Preparing the Third Sector for a “no-deal” Brexit scenario

Suzanne AllenBlog & News

The European Union has long played a vital role in the operation and governance of the Third Sector, leaving many of those working in the sector asking what would a “no-deal” Brexit scenario mean for their organisation and its service-users?

Civil Society Involvement is here to act as an advocate for the Third Sector, sharing its expertise at a national level. In order to prepare the sector for potential Brexit scenarios, one of our Civil Society Involvement representatives has been in conversation with Head of European Programmes, Julia Sweeney, to share the sector’s priorities for such an eventuality.

Following this conversation, here are three key considerations for “no-deal” Brexit-planning…

Economic Shock

If we leave the EU on 29 March 2019 with no deal then one outcome we need to prepare for is an economic shock – this is where the economy is impacted by an unpredictable change, which can influence things like output and employment. This means that individuals could see an impact on rapid response services and social infrastructure (healthcare, education, public facilities etc.), while we might also see an impact on our physical and digital shared spaces.

SMEs are one of the most vulnerable groups in the business community and are at the highest risk of negative impact. SMEs will need to plan for dealing with disruption, while focusing on sustainability and protecting jobs at risk.

Should economic shock occur the risk of austerity or an economic downturn is heightened, so it is essential that organisations thoroughly consider which of these risks are prevalent to them. Our representative raised this as a key consideration point for those involved in European Funding planning, citing that sustainability support, particularly for SMEs, will become increasingly important.

Human Impact

As you would expect from any major economic shift, it’s important to consider the human impact from any Brexit scenario, including at the extreme civil unrest. We must consider the increased risk of hate crime and lower tolerance and much will need to be done to repair fractured relationships and tensions.

Many third sector organisations offer the services which assist in prevention and mitigation of such troubles in our communities and will be working to meet the need in this scenario. We’ve emphasised that any national response should ensure that the local and community-based provision is recognised and integrated in to any planning.

Further, the impact on people in an economic downturn is also an area which Third Sector organisations are expert in dealing with. Responding to redundancy issues, such as debt and money management, navigating the welfare system and income maximisation, as well as securing the home, are all areas in which the Third Sector provides comprehensive services. In addition, they work within communities helping individuals to regain confidence, recognise transferable skills and retrain to re-enter employment as soon as possible. So, again, planning for increased demand on services and recognising the sectors role in this is key. We need to put pressure on the Departments to build Third Sector provision into the planning – but we also need to look for ways to work together cohesively so that we can respond to funding calls etc with reasonable scale.

At a national level, we’ve emphasised the need in any Rapid Response initiatives to genuinely include the third sector within the partnerships alongside the public and private sectors.

Funding streams

European Funding is a vital resource for many charities and social enterprises, so the future of funding streams will be one of the biggest questions for the sector as March 29 approaches.

We do have the Treasury Guarantee that ESIF funds will be honoured until the end of the programme, when the UK Shared Prosperity Fund is expected to take over. The implementation period until the end of December 2020 means we should expect to see a degree of stability until this time. However, there is still a lot of uncertainty around the funding programmes, with no guarantees for funding pots like Horizon 2020 and Erasmus + and LEAD. Further detail can be found at:

There is also still time to tap into European Funding ahead of Brexit with new calls expected in the Spring – this is an important opportunity for the sector to tap into the funding system ahead of the development of the UK Shared Prosperity Fund.

You can stay up-to-date with the latest calls and funding news via the website.

Third Sector Response to a “no-deal” scenario

With these reflections in mind it is important for the Third Sector to be as involved as possible in the planning and response to any Brexit scenario. This is where projects like Civil Society Involvement come in. CSI is here to raise your opinions and concerns on the national Growth Programme Board through our team of representatives. This means that your voice can directly contribute to and influence planning now and post-Brexit.

Preparing the Third Sector for a “no-deal” Brexit scenario

Helen Millne, CSI Programme Lead

Civil Society Involvement Programme Lead, Helen Millne, says: “It is incredibly important that any response to a no-deal scenario should include the expertise of Third Sector organisations. While it is encouraging to hear that colleagues at the Ministry and Housing Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) are preparing for this scenario, service-users are often likely to turn to their local Third Sector support services, like the Citizens Advice Bureau. This means we need to be involved in the planning to ensure that the Third Sector can respond effectively.

“While there is uncertainty ahead, there is still the valuable opportunity for the sector to tap into European Funding streams before the programme comes to an end in 2020. With new funding calls expected in the Spring, I would encourage any colleagues who have not yet taken advantage of funding pots available to them to explore the opportunity.

“Both those who are new to European Funding, and those who are already in the loop, are vital contributors to the conversation which will shape the future of funding through the UK Shared Prosperity Fund.”

If you work in the Third Sector and would like to share your concerns of a “no-deal” Brexit scenario with us, you can contact us via

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