AS much as £223million of income will be lost by the region's voluntary, community and social enterprises by next month – and vulnerable people will be the ones that will feel it the most.

A report into the impact of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic on the North-East VCSE sector – which has been shared with stakeholders including councils, the private sector and health organisations to make the case for more help – states a third of organisations expect to lose more than half their income by June.

The statistic, which equates to between £75m and £223m of income lost between April and June, is reported by Voluntary Organisations’ Network North East (VONNE) following a survey it carried out in conjunction with partners in Local Infrastructure Organisations and the North East and Cumbria Funder’s Network.

Its report claims that the VCSE sector’s capacity is severely limited, with 53 per cent of the region’s workforce not currently operational and 75 per cent of volunteers unable to support their organisations.

Longer-term, expectations are that average staffing levels will reduce by a third due to lost income.

Carol Botten, chief executive of VONNE, which supports the VCSE sector in the region, said: “All of this means that almost 400,000 individuals are no longer receiving, or are receiving a significantly reduced service from the 269 VCSE survey respondents that support them.

“If this is aggregated against the 7,200 VCSE organisations that operate across the North East region, the total figure is likely to be staggering.”

She said those hardest hit will include children and young people, older people and individuals with disabilities, including learning disabilities.

Some positives have been identified.

A third of organisations have secured emergency funding to support them through Covid-19, and only 13 per cent of respondents said they consider it likely or very likely that their organisation will close as a result of the virus.

Almost two thirds of those surveyed praised funders for their response to the crisis and flexible support.

And 73 per cent identified positive impacts, most notably a move to more collaborative working between organisations and local authorities.

Ms Botten, who also sits on the Board of the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), added: “We’re so proud to be part of a sector that has shown such determination and community spirit as the situation has developed, but the fact is the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, and the associated impact of lockdown and social distancing measures, are likely to be felt for a long time to come.

“This is not only due to the reduction in organisational capacity and income across the sector, but also the increased demand for services created both directly and indirectly, due to the societal impact on health and wellbeing, poverty and debt, and levels of unemployment.

“The sector needs clarity and practical advice in the short, medium and longer term across a number of key areas, and this support must be flexible, responsive and tailored to recognise the range of impacting factors.

“But uncertainty and rapid change are likely to continue for the foreseeable future. Long-term thinking is required, and organisations, including funders, commissioners and support agencies, must ensure they’re geared up to respond and flex to emerging needs.”