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Tearfund makes staff cutbacks as part of ‘strategic restructure’

28 June 2024

TEARFUND is undergoing a strategic restructure in response to financial pressures, it confirmed last month.

Among the positions that have been lost is that of global advocacy and influencing director, a job held by Dr Ruth Valerio (Interviews, 31 March 2017).

A spokeswoman said: “Our current financial circumstances mean that we have to make really difficult choices. Tearfund is making a strategic restructure of some parts of the organisation in order to reduce our unrestricted spending. This is a result of changing patterns of income and significantly higher operating costs globally, driven by inflation.”

In the most recent published accounts, for the year to March 2023, the charity reported a record amount of total income: £85.4 million, a rise of seven per cent on the previous year. The increase was driven mostly by emergency appeals, donations for which rose by 45 per cent from £9.1 million to £13.2 million. The money was raised for crises in Afghanistan, Ukraine, Pakistan, and Syria.

Expenditure rose by 17 per cent to £90.3 million, for reasons including “significant increases” on meeting emergency needs. Reserves stood at £6.5 million, down from £11.5 million the previous year, a sum “below the lower end of the target range, due to the shortfall in unrestricted income for the year that is attributable to supporters’ giving being redirected towards restricted emergency appeals”. Unrestricted donations (excluding legacies and grants) decreased by two per cent to £28.8 million.

The accounts also show an increase in spending on redundancy and severance costs, from £61,000 to £461,000. Tearfund told the magazine Civil Society last year that these payments were made to 34 people as part of a restructuring of its communications functions. Seven members of staff who received payments were UK-based, while the remaining 27 were regional.

Speaking this month, the spokeswoman said that, when it came to the fall in unrestricted income, “what we are seeing across the sector suggests this trend will remain. As part of this we are regrettably reducing our high-level policy work and focusing on more locally led influencing, especially in equipping churches and communities to advocate for the local changes.”

Policy work on plastics and waste will continue, as the project is separately funded by an institutional donor. The spokeswoman confirmed that some advocacy positions had been retained, or “suitable alternatives” found.

It is understood that Dr Valerio has secured a new post elsewhere, which will be announced shortly, where she will be involved in the same work of responding to poverty and environmental breakdown.

She said this week: “‘I am, of course, very sad that Tearfund has made these changes; but throughout this period, my Advocacy colleagues and I have been holding on to an image that many of us have had of a dandelion head — and God planting the seeds of our work in new soil and spreading it far and wide.”

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