Disability charities forced to cut costs and scale back growth plans, study reveals

Seven of the largest disability charities have been forced to cut costs, scale back on charitable spending and cancel investment projects, a major study has revealed.

The research, published by industry publication Third Sector, shows that since 2015/16, the combined income of the seven biggest disability charities fell by £56 million, or around nine per cent, to £570 million.

The charities include Guide Dogs, Sense, Scope, Action on Hearing Loss, Leonard Cheshire, the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), and the National Deaf Children’s Society (NDCS).

According to Third Sector, the fall in income can be partially attributed to “organisational changes” at select charities. Scope, for example, dropped regulated day-care services for disabled people to focus on campaigning, resulting in income falling from £94.6 million in 2017/18 to £54.6 million in 2018/19.

Sense, meanwhile, split its charity into two to better service users based in Scotland, triggering an income loss of around £22 million.

However, charities are also struggling to overcome political and economic hurdles. During the period recorded, RNIB income fell by £12.2 million to £59.4 million in 2018/19. The charity has since announced a new strategy in a bid to claw back voluntary income.

Guide Dogs, meanwhile, was the only charity to come out of Brexit with a significant increase in income, rising by £11 million to £117.7 million. However, it conceded that political uncertainty has put “extra pressure on the charitable sector”.

“Political uncertainty and an unpredictable economy are putting extra pressure on the charitable sector. Competition for donations remains high while demands on charities show no sign of decreasing,” said James Hambro, chair of Guide Dogs.

Commenting on the report, Third Sector said: “The UK’s largest disability charities have faced a perfect storm in recent years, having to contend with both a drop in public sector spending on services for disabled people and an increasingly challenging fundraising environment.”

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