Young woman looking worried as she sits looking at finances

Keeping the lights on

Published: 05/09/22 | Categories: Influencing, Author: Ruth Marks

Ruth Marks reflects on the cost-of-living crisis and what it means for the voluntary sector in Wales

It seems like day after day there is more news on the rising cost of living; energy bills are soaring, inflation is predicted to reach levels not seen since the oil crisis of the ‘70s, and many everyday food items are only going in one direction – up. Welsh workers will see the biggest real-terms income drop in twenty years. These are economic crises which will affect the poorest the most, and on a daily basis people are having to make difficult choices on what they can afford.

The number of people seeking support from the voluntary sector is sky-rocketing, and will continue to do so for months to come as we see prices rise. Demand for services, is increasing the pressure of voluntary sector organisations – to breaking point.


The voluntary sector is being hit in three ways – rising costs, rising demand and reduced income.

We know that fundraising is becoming more difficult as people have less cash to donate. Volunteers – more valuable than money in many cases – are increasingly having to prioritise other activities due to the crisis. The voluntary sector, already stretched after the pandemic, is being asked to do more and more with less.

Even more frustratingly, we know that the work that the voluntary sector does prevents people from being placed into further hardship later on. For example, employment advice which can prevent longer-term poverty and supporting people to pay their bills can prevent longer-term financial stress. Giving someone a friendly ear to listen can prevent longer-term mental health issues. It is vital that charities and voluntary groups can keep the lights on to provide these kinds of services that are essential to people’s wellbeing. Our worry is that the financial challenges faced by the voluntary sector and the effect of the rising cost of living will in turn further diminish people’s wellbeing.


Our collective voice really matters in this discussion. There are so many organisations out there that are doing such incredible work, and with so much expertise to support people in need.

WCVA has launched a survey to hear from the sector about how these issues are affecting them. If you could spare some time to complete it, this would help strengthen our work on these issues.

The UK Government holds most of the powers to make a difference to people’s lives during this crisis. Using our networks with our UK wide colleagues, which were strengthened during the sector’s response to the pandemic, we are working to demonstrate the scale of the challenge; both for individuals and voluntary sector organisations. We’ve already joined calls for meaningful support for both people in need and the organisations who support them.

Here in Wales, we are firmly committed to amplifying the voice of the voluntary sector with Welsh Government and other public bodies. This will be a priority for our national Third Sector Partnership Council with Welsh Ministers.  But we are also here to link organisations to networks, and to provide a platform for the successes and the challenges of our members. As the national membership body for the voluntary sector, we will be making the case for our members and the role we play in protecting the vulnerable from a crisis, especially when that crisis is exposing more people to increased risk.


WCVA also provides advice and support to the voluntary sector, in partnership with county voluntary councils. Together we will look at how we can ensure that support includes advising people through the current financial challenges. This advice and support won’t be able to fix everything but hopefully we can make it easier for organisations to plan for the challenges they will likely face at this challenging time.

WCVA exists because we know that, as the voluntary sector, we make a bigger difference together. I am confident that our members will demonstrate their impact over the coming months as the rising cost of living increases the hardships that the people we work with face. By building links between voluntary sector organisations, we can make sure that our impact is as significant as it can be.

Please get in touch with WCVA if you would like to share your experiences, or have ideas for how the sector can support people during this time, please let us know. We’d also love to hear case studies from your organisation about how rising costs and demand have affected you, or inspirational stories of how voluntary sector organisations are helping out. Please email to get in touch on that issue.