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East Staffordshire Voluntary Sector Reply to ESBC Statement

Thu 18 Feb 2016

18 February 2016: East Staffordshire Voluntary Sector Reply to

East Staffordshire Borough Council (ESBC) Statement

We acknowledge the in-kind support offered to voluntary and community organisations, for which we and the wider VCSE sector remain thankful of ESBC support; however, the current dialogue relates to Grant Aid specifically.

We welcome the statement that ESBC will ‘look to commission’ the voluntary sector, but would draw attention to ‘as and when’ being an unclear and potentially unsustainable basis for a supportive relationship with the sector. We are also concerned that without a specified budget, this promise will be difficult to fulfil.

As outlined in the public statement made on behalf of the sector, we fully acknowledge the challenging financial position faced by local authorities and that they face a complete reduction in Government Grant in two years’ time. This makes it all the more important that we have a constructive and open dialogue over the next two years in particular, about how to manage the reduction in funding together, so that local people and services can be protected if at all possible.

With regard to safeguarding; we all seem to agree that there are no concerns about the quality of voluntary services, including safeguarding. We would be happy to work with the council to ensure that all VCSE organisations can bring their policies up to date with the relevant legislative references and annual reviews, so that ESBC can be reassured that all technical criteria are fulfilled.

We are unclear what the term ‘gaming’ refers to. However, as previously stated, a thorough review and modernisation of the grant aid process is overdue and we again offer our support to ESBC in undertaking such an exercise, in a properly consultative and non-conflicting manner.

Support Staffordshire, in agreement with VAST and SCVYS, and in dialogue with organisations affected originally made a public statement in order to be clear that VCSE organisations have nothing to hide in regard to safeguarding and we do not feel this reason is the primary or genuine cause for concern in relation to Grant Aid.

Support Staffordshire have no wish to enter into a prolonged public dialogue about non-relevant statements specifically targeted at Support Staffordshire. The over-riding concern for Support Staffordshire and all VCSE organisations affected is to protect services for vulnerable people, older citizens and families. We recognise the financial constraints facing the council and here repeat our offer to meet with the Leader and his senior officers to discuss these challenges, at your convenience, and find a constructive way forward together.

This statement has been produced by Staffordshire Council of Voluntary Youth Services (SCVYS) and Support Staffordshire 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.