VCSE sector survey results

Cornwall Voluntary Sector Forum, in conjunction with Exeter University, undertook a survey of the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector (VCSE) of Cornwall, in May 2020, in order to understand the impact of COVID-19 on the services, finances and staffing levels of those organisations, and therefore the knock-on effect to the people of Cornwall.

Who were the respondents?

143 organisations took part, including environmental, sports and cultural organisations, and groups supporting people with disabilities, older people, young people, and other vulnerable people. Organisations which provide services offering wider community support (86), and working with children and young people (69), and in health and wellbeing (56), were well represented, along with those offering education or training (55).

These organisations also cover the whole of Cornwall, with 60 offering services across the entire county, and others covering one or more of the 19 Community Network Areas, and the Isles of Scilly.

Some are national organisations (e.g. Scouts, Barnardo’s), and 11 turn over more than £1m p/a.  Roughly one third of the respondents represented organisations with turnover less than £10k p/a, and a further third turn over between £10k and £100k.

What did they tell us about their services?

92% have cancelled part of their usual provision, and just a quarter reported that their services were operating as normal, with the rest having moved their services online in order to still support their regular users, and new ones.  In part, these changes were due to the restrictions imposed by lockdown upon their staff and volunteers, and the people they work with, but 15% reported that the loss of regular volunteers had hindered their service provision. Groups switched to offering services online (43%), and providing home delivery services (27%).

The services unable to continue were mostly one-to-one or groups services, with the people missing out being older people and young children, those with disabilities, or sight and hearing impairments, and those struggling with digital exclusion. Other specific groups mentioned as being disadvantaged by the closure of services were those in the LGBTQ community, homeless people, and people at risk of domestic abuse, however there was extensive innovation to try to support these people.

How is their financial situation?

Most groups reported a downturn in income (78%), with previous fundraising activities and events, membership fees, shops and charges for premises hire and courses disappearing.  However ongoing running expenditure continues, together with increased costs for PPE and fuel, and new expenses related to their emergency provision. 41% of respondents are unable to access government support, and while 35 organisations have been able to furlough staff, many requested help with sourcing new funding. New grant funds are available, both local and national, but some previous sources have diverted funds to emergency response work.

Nine organisations are concerned that they would not survive the current quarter, and their services, to children, older people, and vulnerable groups, would be lost.  A further 25 said they were only confident in their viability for the next three months.

The future

Individuals facing multiple areas of need (e.g. debt, poor physical or mental health, abuse, family breakdown, job loss, and more) are going to be most at risk in coming months, as problems in their households come to a head, with lockdown easing.  Many organisations expect to be swamped with emerging crisis cases, while still struggling with continued low income levels, and a reduction in volunteers as new faces return to their day jobs.  However, during the crisis voluntary organisations have clearly demonstrated they are resilient and adaptable by developing and  pioneering new ways to meet the needs of their beneficiaries.


Please click here to download the full report. FINAL REPORT CVSF Impact of COVID19

The press release can be viewed here.