Brexit will be tough on charities and people they support – September 2018

This article was originally posted on InFacts, the fact-based case against Brexit, and is reposted here with the permission of its author – one of our team, Kieran Cutting! View the original article here.

Food donated to a food bank (Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters)

Charities and other third-sector organisations have always played an important part in our national story. They have offered a home to those without one, provided frontline services for those in need and ultimately helped advance UK society.

This has been particularly true since 2010, after austerity measures drastically shrunk the size of the State. Third-sector organisations have repeatedly stepped into the breach that government left behind. It’s in this context that cash-strapped charities, many stretched to the bone, find themselves facing the impact of Brexit on their work, and ultimately on the people they help.

Leaving the EU presents a huge threat to millions of pounds in funding and tens of thousands in staff. It could directly make life harder for those already worst off.

The government has done little to reassure charities about what will happen to the sector after Brexit. The little estimation that we do have has come from organisations such as the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) or Directory of Social Change (DSC). The picture they paint is damning.

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One of the key ways that charities have dealt with the demands of austerity has been to make their workforces smaller, more reliant on voluntary labour and become more risk averse. Yet research by the IPPR has found that if workers from the EU were required to meet the same standards as non-EU citizens do to secure visas, 82% of those currently employed in the sector would be ineligible to remain in the UK. That could mean 25,000 charity workers lost as a direct result of Brexit.

Such job losses would come at a time of even further funding cuts. Research by the DSC has found that the sector is currently poised to lose over £250 million in EU funds as a result of leaving. This figure doesn’t even account for funding distributed through intermediary agencies. Although the idea of using the – non-existent – “Brexit dividend” to fund a “UK Shared Prosperity Fund” popped up in the 2017 Conservative manifesto, little detail has been fleshed out beyond projects needing to be “good value for money” and in line with domestic strategic priorities. As EU initiatives have typically funded things ignored by domestic priorities, it seems likely that this will result in the defunding of several key areas of charity work.

Households were already over £400 a year worse off on average just a year after the referendum. By the government’s own leaked analysis, economic growth is expected to fall by 8% in an all-too-possible no-deal Brexit. This will make things even worse for the many people already struggling before Brexit. The number of people sleeping rough has risen 169% since 2010, and the number of homelessness cases seen by local authorities has risen by 65,000. Post-Brexit Britain will have less money than ever, and we can be sure to see a dramatic rise in the number of homelessness cases yet again.

We’ve seen now that Brexit can’t make our country better off. Right now, the best way to support the charities that support the most vulnerable in our society is by actively campaigning for a People’s Vote on the final Brexit deal.

Kieran Cutting is a student at Newcastle University and a supporter of For our Future’s Sake.

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