Cumbria Third Sector Network

Cumbria’s Third Sector: Making a Difference

Cumbria has a large and vibrant third sector, made up of organisations that play a huge role in the life of Cumbrian communities. These organisations range from community groups run entirely by volunteers to large local charities and social enterprises, some of which employ several hundred staff and have a multi-million pound turnover each year.

From the volunteers running our village halls and mountain rescue teams, to the specialist staff working in our hospices and children’s centres, life in Cumbria quite simply wouldn’t be the same without them. The people of Cumbria are at the core – people giving and receiving support, and increasing sustainability of our local economies, environment, culture and heritage.

In 2022, Cumbria had 2294 registered third sector organisations (435 in Allerdale, 169 in Barrow-in-Furness, 323 in Carlisle, 239 in Copeland, 396 in Eden, 732 in South Lakeland). It is obviously harder to quantify the number of “under the radar” groups (the small groups with no requirement to register), and there are also national or regional third sector organisations registered outside Cumbria, but these are estimated to roughly double the size of the sector, to at least 4,000 organisations.

The third sector employs almost 10,000 full time equivalent staff (5,500 in Westmorland & Furness and 4,800 in Cumberland), and the registered organisations alone work with more than 50,000 volunteers who give their time for free – a contribution that would cost over £38 million a year if paid at the National Living Wage. The third sector as a whole brings £508m to the Cumbrian Economy.

(The data we’re using mainly comes from the Third Sector Trends Study, led by Professor Tony Chapman from the University of Durham.)


Cumbria Third Sector Network

Cumbria Third Sector Network brings these many diverse organisations together and provides a mechanism for involving them in the planning of local services. The network has mechanisms to select representatives onto Cumbria’s strategic partnerships, and to give the sector a voice to lobby and influence local partners. The network has existed since 2007, and now has a mature and robust relationship with many local statutory sector partners.

Find out about current projects and activity here


Specialist Networks

Cumbria Third Sector Network achieves its structure by bringing together the specialist networks that already exist within Cumbria’s Third Sector. These networks are the “slices” shown on the diagram, with the “outer wheel” showing areas of broad interest, and the “inner wheel” naming the networks that already exist.

Most, but not all areas, are currently covered. In this way the Network adds value to the structures that already exists and provides coordinated leadership for Cumbria’s Third Sector.

Each network selects a representative(s) to attend meetings of the Cumbria Third Sector Executive.
There is wide variation between the specialist networks – some meet regularly, whilst others exist only as an email network. All must meet minimum standards relating to their membership and selection/support of representatives. The network will encourage, and where possible support, the development of new networks to fill gaps in the current picture.

Find out more about the Specialist Networks, and details of representatives, here


Cumbria Third Sector Executive

Cumbria Third Sector Executive provides a focus for representation, lobbying and leadership for Cumbria’s third sector.

It is made up of a representative of each of the specialist networks, and has the ability to co-opt additional members who have a significant representative or leadership role in Cumbria’s third sector.

It recruits an independent chair, and elects a vice chair from within Cumbria’s Third Sector.

Over recent years, the third sector network has secured representation on many of the key local partnerships, and has chaired BOTH the Cumbria Leadership Board, and  Cumbria’s Public Health Alliance.


Cumbria Compact Steering Group

The Cumbria Compact creates the framework for developing the relationship between public and third sector organisations in Cumbria, supporting them to work together to strengthen communities and improve the lives of people in Cumbria. The Steering Group oversees its implementation and development, and nominates a representative to attend Third Sector Executive Meetings.


Healthwatch Cumbria

Healthwatch Cumbria aims to act as the consumer champion for health and care service users. It is itself a third sector organisation, but also has a number of statutory powers and roles. Healthwatch Cumbria nominates a representative to attend Third Sector Executive meetings.


Contact Us

To find out more about Cumbria Third Sector Network, contact:

Carolyn Otley (Deputy Chair) –

Holly Ferguson (Coordinator) –

Or call us on 01768 800350.