In a few weeks time, the Council will decide on whether to proceed with their plan to cut 100% of the Voluntary Sector Grants. If this is carried out, it will not be based on harsh financial realities, or value for money – it will simply be as a result of the leadership playing party politics with the vulnerable citizens of Derby.
In the Council Plan 2015-18, introduced by Cllr Banwait, a number of Statutory “Must Do’s” were stipulated. The Top 3 being:
- making sure that we safeguard vulnerable children, young people and adults
- meeting the housing needs of the city, including supporting the homeless
- responding to the demands of legislative changes including; Welfare reform, the Care Act and Special Educational Needs and Disabilities reform
These statutory duties will be delivered either,
- directly by Council employees,
- through specific service contracts with 3rd Party organisations, or
- by grant funding of the Voluntary sector.
It is evident to anyone who works closely with charities, that the funding leverages a significantly greater amount of voluntary time than that paid for by the Council grant; such is the value of this sector. Additionally, the funding provided by Derby City Council can be a critical factor in influencing external bodies to provide further financial support.
The total amount granted in 2014/15 was £577k. A study by Council Officers, presented at the Cabinet meeting on 18 March 2015 confirmed:
“ The Council and SDCCG have identified that Voluntary Sector grant funded services provide effective, value for money support for their priorities.”
The means that the Council is getting maximum benefit from this resource. This is on priority/statutory services. If this is not provided by the Voluntary sector it would fall to the Council to employ people to back-fill this requirement. It cannot, knowingly, cut a statutory service.
Current organisations and services supported 2015/16
Support for the Elderly across different communities, outreach, prevent social isolation, advice, health awareness, supporting independence, friendship £182k, split:
Hadhari – Afro-Caribbean £34k
Indian Community Centre £28k
Derbyshire Chinese Welfare Association £11k
MHA Live at Home – across 14 wards £46k
Opieka – Polish £6k
Sahahra – Pakistani £38k
Sahakar – Indian £0.4k
Sahaly Women’s Group £0.5k
Sinfin/Stenson Over 60s – Asian £2k
Ukrainian Day Centre Outreach £16k
Support for Disabled people, learning difficulties, acquired health conditions £125k, split:
Alternatives Activity Centre – adult learning difficulties – £24k
Sight Support Derbyshire – support managing sight loss £9k
CamTad – support for people with hearing loss £28k
Derby Stoke club – self-help, and social £0.7k
Headway – support for people with acquired head injuries £20k
St James Centre – support young adults with learning disabilities to live independently £10k
Padley Development Centre – people with learning disabilities £33k
Advice to Elderly, Disabled, vulnerable people £130k, split:
Age UK – Advice, advocacy, sign-posting, First Contact £75k
Austin Community £4k
Disability Direct – information and advice for disabled £34k
Derby Refugee Advice Centre – support across many issues for asylum seekers/refugees £17k
Padley Day Centre – hostel, and day services £48k
Others £91k, split:
Community Action – infrastructure/volunteer support £42k
Crossroads – Carer Respite service £25k
Derby Community Accountancy service – Financial services for charities £15k
Derby United Credit Union – Savings / Loan schemes £5k
Derbyshire Friend – Advocacy, support, advice for LGBT community £4k
Assuming people were employed on the Minimum Earnings Level to replace these lost services ( £7.85/hr for 37 hours per week plus National Insurance, pensions etc, this equates to around £18k per year). For £577k, they could employ a maximum of 32 people to provide the services across 28 different organisations. But in order to make such a decision to lose the current skills, and knowledge, the current levels of trust, and engagement with the service users, the current army of volunteers, and in some cases, lose the entire charity, the saving must be substantial….so they would have to restrict it to significantly less than the 32. It simply is not practical! This is why the £577k is so-much value for money.
I have made the point previously that no organisation can reasonably manage within ~2% of it’s total budget. For the Council this is around £5m. In fact, in 2014/15 the Council ran a surplus of £3.8m – 6 times the entire Voluntary Sector Grant budget. This puts into context how small this sum of money actually is! So, in reality, the Council cannot plan at that level of precision to know, categorically, that it can’t be afforded – it is only party politicking that drives that link.
Making the decision to remove funding is a one-way decision. Key people will be lost, organisations and services will end, volunteers will move on – for what?
Key Questions for the Council
Cutting £577k would certainly save that money in the immediate term, and the negative impact, in some cases, might not be immediately obvious, but does the Council know:
- What is the consequential financial budgetary impact on Social Services, Health services, and other parts of the Council by removing this support. Does the Council know that it will be less than £577k? If not, then it becomes a poor financial decision.
- How much additional funding will be lost to the City by this action?
- How can the Council guarantee that the people who benefit from these services, for whom they owe a statutory responsibility , will not be disadvantaged as a result of this action?
The Council must be able to answer all of these questions, clearly and positively. Perhaps the Council would like to make public, the answers to these questions?
If they cut these grants without knowing the consequences, it then becomes a game of Russian roulette…certainly not sound governance.
Playing party politics with vulnerable people, for whom the Council has a statutory safeguarding accountability, and taking actions where the outcome is unknown and uncertain for those people, but most likely to be negative, is negligent.
Deceiving the residents over the affordability of these grants to score political points is cynical.
If this is not clear to the Leadership of the Council, and they have no ideas and options left to fund £577k (0.3% of the total budget) then they are not fit to hold office!
The consultation that took place was simply one in name. An on-line survey, when the majority of service users are unlikely to be IT literate, will provide a weak response.
If the Council wanted to withdraw from Voluntary Sector funding – then, declare that as a policy with a 3 year horizon which gives all organisations an opportunity to seek alternative funding, re-orgnanise, partner etc in order to ensure that they can still thrive. Lurching around from year to year, with cuts, threats of cuts, numerous consultations, is not helpful and does not allow for forward planning.