Page last updated at 15:13 GMT, Saturday, 20 December 2008

Economic woe hitting UK charities

Oxfam bookshop
Oxfam says donations and customer numbers are down

Charities say they are being forced to cut staff and reduce services as they try to cope with the economic downturn.

The NSPCC says it expects to cut about 150 jobs and close two services in Derbyshire and Norfolk for abused children and dysfunctional families.

Oxfam says it is looking to cut between 35 and 45 jobs in the UK in an effort to protect its overseas work.

Joe Ferns, from Samaritans, said his charity had not seen a drop in income, but was being "more cautious".

In October, a survey of 500 charities by the Charity Commission suggested that one in four had seen donations drop in the last year.

At the same time, one in five said they had experienced a surge in demand for their services.

Fewer donors

The NSPCC's director of fundraising, Giles Pegram, said the charity was "reviewing its activities" in the light of the economic slowdown.

"Previous downturns in the economy have not adversely affected the NSPCC's income because the public are aware we need their support more than ever in such circumstances," he said.

Usually during a downturn we see more people coming into our shops
Oxfam spokesman

But Mr Pegram admitted the charity was increasingly finding it difficult to recruit new and long-term donors.

"We know that legacy income is down because of its dependence on house prices and there has been a downturn in ticket sales for some events," he said.

Oxfam said it was also feeling the effects of the credit crunch.

"Usually during a downturn we see more people coming into our shops to spend money, but less people giving us donations, but we haven't seen that this year," a spokesman said.

Earlier this month, the BBC News website found mixed experiences among charities offering so-called ethical Christmas gifts, like animals or tools for poorer countries.

Christian Aid said sales were booming, but Oxfam and World Vision both they were finding that the average value of gifts bought was down.

Mr Ferns said that even if things got tougher, Samaritans was determined to protect its 24-hour telephone support service.

We are just making sure that we don't overstretch
Joe Ferns, Samaritans

"We're not seeing a drop in income at the moment, but it's very early for us to know those sorts of things," he said.

"The impact on us is that we're being much more cautious about launching new services or investing greatly in new developments.

"We are just being careful and making sure that we don't overstretch."

Some charities are also facing difficult times because they have money tied up in the now defunct Icelandic banking system.

The National Council for Voluntary Organisations has said that at least 60 members have reported that funds totalling 120m may be at risk.

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