New study to measure impact of charities and voluntary sector across Yorkshire

Durham University research to measure the role charities play in improving people’s lives and wellbeing in the region.

4 June 2021

The positive effect of charity and community activities across Yorkshire is to be measured as part of a new study co-funded by the West Yorkshire Combined Authority.

The study will measure the size and effect of the Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise (VCSE) Sector, examining its economic and social impact on improving people’s lives and wellbeing in the region.   

Throughout the pandemic, the VCSE sector has played an important and increasingly recognised role working in partnership with the public and private sectors, and is considered key to ensuring an inclusive economic recovery. Often also known as the ‘third sector’, it includes charities, community groups and associations, social enterprises, mutuals and co-operatives.

The research is led by Professor Tony Chapman of St Chad’s College, Durham University, an expert in the voluntary and community sector, who has undertaken similar research locally, nationally and internationally.

Tracy Brabin, Mayor of West Yorkshire, said: “Throughout the pandemic, the third sector has been a lifeline for so many people both in our region and across Yorkshire. This research will recognise and celebrate the incredibly important contribution volunteers make to their local communities and economies. It will also help us understand where local leaders can work more closely with the voluntary and community sector to help improve people’s lives and wellbeing.”

Professor Chapman said: “Estimating the overall impact of the sector is undoubtedly the most challenging but also the most intellectually interesting aspect of the work to be undertaken. It also has potential to influence the way VCSE work is valued at a national level. Findings can be interpreted in the context of current policy debates around ‘levelling up’, the ‘Foundation Economy’ and community wealth building’.”

The study, which is expected to be published in the summer, will develop a fuller picture of the VSCE sector, including its size, turnover, assets, the numbers of people employed, the value of volunteering and impact.

The results will be used to better understand the scale of the social and economic value the VSCE sector creates, including cost savings resulting from improving people’s health and well-being, and improving their confidence and overall social mobility.

A more fully developed understanding of the size, capabilities and impact of the sector may lead to closer and more integrated working between local and regional government and the VCSE sector. It also has the potential to influence national policy around the role the VSCE sector plays in delivering services, particularly as part of the economic recovery from the pandemic and in fulfilling the government’s ‘levelling up’ agenda.   

It has been commissioned by West Yorkshire Combined Authority in partnership with West Yorkshire and Harrogate Health and Care Partnership, Humber, Coast and Vale Health and Care Partnership, Yorkshire Sports Foundation, Community First Yorkshire and Two Ridings Community Foundation.  

The study covers the geographic areas of:   

  • West Yorkshire Combined Authority (Bradford, Calderdale, Kirklees, Leeds and Wakefield)  
  • West Yorkshire and Harrogate Health and Care Partnership region (Bradford district and Craven, Calderdale, Harrogate, Kirklees, Leeds and Wakefield)  
  • Humber, Coast and Vale Health and Care Partnership region (North East Lincolnshire, North Lincolnshire, Kingston-upon-Hull, East Riding of Yorkshire, York, and 
  • North Yorkshire – as a whole including the districts of Hambleton, Harrogate, Richmondshire, Ryedale, Scarborough and Selby).