Friday, 17 December 2010

The value of the voluntary sector

Nick Hurd. Minister for Civil Society was expected in the region yesterday. In anticipation the Journal, Chronicle and Northern Echo all ran features about the impact cuts in public sector funding are likely to have on voluntary organisations and community groups. The theme was picked up today by BBC Look North.

In the event Nick Hurd did not turn up. However Children North East featured prominently in the Journal and a family we worked with spoke eloquently on Look North. They are looking after their grandchildren who would otherwise be in care, and said if it were not for organisations like Children North East more children would be in care at great cost to Local Authorities.

Jo Curry, Chief Executive of the Voluntary Organisations Network North East (VONNE) was asked whether David Cameron's idea of everyone doing some voluntary work would take the place of voluntary organisations. She said the 'Big Society' already exists in the north east! A quarter of the population here have done some form of volunteering in the past year but Jo made the point there would be far fewer opportunities to volunteer if the voluntary organisations were not there.

Last week the Northern Rock Foundation published university research commisioned about the state of the voluntary sector in the north east. We have fewer active voluntary organisations per head of population than other regions, but voluntary organisations in the north east deliver more public services than in other regions particularly 'social services' such as the work Children North East does. In the main funding for those services comes from the public sector.

This week Local Authorities found out how much money they will receive from central government. Two of the authorities that face the biggest cuts (over 8%) are in our region - South Tyneside and Middlesbrough. In September the BBC commissioned research which found that Middlesbrough was the least resilient town in the country in the face of cuts to public services. No surprise places like Dorset Windsor and Maidenhead, West Sussex, Wokingham, Richmond upon Thames and Buckinghamshire all get cuts of 1% or below.

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