As some in our sector are winding down for the Christmas break, and others are getting ready for a particular busy time of the year, I’m sure most of us will be reflecting on the year just gone and wondering about what lies ahead in 2024.

I don’t think we’re ever likely to find a year that doesn’t bring challenges for voluntary, community, faith, and social enterprise organisations – challenges are, after all, what we exist to meet – but it does feel as though 2023 has been exceptionally tough. Although the pandemic itself is over and we’re learning to live with Covid, its effects are still being felt by many voluntary organisations. In the past week alone, I’ve spoken with five charity leaders whose organisations are trying to get fully back on their feet after Covid forced massive changes in their delivery models. Add to this the growing pressure on our communities of the cost of living crisis which is driving increased demand at an unprecedented rate, and it’s clear that the sector is far from ‘out of the woods’.

Of great concern, therefore, is the news that Birmingham City Council – whose support and partnership is so pivotal to the strength and stability of the city’s voluntary sector – is in financial crisis. We know that huge savings are required across a range of local authority departments, including those that are closely allied to essential voluntary sector services, and so we find ourselves bracing for impact.

With that said, we know from recent experience that Birmingham’s voluntary sector is incredibly resilient and adaptable. I’m seeing more evidence than ever before that our public sector partners recognise the true value of the sector (one of the silver linings of the pandemic, which demonstrated beyond any shadow of a doubt just how essential community groups and charities are to a healthy, safe, and prosperous society) and I am hopeful that this understanding will inform the tough financial decisions that are about to be made. As 2024 unfolds, we must be confident in our work, in the positive difference we make to those who need our support, and in our pivotal role within the city. We must also be prepared to rally round in helping the city and its residents through the coming challenges – whether that be through working in partnership as key players in civic and civil society; or through speaking truth to power where we see looming decisions unfairly penalise our city’s most vulnerable people. 

BVSC’s 2024 will be about continuing to support you, continuing to support voluntary and community action in Birmingham, and working to foster strong and effective relationships across systems and across sectors. We’ll also be working on preparing to open the doors of our new building as a resource for our sector and its partners. We look forward to welcoming you to the opening event, details of which will be announced as soon as we have them. As ever, you can find out how we can support you through the pages of our website and in our weekly ebulletins. Until next time, I send good wishes to you and yours for a happy, healthy, and peaceful festive season – whether you’re resting or working, and however you choose to celebrate.

Merry Christmas!

Brian Carr, CEO, BVSC