More than 2,200 charities facing cuts
Research published today by False Economy shows that more than 2,200 charities are facing cuts to their budgets as local councils reduce or withdraw funding.
The research is based on 265 Freedom of Information responses from local councils across England, and shows that charities face a net reduction of £110 million this year. In fact, even this figure is likely to be a significant underestimate, given that a number of large councils did not respond to the FOIs and some are yet to decide exactly where the cuts will fall.
The largest number of charities is affected in Birmingham City Council (though of course this is also the largest local authority), where 191 organisations are facing cuts. London is badly hit, with more than 400 charities across London affected by cuts from individual councils and also by the cross-council organisation London Councils.
The list of charities facing cuts ranges from large national charities to small local groups and includes:
• 112 adult care charities
• 142 older people’s charities
• 382 children’s and young people-related charities
• 151 disability-related charities
Also affected are refugee support groups, charities providing support to victims of domestic violence, housing and homelessness charities, carer’s groups, Citizens Advice Bureaux and many more.
Councils have been put in the position of choosing which vulnerable groups should be affected by cuts. Many more deprived areas have been hardest hit by central government cuts, because of the combination of the reduction of specific grants generally aimed at more deprived areas, and the removal of ring fencing which has ‘smoothed’ funding across councils – leaving more deprived areas facing larger cuts than wealthier areas. For instance, the local authorities facing the highest cuts this year (8.9%) include Hackney, Liverpool, Tower Hamlets, Knowsley, Doncaster and South Tyneside. Those with a much smaller decrease in funding (1%) include Windsor and Maidenhead, West Sussex, Buckinghamshire and Richmond upon Thames.
Charities face triple whammy at the moment, with cuts to the statutory funding they receive from central and local government, combined with falling donations (corporate and individual) and a rising demand for their services.
Many charities will struggle on and continue to provide services, or scale back certain projects. But there is evidence that others are taking more drastic measures. The London Voluntary Service Council surveyed their members last month and found that over half (51%) of voluntary and community organisations responding to the survey had closed services last year due to cuts.
The cuts are a real false economy, because many of these groups provide preventative services such as helping people to live healthier lifestyles or live independently in their own homes if they need support to do so, working with young people to prevent crime and antisocial behaviour, or providing respite support for carers. Without these voluntary sector support services people are more likely to end up in the statutory sector, which of course is already hard pressed by cuts.
The cuts also beg the question – what about the Big Society? We saw the launch of the long awaited Open Public Services white paper last month, which heralded a ‘big society’ vision for public services, with charities and voluntary groups stepping in to take over public services. But with these groups facing massive cuts, it seems that it will be large private companies who are able to step in and take the opportunities offered by the government’s ‘opening up’ of public services.