A grim snapshot of the crisis in civil society
Last month, the London Voluntary Services Council published the fourth of its annual Big Squeeze reports, looking at the current condition of the voluntary sector in London and the communities that it served.
As with previous years, the 2012 report paints a grim picture.
60 per cent of respondents reported a reduction in their overall funding in 2012/13, with a median decrease of 21 – 40 per cent. Over half of respondents expected to see public sector funding decrease and, significantly, over a quarter also predicted a decrease from trust funders as well. Worryingly, over half of the organisations covered were using reserves to cover running costs last year.
At the same time as massive cuts to funding, demand is rising as a combination of continuing recession, public service cuts and welfare reforms are leading to surging demand from service users.
The figures are overwhelming.
85 per cent of respondents felt that cuts to local authority budgets had a particularly negative impact on their local community. 83 per cent said that their users had been negatively affected by loss of services that met their needs, particularly in the area of advice services.
In addition to the impact of public service cuts, 63 per cent reported that their users had been disadvantaged by welfare reforms and over half had been hit hard by unemployment. Around half of respondents reported that users’ health was getting worse. A similar number reported users failing to meet the costs of their housing and facing homelessness.
As a result of all this, around two thirds of organisations said that the demand for their services was increasing but half did not expect to meet this demand. Over 40 per cent closed services this year and over a quarter expect to close further services next year.
This is how David Cameron’s ‘Big Society’ is shaping up.
No wonder then that the sector views government policy with such scepticism. Around 40 per cent of respondents reported negative impacts from the Work Programme, cuts to legal aid, housing policy and the commissioning of public services to independent providers.
Given this clear view from the voluntary sector on the ground, it is a shame that some leaders within the sector stubbornly cling to the coat tails of the government’s agenda. It is unlikely they can sustain this position for much longer. Frustration with the growing crisis in the voluntary sector is clearly intensifying.
The TUC, NAVCA, Unite, UNISON and the National Coalition for Independent Action are jointly hosting a conference on the 5th October to bring representatives of charities, trade unions, voluntary, community and faith groups and other civil society partners together to take stock of the impact that the coalition government has had on civil society and the communities we serve.
Outsourcing and Austerity: Civil Society and the Coalition Government takes place at Congress House on Monday 5th October. For more information and to register your interest, you can email: [email protected]