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First Look at Third Sector Trends in the South West 2022


The first report from Third Sector Trends 2022 has now been published, following many months of comprehensive and in-depth research conducted across England and Wales, by Durham University and the Community Foundation.

The findings have been broken down regionally, with an average of 600 responses per region ( 785 responses in the South West).


The survey - which has been running since 2008 - represents the largest of its kind to focus on the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector in England and Wales.


Here is a summary of a few key findings nationally, and from the South West region specifically:


  • There are about 4.3 million regular volunteers working for VCSE organisations who deliver 312 million hours of work annually. If this work had to be paid for, it would equal £2.9bn (if valued at the level of the national living wage) or £4.9bn if valued at 80 per cent of average wages).

  • In the South West, there are 4.2 third sector organisations per 1000 population (23,683 third sector organisations in total). This is higher than all other regions, excluding London.

  • 43 per cent of employers across England and Wales are currently struggling to recruit new staff. Results from the South West specifically show alignment with national trends, at 41.5 per cent of third sector employers. Furthermore, across the whole survey, a fifth of employing organisations say that they are finding it harder to hold on to their existing staff.

  • Volunteers in the South West outnumber all regions bar London and the South East, with 487,000 regular volunteers in the region contributing over 35 million hours of work.

  • Community Interest Companies (CICs) are more prevalent in more urbanised regions of North East England, North West England, the West Midlands and London. But there is also a concentration of CICs in South West England.

  • The South West ranks third in England for the highest proportion of micro-small third sector organisations; 68.2% of registered third sector organisations in the South West have an annual income of under £50,000.

  • 65,000 third sector organisations (33% of the whole sector) concentrate their activity solely within the local neighbourhood or community - 56,000 of which are micro or small organisations. About 125,000 third sector organisations (63% of the whole sector) work within the boundaries of a single local authority area, of which 94,831 are micro or small organisations.

  • Across the whole of England and Wales, it may be surprising that nearly half of the sector does not try to tackle ‘the consequences of poverty’, ‘increasing access to basic services’ or ‘improving the local environment.’

  • Around 40 per cent of organisations are employers – though many have just one or a few part-time staff. That constitutes around 3 per cent of national employment in most English regions and Wales.

  • While competition over resources exists, the evidence shows that there is a great deal of informal ‘neighbourly’ cooperation, semi-formal ‘complementary working’ in the Third Sector.

  • It is estimated that about 55%-75% of sector expenditure will be retained and recirculated in the area


"The Third Sector Trends study is primarily concerned with the contribution of the Third Sector to social, economic and environmental wellbeing of localities. Consequently, the study excludes analysis of major charitable organisations with income above £25million."


It is expected that four more Third Sector Trends reports will be published in in due course, to explore the data in more depth.

One report will look at the change in the composition of the Third Sector’s employee and volunteer workforce over the last few years. Another will look at how Third Sector organisations sustain financial viability by drawing on a wide range of income sources including grants, contracts, gifts subscriptions, self-generated trading and in-kind support. We can also expect to see a report that looks at the extent of and limits to informal and formal collaboration within the Third Sector and with the public and private sector.


To view the report in full, click here.

Alternatively, the official press release and further key findings can be viewed here.

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