Charities have been urged to be bold and embrace change after a report showed that non-profit organisations are disproportionately concentrated in England’s most affluent areas.
Research by the thinktank New Philanthropy Capital (NPC) shows the vital importance of charities as part of the social infrastructure needed to rebuild the parts of the country that are currently struggling.
The NPC report calls for a rebalancing of philanthropy and public funding to rebuild civil society – including charities, clubs and community and voluntary groups – in the “left behind” areas of the north and Midlands.
Education charity SHINE made the bold decision two years ago to move from London to the North of England. Trustees recognised the North was falling behind the capital in terms of the school results of disadvantaged children and decided change would only be possible if SHINE moved north.
Having closed its London offices, all SHINE staff are now based in Leeds, West Yorkshire. The move is already proving fruitful, with the charity now funding dozens of programmes across the region that target the most vulnerable children
Fiona Spellman, CEO of SHINE, urged other charities to consider similarly radical changes to help counter the north-south divide within the third sector.
“I’m proud that SHINE took the decision to relocate from London to Leeds to focus our programmes on the North of England.
“In a sector founded on vision and courage, it’s more important than ever we charities are willing and able to step up to the plate.”
The north-south charity divide was starkly demonstrated by NPC’s figures showing the affluent Cotswolds has nine times as many charities per capita as Blackpool – England’s most deprived local authority – which had just 0.6 charities per 1,000 population.
The report also argues that work to renew communities in deprived parts of the North is as important as investment in its infrastructure.
“Too often those who talk about the regeneration of the North talk only in terms of transport, and usually then they are only really discussing intercity rail services. As someone who travels regularly across the North, I can personally attest that these services in dire need of improvement, however, we need to think much more widely in order to truly deliver the potential of the region.
“Most people in the North don’t use intercity rail services on a daily basis. What they often need is access to stronger social infrastructure, community facilities, safe outdoor spaces, and opportunities for their children to thrive and learn.
“Charities could play a major role in delivering these solutions at a local level, but only if they are prepared to embrace real change in where and how they operate.”