Fewer charities set up in areas with the greatest need, research finds

There are a disproportionately high number of charities being set up in ‘prosperous’ areas of the UK where their resources are less needed, according to research by consultancy nfpSynergy.

The figures are published in a blog post by nfpSynergy’s head of data Cian Murphy, which uses the figures to call into question the Conservative government’s Big Society agenda.

"Withdrawing state funding and services and encouraging communities to fend for themselves is likely to work fine for wealthier areas, but will leave poorer areas behind," says Murphy. “Voluntary action is not capable of filling the gap in poorer parts of the country."

Murphy said an analysis of the charity register reveals that the “highest concentration of charities per head of population” is across the “prosperous south of England and wealthy rural areas.”

One of the few anomalies is Greater London. Despite having many of the most deprived local authority areas in Britain, it also has comparatively high numbers of charities being registered. A similar picture is also seen in Manchester (see Greater Manchester table below).


Charities registered per 1,000 people

Number of charities registered 2005-2015 IMD Average Rank (1 = Most Deprived)
MANCHESTER   1.02 529 4
SALFORD   0.94 227 26
BURY   0.78 146 119


  0.70 197 48
TRAFFORD   0.69 160 190
STOCKPORT   0.62 179 167
ROCHDALE   0.61 131 29
OLDHAM   0.58 132 46
TAMESIDE   0.46 103 34
WIGAN   0.38 124 85

There are “serious questions” raised by the government’s Big Society agenda and the idea that “communities should step in where the state has retreated”, Murphy said.

“Are those communities most affected by the withdrawal of central and local government services really the people best placed to replace these services? Can the withdrawal of tax money be replaced by voluntary action and fundraised income in communities hit by years of austerity and economic turbulence?”

He also questions if equality of access to services be guaranteed by ad hoc voluntary provision – or whether it could lead to “growing inequality as areas rich enough to provide for themselves prosper and those in already downtrodden areas are simply left behind”.

The research was conducted with a manual search for addresses using the Charity Commission’s register of charities. Data was gathered for the period 2005-2015.

[from: Civil Society Governance 22.1.16]

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