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East Staffordshire Voluntary Sector – Public Statement 12 February 2016

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Fri 12 Feb 2016

In response to the decision announced by East Staffordshire Borough Council to make no voluntary sector grant awards in the coming financial year, the local voluntary sector would like to make the following collective public statement:

  • We acknowledge that the ESBC Grant Aid process needs updating and we offer our support and involvement in any proposed re-design.
  • However, the timing of this announcement, after an application process has already been undertaken, gives voluntary organisations negligible opportunity to find alternative resources to protect front line services, potentially affecting thousands of local residents including many individuals who are most vulnerable.
  • We acknowledge that the reality of the current environment for public sector organisations includes significant cuts to their operating budgets, and the voluntary sector is willing to bear a fair share of these reductions.
  • However, we note that ESBC Cabinet meeting papers scheduled for Monday 15 February, propose a complete and unequitable reduction of £366,000 to all voluntary sector support, which we cannot help but link to the Grant Aid decision to award no funding. 
  • Several of the 43 local voluntary organisations affected have stated that they are now at potential risk of closure due to the Council’s decision putting local services to vulnerable people at risk.
  • Because voluntary organisations prevent people from needing to access public services, the impact of this decision is likely to increase overall costs to the public sector to a greater level than the total grant aid award, potentially leaving people without the vital services they need at extra expense to the public purse and tax payers.

The main reason given by ESBC for the decision to withhold grant aid relates to organisational safeguarding policies.  In response the voluntary sector would like to make the following statement:

  • The majority of organisations have reviewed and updated their policies in the last 12 months, and do meet the standard required by other public sector bodies and local safeguarding boards.
  • The highlighted issues are largely about terminology and minor technicalities rather than core principles, policy, procedure and most importantly actual practice.
  • The decision does not offer the opportunity and any support to organisations to update their policies in order to meet ESBC requirements, and therefore to raise the perceived quality of safeguarding documentation in the sector.
  • The reputational impact of unsubstantiated claims such as this on the local voluntary sector could be catastrophic, in terms of trust of service users and other funders.
  • While there are always individual organisations who can improve, we are confident there are no fundamental policy or procedural issues around safeguarding in the local voluntary sector.

Therefore, the local voluntary sector asks that East Staffordshire Borough Council honour their publicly made financial commitment to the voluntary sector for grant funding in 2016-2017, and work with us to plan appropriately for any proposed changes in future years.

This statement has been produced by Staffordshire Council of Voluntary Youth Services (SCVYS), Support Staffordshire and VAST, in dialogue with, for and on behalf of the East Staffordshire Voluntary Sector. For further information or enquiries it has been agreed that Garry Jones, Chief Executive of Support Staffordshire, will be the first point of contact: garry.jones@supportstaffordshire.org.uk or call 07494 483199.