Thursday, 8 December 2011

Some Good News in the Economic Gloom

This is the post I was busy working on when my computer's last hard drive forced me into an unanticipated interregnum. Here it is in a completed form, with a post-script which relates to news which was reported during that break. 

We are constantly being told that these are hard economic times. To see that you only need to open a utility bill, fill up your car with petrol or look at these BBC News pages (here and here; Notice I've not had to archive the pages - I'm pretty sure the same general negative feeling will be evident whenever you happen to click the links).

Inflation is running at 5% (and for many will be higher), unemployment is at 8.3% of the workforce, youth unemployment has topped 1m (and is at 19.6% for those age 18-24*), growth forecasts have been lowered and the Eurozone remains in crisis.

Of course, there is a danger of too much negative reporting and of talking ourselves back into recession. Indeed, the "R" word is often banded around as if we were. That's another, but important, issue which is a particular bugbear of mine. It's not, however, the point of this post.

There is no doubt, though, that one way or other people are feeling the pinch. According, for example, to the ASDA Income Tracker which measures discretionary income, average disposable income fell by 8.4% in September compared to the previous year.

In addition to the above figures, here are two more:


On Friday [the 18th November], the BBC's annual Children In Need appeal raised an on-the-night record of £26m - £8m more than the total last year. Comic Relief raised £102m this year which even allowing for the £15m that the government contributed was still some £4m higher than the figure raised in 2009.

It is heartening that in these times of austerity we can still, as a nation, think of those in even more dire straits. Perhaps it's because we are more conscious of the cost of things that makes us want to help those in even greater need. Whatever, it makes me proud to be British - not in a jingotistical way (I don't believe in "pride" based on something you have no control over) but proud of my fellow subjects and proud of what can be achieved collectively.


Since I conceived this piece, this research hit the news. In essence, more people are giving to charity but the average gift has reduced. Although this seems at odds with the record figures above, I still think this is encouraging news, in it's way. 1.1m more people have been moved to give notwithstanding the current economic climate - people may not be able to give as much but they are giving.

It may be that Comic Relief and Children in Need, as the highest profile fundraising events, have benefited disproportionately from new gifters but I think it would be churlish and somewhat cynical to let this colour our view of their achievements this year.

Whilst many charities are feeling a squeeze as donations and other sources of funding are reduced, the sector should take comfort from the willingness of people to give - and work on ways to encourage increased giving from these new donors when circumstances improve. Some imagination will be required to achieve that - simply asking people to increase their direct debits is not, I think, the way forward - but with the right approach this could be the start of a new culture of giving.

*Source: Office for National Statistics Labour Market Data Tables Nov 11

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