DH budget pressures threaten voluntary sector work

Projects and services run by charities working to improve children’s health are being threatened by on-going funding delays at the Department of Health, the voluntary sector has warned.

Charities were invited to bid for Section 64 funding by the middle of May last year. Under Section 64 of the Health Services and Public Health Act 1968 the health secretary can make grants to voluntary organisations in England whose activities support DH policy priorities.

But although ministers were due to make decisions on the applications in November 2005 and inform applicants of the outcome by the beginning of the year, charities are still waiting to learn their bids’ fate.

The National Council for Voluntary Organisations has warned that the repeated delays could be jeopardising vital services and has already led to redundancies in some organisations. It has launched a campaign to force the DH to advise charities on whether or not their bids have been successful and to transfer the money immediately.

“We are urging the DH to honour their commitments and release the funding as soon as possible,” a spokesperson said. “Many of these charities are dealing with vulnerable groups who are reliant on their services. The voluntary sector shouldn’t have to pay the price for budget constraints in the NHS.”

Specific priorities for 2006-07 Section 64 funding include mental health services for teenagers, early intervention services for children with mental health problems, and projects that safeguard the health and well-being of children.

There is no set maximum or minimum for individual Section 64 grants, but the DH awarded 172 new grants in the 2005-06 funding round out of more than 1,300 applications received. The average grant in 2005-06 was £38,000.

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