Two-thirds of children’s charities are awaiting funding decisions from local authorities for 2011-12, with many staff remaining on notices of redundancy in anticipation of possible service cuts.
A survey by Children England of more than 70 children’s charities and voluntary sector organisations found that 66% were anticipating staffing cuts in 2011-12 while only 60% felt they would still be in business in five years time. The findings echo Community Care’s survey of voluntary sector organisations across both children and adult services earlier this year.
Many were beginning to view public sector contracts as unreliable and high risk. “A number of organisations report strategic decisions to move away from chasing statutory funding to focus more on charitable and corporate funding” the survey stated.
Charities and voluntary sector ogranisations were also using more sessional staff and employing staff on zero-hour contracts – which does not guarantee a fixed number of hours but pays only for hours worked. The survey found this was in response to councils moving to more short- term funding and spot purchasing of services.
Early intervention services were the hardest hit including Sure Start children’s centres, family intervention services, short breaks for disabled children as well as advocacy and leaving care services. Work with fathers, teenage parents and homeless children were also reporting cuts and there were fears that professional training and quality assurance processes were being squeezed out as “unaffordable luxuries”. “This is a particular concern for those providing cost intensive services such as residential care,” the report stated.
“The most notable anticipated increase in capacity seems to be in relation to adoption and fostering services with 40% of those who provided them reporting an expected rise.”
The report concluded that those organisations who did not depend on public contracts were faring the best and the “sector perspective and learning from this period will be that public contracts are a high risk, organisationally destabilising and unsustainable strategic option. The government needs to address the deficit in confidence that is emerging in the sector urgently.”
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