Voluntary sector feels the pain


Lisa Gerrard*, service user

I think the decision to cut the grants funding the children’s bereavement service in Birmingham that my kids use is horrendous. These are children who are crying out for help, who haven’t put themselves in this situation and the council is taking it away from them.

In 2009, my partner died suddenly in a road traffic accident and my father died four days later.

My son Jamie started having behavioural problems soon after. He was very angry and was lashing out. I rang the Spurgeons’ charitable bereavement counselling service and they got him in pretty much straight away. It gave him the space he needed to deal with the things that were going on and to make some sense of it.

You could see a difference in him. There have been a lot of little steps in the right direction over the last 12 months. He’s in a far better place now than he was.

I also applied for my daughter Holly to have some counselling because she was very teary and upset. She had a couple of sessions with Jamie but it wasn’t working so she had to go back on the waiting list in May 2010, which was about a six-month wait.

But we were told in October that we would not get counselling for her because the funding had been cut. If we want to get her counselling elsewhere she will have to go on another long waiting list.

For some children it’s imperative that they have that counselling straight away. By denying them it you are putting a lot of children in a very dark place.

At the moment Jamie is still having his counselling but after April next year I don’t know what’s going to happen. I worry that it’s going to end. He has a good relationship with his counsellor and he trusts her and to start back at square one is going to put Jamie in a very difficult situation.

He is going to vent his anger somewhere and is that going to be at school or in a fight somewhere? It could be prevented.

Birmingham Council said it was looking at ways to keep the project running but would not make a final decision until it had finalised its budget.

*all names have been changed


Fay Bush, director, Counselling and Support for Young People, East Midlands

This year we are losing £15,000 from Nottinghamshire Council. We have been working in five venues providing support, counselling and training for 400-500 young people per year.

As a result of the cuts we cannot support our volunteer counsellors financially through travel expenses and contributions towards their clinical supervision costs.

We have lost some volunteers already and will have to reduce our service to work in schools only (for which we charge a fee to the school) thus ending support for young people who are excluded or no longer at school.

Our members of staff (myself included) have not had a pay rise in five years. With the demand for our work growing quickly we are all working unpaid hours as we are committed to our work.

I now find that we are unable to take anyone on as a member of staff but must buy in self-employed counsellors on an as-required basis or when we get a pot of money to

pay for a particular piece of work.

Our strategy is to reduce growth, continue to struggle and raise our school fees, which often means that schools cannot use our service, which is funny given the government’s priority of good mental health and support for young people.

It seems it is the national charities which will be looked upon to deliver the Big Society agenda while small charities covering just two counties will be sidelined.

Despite all this doom and gloom we are determined to keep trying because it is so important for the young people we are supporting who are being bullied, abused, excluded, dealing with domestic violence or parental separation.

• Counselling and Support for Young People had its total council funding cut by over 30% in 2010-11 and anticpates a similar cut for 2011-12.


Graham Faulkner, chief executive, Epilepsy Society

Epilepsy Society provides specialist residential and nursing care services to about 120 residents with complex intractable epilepsy at its Chalfont Centre in Buckinghamshire. TWe have contracts with more than 50 local authorities and primary care trusts.

Our costs in the provision of residential and nursing care have increased by 2% this year. We sought increases in fees of this amount but we have achieved an average of only 0.5%. The majority offered no increase at all, leaving us with a shortfall of about £140,000, which will have to be absorbed.

Several local authorities wrote to us in November or December to request immediate reductions in fees of up to 10%, with no suggestion of a reduction in service and no indication of how we might achieve it.

We are reviewing some services and will only continue them if we can be sure of securing income to cover the costs.

We have closed two care homes in the past year although some beds have been replaced in modern new build homes – overall this is a reduction in beds of 12.

We have resisted compulsory redundancies and have reduced staff numbers by not replacing staff going on maternity leave, not filling vacant posts and agreeing to reductions in hours by some staff. However, staff salaries have been frozen and terms and conditions of service are being reviewed.

Councils are already telling us there will be no fee increases next year and many are indicating they will be looking to reduce fees. We will have to consider terminating placements of residents where we cannot secure fees to cover the costs of the service requested by the placing authority.

We are not convinced that we understand what the Big Society is. If it means increased use of volunteers and local communities we already do that where it is appropriate, but this is not a realistic solution to the issues faced by many of our service users who have complex medical needs.


“We have been getting sub-inflation awards for some years and it impacts on staff pay as well as the organisation. There is not a lot left to go in terms of reducing cost.”

Learning disability organisation

“It is being done in a very crude way. Local authorities are not making decisions about decommissioning – often they simply want the same service for less money.”

Adult learning disability provider

“I expect there will be significant cuts in equivalent statutory provision, which will increase the level of demand.”

Children’s service provider

“The speed of change is too great for our local authority colleagues to be able to properly engage with the voluntary sector to understand the true impact.”

Mental health services provider

“The first 10% [of cuts] can be done via efficiencies. However, after that, we are cutting into the heart of what we do and services will suffer.”

Adult social care organisation

“The needs we currently address will not go away and are likely to worsen in a period of reduced funding for services like ours. We can foresee that the services will have to be resurrected at some point in the future, but whether the voluntary organisations and experienced staff are still around to do this is doubtful.”

Provider for children with learning disabilities

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