The Vulnerable Organisation: Austerity and the Third Sector

Wednesday, July 16, 2014: 6:00 PM
Room: 413
Oral Presentation
Susan DURBIN , University of the West of England, Bristol, United Kingdom
John NEUGEBAUER , University of the West of England, Bristol, United Kingdom
The on-going economic recession in the UK has led to the introduction of austerity measures by the coalition government, which has been accompanied by feminist analyses of how the recession is disproportionately affecting women. Cuts in government budgets and public sector jobs have occurred alongside cuts in government support services, especially those set up to support women. At a time when these third sector, not-for-profit, organisations are most needed by women, financial support to this sector has either been reduced or simply withdrawn. Despite these measures, in 2010, the UK coalition government launched the ‘Big Society’ policy initiative, with an aim to empower local people. One of the stated priorities was to support charities and social enterprises.

This paper will examine the extent to which three key, third sector organisations, set up to support women in the South West of England, have been affected by these austerity measures. Through qualitative research with key personnel, the extent and implications of the cuts will be examined. Ironically, demand for support services is increasing as more women are affected by the austerity measures, such as cuts in public sector jobs, a reduced level of pay in the private sector, a public sector pay freeze and changes in the benefits system. On the other hand, such individuals may find themselves turning to alternative third sector organisations, such as foodbanks, set up to help individuals and families who face such difficult financial situations.

To what extent have third sector organisations, set up specifically to help women, been affected by austerity measures? How vulnerable are these organisations? How sustainable is the concept of ‘the big society’? What does all of this mean for the future of gender equality?