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Majority of charities have plans in place to address equality, diversity and inclusion, but impact of pandemic and resources are barriers to increasing diversity

The latest research from the covid-19 voluntary sector impact barometer reveals that while the majority of charities and voluntary sector organisations have drawn up plans to address equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) issues in their workplace, volunteers and services (79%) – with 59% of these revising their EDI approach since March 2020 – implementing these plans and increasing diversity has remained a challenge due to the impact of the pandemic and a lack of resources.

Mixed impact on EDI work across the voluntary sector

The latest data (July 2021) from the 8th monthly covid-19 voluntary sector impact barometer, led by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO), Nottingham Trent University and Sheffield Hallam University, reveals the most reported barriers organisations are facing during the pandemic in their efforts to be more inclusive and address EDI issues are limited financial resources (20%); staffing capacity (15%); lack of human resources skills; knowledge and capacity (12%); and lack of equality, diversity and inclusion knowledge or skills (11%).

However, when asked about the impacts of the pandemic and lockdown restrictions on the diversity of their service users, 17% of the respondents reported experiencing a more diverse range of service users; 15% reported an increase in diversity of their volunteers; while only 9% reported an increase in the diversity of their workforce during the pandemic. The data also reveals that charities with an annual income of less than £10,000 reported the lowest increase in diversity, with medium-sized organisations (with income between £100,000 to £1m) reporting the highest increases in diversity among their workforce, volunteers, and service users. 

79% of organisations surveyed have drawn up plans to address EDI issues in their workplace, volunteers and services, with 59% of these having revised their EDI approach since March 2020. The most reported changes by organisations in procedures or policies to promote greater equality; inclusion and diversity since March 2020 have been staff training (16%); safeguarding (12%) and staff recruitment (13%). 

Demand for services increases while financial outlook remains mixed 

Respondents to this month’s survey indicated a mixed financial picture again. Compared to the previous month, 28% of respondents said their finances deteriorated; 27% saw their finances improved and 45% reported their financial stability being the same. Organisations face new challenges as lockdown is slowly eased and the economy opens up again. In the last month, 57% of respondents to the survey said they had an increase in demand for services; 29% reported demand for services stayed the same and 9% reported a fall in demand. Over the last month, the employment position in the sector is reported as relatively stable, with 47% reporting the same number of paid employees compared to previous months. 

Daniel King, professor of organisational behaviour at Nottingham Trent University and project lead, said:

The past year has seen a heightened awareness of issues of equality, diversity, and inclusion within the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector. Campaigns around racial justice have collided with a pandemic that has amplified inequalities that already exist. Our report shows that many organisations have been searching for ways to respond to these circumstances, leading to many conversations about diversity and inclusion. Many interviewees said that covid-19 gave opportunities reflect and challenge their assumptions, meaning they begun having difficult conversations within their organisations about some of the changes they need to make. However, many interviewees recognise there is a long way to go, there are structural and systematic forms of exclusion, from the way organisations are run through to funding. Our report highlights some of these and signposts ideas for future action.

Anya Martin, research and insight manager at NCVO, said: 

As lockdown eases, it’s clear that the road to recovery will not be linear for many voluntary and charity organisations, and this has had an impact on the sector’s vital plans for EDI work. The report shows that smaller organisations in particular face challenges with limited funding and resources. However, some organisations have been able to revise their EDI plans during the pandemic. Despite the limitations of the funding and financial support available to charities throughout the pandemic, demand for services has remained at an upward trajectory. The rise in volunteers at the beginning of the pandemic also saw an increase in the diversity of volunteers working with some organisations. As we look to the future it is really important that charities are confident they are continuing to focus on EDI and adopting best practice both within their organisations, and in the services they deliver, to better reflect and support the communities and individuals they serve.

-ENDS-  

Notes to editors

  • For media enquiries please contact Sean O’Brien on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • About the report: (Download the PDF report) The Covid-19 Voluntary Sector Impact Barometer is the UK’s largest temperature check on the state of the voluntary sector during the pandemic. It is part of the Respond, Recover and Reset: The Voluntary Sector and Covid-19 project led by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO), Nottingham Trent University and Sheffield Hallam University. In the 8th wave of the report, 294 organisations from across the UK responded to questions about the impact of the pandemic on volunteering within their organisations.  

Information on previous editions of the barometer can be found here (PDF): 

About NCVO: NCVO is the largest membership organisation for the voluntary sector in England. With over 16,000 members, NCVO represents all types of organisations, from large ‘household name’ charities to small voluntary and community groups involved at the local level. We are also the lead body for volunteering in England. To find out more visit www.ncvo.org.uk.

About Nottingham Trent University: Nottingham Trent University (NTU) was named University of the Year 2019 in the Guardian University Awards. The award was based on performance and improvement in the Guardian University Guide, retention of students from low-participation areas and attainment of BME students. It is one of the largest UK universities. With nearly 32,000 students and more than 4,000 staff located across four campuses, the University contributes £900m to the UK economy every year. With an international student population of more than 3,000 from around 100 countries, the University prides itself on its global outlook. To find out more visit https://www.ntu.ac.uk/.

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