Surviving or Thriving? The Domino effect……

Earlier this year, we asked voluntary organisations and charities working with children and young people in the North East to describe the impact of spending cuts on their organisation and their beneficiaries, as part of a survey undertaken with Voluntary Organisations Network North East (VONNE).

The responses that we got were fascinating and painted a very complex picture. Some organisations had made staff redundant as as result of decreases in funding whereas other had not been affected to date. The variety of responses serve as a good reminder that the ‘third sector’ is not a homogeneous group of organisations, which is how it is often presented by politicians.

Quality vs Quantity

A number of responses highlighted that they attempted to protect the quality of service provision and felt that it was more appropriate to change the reach and scope of their provision (the quantity of it) rather than the quality:

“The quality of our service is the same, but our volunteer advocate has decided she needs to get a paid job so we have lost her”

“we try not to let the quality of our work be effected by cuts in our income”

“No change to quality of service”

“Quality of service remains high”

“The quality has not diminshed, but the health and wellbening of staff has”

“Lack of funding means that we are having to close groups and limit the service we are offering”

Early Intervention

Anoher theme that emerged form the responses was the pressure that funding reductions placed on early intervention projects and services, despite good evidence and government rhetoric about shifting service delivery towards early intervention and away from crisis intervention. Some organisations also noted that the cuts meant they potentially had less time to spend developing and maintaining relationships with service users:

“we will not be able to spend quality time with sevice users and early intervention support will be at risk”

“Giving less time and resources for clients”

“Domino effect of cut in services and resources meaning we are less able to … work proactively at prevention”

“this (the uncertainty surrounding the future of the project) limits our ability to provide consistent and meaningful relationships with young people”

Commitment of staff and volunteers

A number of responses also highlighted how staff and volunteers had helped to support the organisations and the young people they worked with and how the situation had affected them:

“20 staff were made redundant over the last year due to decrease in funding”

“The quality of our service provision has not been affected, but this is manily due to the commitment of our volunteers, who enjoy working for our organisation and have fully supported the ethos and vision of the project”

“Less staff to work with children on essential basic skills such as reading and writing”

“have had to make staff redundant and others on shorter hours, using reserves to fund part of the work until funding can be found”

“The loss of funding for one part time youth worker has meant that we have withdrawn from work with the older age group. But the increasing level of young graduate unemployment has meant that we have been able to build up a very skilled group of young volunteers. Subsequently the number and quality of our activities has increased”

“Staff stayed with us on reduced salaries to continue our services”

“The quality has not diminished, but the health and wellbening of staff has. We are relying more heavily upon in kind donations and volunteering above and beyond what is expected or safe”

Conclusions

It is, of course, difficult to draw any conclusions from a small number of responses but that is part of the reason for looking to continue the conversation here and the responses perhaps raise more questions than hey answered. In summary, some organisations are doing ok at present, whilst others are faring a lot worse. Whilst the number of service users is predicted to increase as a result of the economic situation and cuts to public services and other charities, the resources available to the voluntary organisations is, in a lot of places, already decreasing. Some organisations noted that staff had altered their working hours or salaries to stay with the projects, whilst others noted an increase in volunteers – potentially as a result of increased unemployment and a very competitive jobs market?

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