The worsening economic situation in the UK shows no signs of letting up. But what does this mean for the charity sector as a whole, and small charities in particular ?

Earlier this year Sumi Rabindrakumar, Head of Policy at the Trussell Trust, doubted that his charity’s vision for 2020-2025 – a future where no one needs a foodbank – was realisable in the light of an 81% increase in emergency food parcels the charity has seen since 2021.

This situation has been replicated at local level where small foodbanks have witnessed a similar demand on their services.

But the increase in public need for foodbanks is only symptomatic of a wider demand for the charity sector. As a number of commentators have pointed out, government cannot provide for society’s needs on its own – especially in areas like the cost-of-living crisis. This is because there are many activities which the charity sector is better placed to deliver and because charities are closer to ordinary people’s lives and have the support of groups who do not trust government to listen or deliver.

But equally important, as the Chairman of the Charity Commission Orlando Fraser pointed out in July, charities need to set an example and ensure that they can justify their spending. As Fraser makes clear: “The public will be even less tolerant of financial carelessness by charities in times of financial crisis.”

Charities must continue to listen to the people they serve and ensure that their Trustees and executive teams display the leadership the public expects, particularly as winter approaches and the economic crisis deepens. If they do this, they will not only be more effective in their mission but also retain the respect and support of the public at large.