Role of charities undermined by cuts to state funding, says Andy Benson of NCIA

The adoption of business-like models is not a viable way to address the funding gap, according to the findings of the National Coalition for Independent Action's inquiry into the future of voluntary services

Andy Benson
Andy Benson

Voluntary sector groups have undergone heavy damage and there are few signs that things will improve, the co-convenor of the pressure group the National Coalition for Independent Action has said.

Andy Benson was speaking at the Voluntary Sector Studies Network one-day seminar in London yesterday.

Summing up the findings of the inquiry the NCIA had recently completed into the future of voluntary services, Benson said voluntary sector organisations were seeing their "identity and raison d’être" undermined by having to depend on a reduced amount of state funding under more restrictive conditions at a time when they are facing increased demands on their services.

He said that some large national charities had the means to access alternative sources of funding, but this was not the case for the vast majority of locally based organisations.

He said the widespread encouragement for charities to become more business-like by adopting social enterprise and social investment models was not proving a viable way of addressing the funding gap.

"Overall, the results are the loss of many important and complementary services, the creation of clone VSGs offering standardised services to commissioners’ specifications and a diminishing appetite for criticism of or opposition to these changes," said Benson.

He reiterated criticisms previously levelled by the NCIA at the umbrella bodies the National Council for Voluntary Organisations and Acevo for their public responses to the government’s spending cuts, saying: "What have the so-called leadership bodies been doing about all this over the past few years? I’m afraid, to their shame, the answer is virtually nothing."

He said that the NCVO and Acevo had almost nothing on their websites about the catastrophic effect of cuts on beneficiaries and communities. "The role of the voluntary sector in the provision of public services is the big elephant in the room: the conversation about this has just not happened in the sector," he said. "A lot of the blame for that should lie at the door of the national organisations."

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