Looming government funding cuts could spell disaster for vital local services provided by the voluntary sector, the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) has warned.
NCVO said the sector should not be seen as a soft target for public spending cuts, which are certain to be introduced to deal with the current public sector deficit after the next election whichever party is in power.
It warned: “The needs of a rapidly ageing, super-diverse population do not diminish in the face of a recession and may in fact increase.”
In a report last week The state and the voluntary sector – Recent trends in government funding and public service delivery NCVO showed that 25,000 voluntary organisations received more than three-quarters of their income from statutory sources.
Social care is biggest recipient of state funds
The report said that organisations providing social services received a much larger amount of statutory income than any other sub-sector in 2006-7, totalling £4.2bn out of a total of the £12bn in public funding for charities, and accounting for just over half of overall income for social care charities.
From 2000-1 to 2006-7, state funding of the voluntary sector increased slightly faster than the overall rise in government expenditure, but it still accounted for just over 2% of state spending.
Chief executive of NCVO, Stuart Etherington, said: “Public sector funders must avoid a knee jerk reaction. Ill thought-out cuts would ravage communities across the UK.
‘Vital’ role must be understood
“When developing spending plans, government – nationally and locally – must understand the vital contribution projects runs by voluntary and community organisations make. These services are not just nice add-ons; they are critical to the well-being of communities across the UK.”
The report comes hard on the heels of a warning by The National Aids Trust over cuts to services for people with HIV/Aids. In a report, it found that almost a third of local authorities would cut funding if the Department of Health (DH) removed ring-fencing from the Aids Support Grant, which is targeted at the client group.
Warnings from stroke and HIV charities
Phil Collis, project manager for stroke survivor support scheme The Stroke Project, which is part of the voluntary organisation TLC Care Services, said: “If our contracts were removed it would leave stroke victims in those boroughs unable to access the high quality care and support they need once they have been discharged from hospital care.”
John Mckernaghan, manager for the Brunswick Centre, which provides sexual health and HIV services across Calderdale and Kirklees, said: “If government income was reduced it would seriously limit services. However the number of service users won’t reduce even if the income does.”