Three-quarters of charity leaders in the UK are worried that staff are at risk of burnout due to pressures brought on by the pandemic.

A new study for the Law Family Commission on Civil Society found that nearly half of charity chiefs are also worried about the wellbeing of their volunteers.

More than half of the leaders surveyed say their charities have faced a surge in demand for support since the start of the pandemic last year.

YouGov polling for the major two-year Commission, chaired by former Cabinet Secretary Lord Gus O’Donnell, shows six in 10 charity leaders believe the situation is set to worsen over winter due to a “perfect storm” of rising demand and funding constraints.

Demand for charity support is expected to rise in response to cost of living increases, NHS backlogs and cuts to services provided by other agencies, according to the study.

At the same time, many charities are simultaneously having to deal with a large drop in funding, with research charity Pro Bono Economics estimating that the sector could be heading into winter with a permanent £6.6 billion gap in public giving because of the pandemic.

Among its key findings, the latest research for the Commission, undertaken by Pro Bono Economics, found that:

  • 75% of charity leaders were very or fairly concerned about other paid staff suffering burnout due to pandemic strains, while 45% were similarly concerned about volunteers at their charities.
  • 55% of charity leaders have seen an increase in demand since the start of the pandemic and 60% of leaders expect demand at their charities to increase over the winter.
  • The top reasons identified by charity heads for the expected increase in demand over the winter are cost of living increases (25%), public service backlogs (24%), such as NHS waiting lists and justice system delays, and cuts to services provided by other agencies (22%).

The study also identified that 40% of charity leaders do not expect to have the capacity to meet growing demand over the winter.

Social services charities and health charities expect to be among the worst-hit by rising demand over the winter.

More than seven in 10 social services and health charities expect demand to increase over the remainder of 2021 and over half of these charities do not think they will have the capacity to manage it.


Matt Whittaker, LFCCS Commissioner and CEO of Pro Bono Economics, said:

“The pandemic created an unprecedented crisis for the country’s charities, with demand for their help rocketing at precisely the time that many of them faced a sharp squeeze on resources. It is a testament to the strength and resilience of the sector that it has continued to undertake so much vital work in the face of such challenges.

“After 20 months of upheaval from the pandemic, it is clear from this study for the Law Family Commission on Civil Society that charities are finding it increasingly difficult to sustain their activity. Sector leaders have told us they are bracing for a perfect storm of pressures this winter, which many do not expect to have the capacity to meet.

“Ultimately, overcoming these challenges means ensuring more resources make their way into charities from government, funders and the public. But it’s important too that we recognise the importance of the sector to our wider national outlook – particularly its potential to boost our post-pandemic recovery - by overturning the policy neglect it has suffered from for far too long.”

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