April 28, 2009 12:00 AM

Today, Jenny Willott, Lib Dem Shadow Cabinet Office Minister, released figures showing that at the end of 2008, the number of people employed in the third sector fell for the first time since 2004.

The figures were revealed in a Parliamentary Question to the Cabinet Office from Miss Willott and show that employment in charities, voluntary organisations and trusts fell by 8,000 jobs in the last quarter of 2008.

Commenting, Jenny said:

"These are the first signs that recession hit charities are being forced to shed jobs just to stay afloat.

"The workload of charities is soaring as the recession pushes more and more people into unemployment and poverty. But at the same time, charitable donations are dropping.

"Charities are a vital source of support for the most vulnerable people during the recession. The Government must ensure that its rhetoric about supporting the third sector through the downturn is backed up with concerted action.

"If charities fail, we lose yet more jobs as well as losing vital support for the most vulnerable in society."

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