THE CONTINUING saga of public sector cuts has led to some charities being put out of action and left many more community groups struggling to survive.

Good causes which, at one time, relied on local authority funding or service contracts to keep them going have had to find new ways to raise cash and that, in turn, has put increased pressure on the pot of public goodwill.

To make matters worse, the jam of charitable donation has been spread even thinner by the economic pressures on households caused by lower earnings outstripped by consumer inflation.

It should come as no surprise then that one in four community organisations fear for their survival, according to a new report by the Co-op Group, which has handed out £20 million to more than 12,000 good causes over the last 18 months.

The catalogue of charities affected by funding shortages across the Bradford district has been growing for years.

Back in 2015, Council funding cuts were blamed for the closure, after 37 years, of the Manningham-based Blenheim Project, which helped vulnerable, homeless women and children by providing support to prevent them becoming permanently homeless.

Less than a year later, the Keighley housing charity Keyhouse Project went into administration after three decades helping homeless young people.

In March 2016, workers at the struggling Holme Christian Community charity found themselves locked out of its premises in Holme Wood. It had been founded in 1983 to offer services including children's day care and early years education, employment and skills training and welfare debt advice, as well as supporting older people.

In May last year, the Shipley-based Isis Project for Women and Children, an award-winning mental health charity, suddenly shut up shop – just days after the 25-year-old Craven Volunteer Centre, in Skipton, folded when it lost its funding.

One of the biggest shocks in Bradford came in September 2016 when the RSPCA centre in Mount Street, Bradford, closed its doors, with the charity saying it was “no longer financially viable.” The centre, which cost more than £600,000 per annum to run, had been losing money for years.

The Co-op surveyed 1,500 of the organisations it has supported, including 223 groups in the Bradford district.

Rebecca Birkbeck, director of community engagement, said: “We wanted to gain a ‘state of the nation’ snapshot to better understand how they get their income, how they are managing the increasing demands on their services and how they feel about the future.

“Our research suggests that many of the causes we’ve been working with are already feeling the impact of local authority funding cuts. When asked about their concerns for what lies ahead more than half (56 per cent) said they were witnessing a growing demand for their service, which isn’t being matched by increased funding or resources. Forty-four per cent are concerned about rising costs and 30 per cent have had public funding reduced.”

Survey respondents were asked to describe the overall health of their organisation and only 12 per cent described themselves as “currently thriving” while 14 per cent said they were struggling or having some difficulties. One in four of the 1,500 groups that responded said they were either worried or very worried about the future of their organisation.

“With cutbacks in local authority spending we’re seeing the need to relearn the values and skills of community-based self-help that became common place in the nineteenth century,” said Ms Birkbeck. “With many groups finding themselves underfunded and under-resourced, it is increasingly important that we all support the crucial work of community groups, co-ops and local charities.

“We believe now, more than ever, that connecting local people and causes to enable greater co-operation is the key ingredient to building stronger communities.”

The Co-op says it is creating a network of “Member Pioneers” – passionate Co-op members who understand how their local community works – to help build relationships between local causes, Co-op members and the wider community, bringing people together to boost community life by arranging meetings and events, and getting people talking about what matters most to them.

One of those Member Pioneers is Mariyam Siddique, who has worked at the Co-op food store in Oakworth, Keighley, since 2013.

She said: “Being a Member Pioneer is about creating connections between groups of all sorts, not just the ones we are supporting through the Local Community Fund. By keeping your eyes and ears open – not just in the store but everywhere – you can find out about all sorts of people and groups that would be stronger if they worked together.

“Community has never been more important, and the more bridges that we can build the more efficient and effective we can become.

“I have helped to build a relationship between the Oakworth Community Centre and our local community church. Before they worked in isolation, but are now working together, sharing resources, facilities and stock to provide a better service for people in our community. It’s just one example of how communities become stronger when people come together.

“We need communities to be stronger and work together for future generations. Member Pioneers like myself are there to bring those connections closer to our hearts.”