Headlines: September 12th, 2005

Government rhetoric on partnership has left a third of voluntary groups fearing their projects could close if a bid for funding fails according to a new survey. The study of voluntary and not-for-profit organisations was conducted by the Amicus union and found the organisations felt current funding regimes were too complex and bureaucratic.The Amicus report says present arrangements compromise services, cause job insecurity and stress for staff and affect the voluntary sector’s ability to plan ahead. Amicus says, too, that staff development opportunities within the sector either do not exist or are being reduced because of the lack of available funding. The report is warning that smaller organisations without the capability to bridge funding gaps are most vulnerable. Many of them are being put off accessing information or applying for funding because the process is too complex. Over 40% of those surveyed reported that they had to bid annually for core funding for projects and posts while a third said that their organisation was in danger of closing if an application was unsuccessful.

The report calls for longer term funding programmes and for automatic refunding to be introduced to replace long and complicated reapplication processes when programme objectives have been met.

The union represents nearly 30,000 employees in community and non-profit organisations and says it carried out the study in response to requests from people working in the sector who felt funding was a key issue. The government’s own Gershon Review last year recommended four principles for the funding of the sector, which included longer term funding and an appropriate balance of risk between the funders and voluntary organisations.

The union’s National Officer for the Voluntary Sector, Rachael Maskell, said the findings showed that the voluntary sector funding regime was at crisis point and was damaging the performance of organisations as well as having a negative impact on people committed to working in the sector. The process was also compromising the delivery of services on which clients depended.

“The government has increased not-for-profit funding and boosted the sector’s role in public services but these opportunities are being threatened by the complexity and uncertainty inherent in the funding process. We want these survey findings to instigate a change in those government and local agencies who are instrumental in the decision making process regarding funding,” she said.