• PBE leading survey with data unit run by Nottingham Trent University
  • Working group also includes NCVO and the British Red Cross
  • Survey vital to make up for lack of reliable data on social sector

Charity sector bodies are joining together to launch one of the biggest surveys of the social sector in years.

Pro Bono Economics (PBE) and the National VCSE Data and Insights Observatory, run by Nottingham Trent University, are partnering to conduct the survey exploring the impact of the cost of living crisis on charities and community groups.

A working group of 14 organisations, led by PBE and the Observatory, is developing the survey. The group includes sector bodies, such as the Chartered Institute of Fundraising (CIoF) and the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO), as well as the British Red Cross and Lloyds Bank Foundation for England and Wales.

The group plans to launch the first of a series of quarterly surveys following Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng’s energy announcement on September 23. It is hoped the research will help to inform policymakers about the state of the social sector during the cost of living crisis.

Charities, alongside businesses and public sector organisations, have been guaranteed six months of support with energy costs as part of the government’s Energy Price Guarantee, which is scheduled to come into effect on October 1. There will then be a review in three months’ time to identify ‘vulnerable industries’ which will be eligible for further support after the six-month period ends.

PBE has previously raised concern about the lack of reliable data on the social sector available to policymakers. As part of its work for the Law Family Commission on Civil Society, PBE called on the government to close the “significant gap” in its understanding of the economy by establishing a dedicated social sector statistical account.

Earlier this year, the National VCSE Data and Insights Observatory was established by Nottingham Trent University to tackle data gaps affecting the social sector.

In addition to PBE and the Observatory, the working group developing the new survey consists of the CIOF, NCVO, the Charity Finance Group (CFG), the British Red Cross, the National Association for Voluntary and Community Action (NAVCA), Lloyds Bank Foundation for England and Wales, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF), the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF), the Wales Council for Voluntary Action (WCVA), the Directory of Social Change (DSC), New Philanthropy Capital (NPC) and the Voluntary and Community Sector Emergencies Partnership (VCSEP).

Matt Whittaker, CEO of Pro Bono Economics, said:

“Charities have a vital role to play in helping the country navigate the cost of living crisis, but - as is so often the case with the social sector - we know too little about its capacity to meet the demand it is facing. We also have very little data on how the crisis will affect these crucial organisations themselves.

“It is encouraging to see the sector coming together to work with the Observatory to plug this evidence gap.

This collaboration is a great example of the power of the Observatory in generating high quality sector-wide research and insight, which can support more effective decision-making in government and in the sector itself.”

Daniel King, Director of the National VCSE Data and Insights Observatory, said:

“The cost of living crisis creates pressing challenges for many charities, as rising costs meet falling income and escalating demand. Developing this survey to capture real time data about the impact of the crisis on the sector and how the sector is responding is really important.

“We are delighted that the Observatory is teaming up with Pro Bono Economics to work with the sector to co-design this survey, and to analyse it in an independent way. This survey provides an opportunity to get the best insights into the sector at a time of significant change.”