Charitable work under threat from council budget cuts, warns Shropshire chief executive

Reporter:

Emily Davies

The work of charitable organisations are under threat through council budget cuts, the Shropshire chief executive of Age UK has warned.

Heather Osbourne said the loss of the services, which are boosted through local authority grants, would have a devastating impact on the community if they were no longer available.

It comes after a new report by Shropshire’s Voluntary and Community Sector (VCS) Assembly highlighted the huge impact they have on people’s lives in the county through their preventative services, such as day centres, social activities to tackle loneliness and isolation, information and advice, help to live independently and health and wellbeing activities.

Ms Osborne said: “The voluntary sector is facing significant increases in demand as a result of social and economic issues, Welfare Reform, changing models of care and a reduction in public spending.

“Reduced funding to the sector will result in the loss of social activities, which are critical to people’s health and wellbeing, particularly in a large rural county like Shropshire. It will lead to social isolation, an impact on carers, an impact on the wider community and generate increased demand for public sector services.

“We know the council is faced with impossible choices and hope to work together towards solutions.”

The report also revealed the impact of proposed cuts to Shropshire Council’s Adult Services Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise (VCSE) prevention budget.

Shropshire Council has used its reserves to offer a two-year extension on existing VCSE prevention contracts awarded through Adult Services until 2019 but its budget pressures remain.

Ms Osbourne added: “The voluntary and community sector is a large employer, six per cent of the county’s workforce - it’s highly specialised.

“We need to make our voices heard. The sector plays a key role in supporting people right across the county.”

The key findings were:

- In total, the 15 organisations who took part in the survey provide 29,990 hours of staff time per month and the remainder of service provision is carried out by a large cohort of volunteers. This is just a fraction of VCSE support with 1,662 registered VCSE organisations in Shropshire.

- They support 26,588 people living in Shropshire who are frail, vulnerable and considered at high risk. These organisations work with those with greater levels of need and provide many services.

- The volunteer time contributed by the 15 organisations is worth £165,262 every month and approximately £1.98 million a year based on the national minimum wage.

- 57 per cent of all the preventative activities and services currently delivered (approximately 45 activities) are considered to be at risk of reduction or closure within the next 12 months.

- VCSE services and support often help people with nowhere else to go. They help those not eligible for statutory services and those who cannot afford to pay for services.

Email:

emily.davies@nwn.co.uk

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