spastics Society in 1951. He said that when he came into the organisation, it had been left “with a patchwork” of service which only collectively reached “a few thousand people” and was completely separate from its campaign and advocacy work.

“We want to be known for being a social change organisation – a force that brings us ever close to everyday equality,” he wrote.  We will focus on the areas in which disabled people face the greatest barriers and move away from being a charity that ‘does’ to one that ‘facilitates’.”

Atkinson said the charity is striving to work directly with two million disabled people each year by 2022, as part of its new five-year strategy which was announced in April. He also said the shift would allow the charity to “focus on understanding our customers and supporters”.

Being driven by core purpose rather than income is an important lesson to learn

In the conclusion of his essay, Atkinson said that he hoped organisations would learn from the decision taken by Scope to focus more on purpose and impact, rather than income or size.

“The principle of being driven and motivated by core purpose and social impact rather than income or size is important for others to learn from,” he wrote. “Too often charities who claim to be radical and pioneering are in reality cautious and conservative and unable, or possible unprepared, to take difficult decisions that are in the long-term interest of the organisation”.

Atkinson also wrote that, in his opinion at least, the “demise of the traditional fundraising model” will place further pressures on the sector. This is something to be welcomed, said Atkinson.

“The demise of the traditional fundraising model places ever greater pressure on charities to be transparent both about their cost and their impact. This has to be a good thing. There will definitely be losers—organisations that struggle to reform and who want to hold on to yesteryear.

“In the end it comes down to the reality that no charity has a right to exist and teat support will gravitate to those with a clear purpose, who have relevance, that operate in contemporary ways and those who can demonstrate their social impact in a compelling manner”.

A recent analysis of the largest 20 charities by Charity Finance magazine found that Scope had seen its income fall by 32 per cent in real terms over 20 years, unlike many other charities which grew considerably. 

This essay was published by New Philanthropy Capital as part of a collection from sector leaders called Flipping the narrative: Essays on transformation from the sector’s boldest voices. The collection is available for download on NPC’s website


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