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Friday 5th October 2012 | 15:05
TUC press release
The ability of voluntary and community organisations to support their local communities is being seriously undermined by funding cuts that are leading to widespread job losses and cuts to services, delegates of a special TUC conference heard today (Friday).
At the conference representatives of charities, voluntary and community organisations, trade unions, faith groups and other civil society organisations are hearing how the voluntary sector is being left unable to meet increasing demands for services as a result of government spending cuts, the continuing economic recession and changes to welfare and legal aid.
The National Association of Voluntary and Community Action (NAVCA) recently conducted a survey of its members. Those responding to the survey reported that total income in the sector had fallen by 19 per cent in the previous 12 months. Over two-thirds (68 per cent) of organisations had seen cuts to funding from local authorities and 40 per cent were making redundancies as a result.
The NAVCA survey also found that 40 per cent of its member organisations were increasing the use of volunteers to make up for the loss of capacity and many were dipping into reserves simply to keep going.
The most affected organisations were those providing services for children and young people, bodies providing support to other charities and community organisations and those working in the most deprived communities. Liverpool, the North East, Inner London and Leicester were the areas facing the largest cuts to services.
Similar findings have also been identified in other recent reports from the sector:
Research from Children England found that voluntary organisations were shedding two jobs for every one in the public sector and that wages had fallen by three per cent.
The London Voluntary Services Council (LVSC) Big Squeeze report found that 60 per cent of members had lost funding, 40 per cent were closing services and over half could not meet the demand for their services.
Research by the University of Birmingham for UNISON found that over half (56 per cent) of respondents noted that day centres are closing in their area.
The New Economics Foundation report Cutting it in Birmingham identified cuts of up to 70 per cent to local community services, with funding being withdrawn not just by national and local government, but also grant giving bodies such as the Big Lottery Fund.
Today’s conference, Outsourcing and Austerity: Civil Society and the Coalition Government, held at the TUC headquarters in London has been jointly organised by the National Association of Voluntary and Community Action (NAVCA), the TUC, the National Coalition for Independent Action (NCIA), Unite and UNISON. Over 100 different voluntary and community organisations and unions were present to look at the impact of two years of coalition government on the voluntary sector.
Commenting on the conference, TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said: “It is no exaggeration to say that the voluntary and community sector is in crisis.
“The Big Society has become a sick joke to the thousands of people who work in and depend on local community and voluntary services. Charities are also seeing their funding decimated as a result of the government’s austerity drive.
“The Big Society and localism can now be seen for what they are – a cover for outsourcing and cutting public services.”
Chief Executive of NAVCA Joe Irvin said: “We’ve all got a part to play in defending those most in need in society. Different voluntary organisations will do this in different ways depending on their mission and aims.
“Charities are already playing a key role in defending hard-pressed communities from unfair cuts and can be a powerful campaigning force for change. Community action can be a bulwark against big power and help get communities organised.”
Assistant General Secretary of Unite Gail Cartmail said: “The government’s privatisation agenda is about providing services on the cheap and turning a profit for its business friends.
“Competitive tendering is creating a race to the bottom in terms and conditions for not for profit workers as they are pitted against large businesses to try and win contracts.”
Convenor of NCIA Andy Benson commented: “As the cuts bite and local voluntary groups are decimated by flawed commissioning and procurement strategies, the situation facing local communities is indeed dire. However, the signs of a fight back are growing and thousands of activists around the country are standing up to say no to this madness.”
Assistant General Secretary of UNISON Karen Jennings said: “The coalition government is persisting with a cuts, privatisation and austerity agenda that is not only destroying our public sector, but also dramatically reducing – or removing altogether – the quality of life for thousands of families across the UK.
“Voluntary and community services play a vital role to the people they serve, the unnecessary harsh cuts makes their job only harder. Many charitable and volunteer groups already survive on a pittance, and cannot compete with private interests who promise cheaper services on the back of reduced quality of service and reduced security for workers.”