Council cuts 'putting Birmingham lives at risk'

In an open letter to the Prime Minister, the Birmingham Voluntary Service Council urges her to step in and provide urgent funding

Birmingham: 'Lives at risk'
Birmingham: 'Lives at risk'

Charities in Birmingham are at risk of closure and vulnerable people’s lives are at risk because of funding cuts being made by the local council, a group of charities in the city have warned.

An open letter coordinated by the Birmingham Voluntary Service Council calls on Theresa May, the Prime Minister, to step in and provide housing support and social care funding to address "imminent risks to the lives of vulnerable people" in the city.

According to the letter, Birmingham City Council’s budget consultation includes a £5m cut to the supporting people and third sector grant programme, rising to a £10m cut in 2018/19.

The programme has already absorbed cuts of 50 per cent to its original budget of £26m, the letter says. It adds that it is unclear whether the government understands the financial pressures on the council and that the proposed budget cuts could "critically destabilise a not-for-profit sector which has already absorbed disproportionate losses of funding".

It also claims that half of Birmingham’s not-for-profit services will face closure within two years if the council’s cuts are implemented.

The letter says: "Our history of working side by side with Birmingham City Council in supporting the people of this city is one we take great pride in. As partners, we and the council are now faced with a catastrophic sea change in our current and future resource base, one which would permanently disable our ability to meet the needs of society’s most vulnerable people.

"Once these services are gone, they will be virtually impossible to regain. We respectfully ask for your practical and personal help in ensuring that the shared society in Birmingham isn’t dismantled and is instead supported to flourish for the benefit of all."

The letter comes after a speech by Theresa May at the Charity Commission’s annual public meeting last week in which she set out her vision for a "shared society" in which charities and social enterprises could thrive.

Other charities that have signed the letter include Birmingham Mind, Birmingham and Solihull Women’s Aid, Midland Mencap, the homelessness charity St Basils, Birmingham Changing Futures Together, the supported-living charity Birmingham Rathbone, the housing provider Midland Heart, Fry Housing, Crisis, the Ashram Moseley Housing Association and the vision and hearing-loss charity BID Services.

Brian Carr, chief executive of Birmingham Voluntary Service Council, said: "Birmingham City Council is faced with an almost impossible task, trying to balance the budget in the face of massive central government cuts and sharply rising social need. But our job is to support and speak out for the most vulnerable in society, and these cuts will hit them hardest. We’re not exaggerating when we say lives are at risk."

According to Birmingham City Council’s budget consultation, all supporting people and third sector contracts will be reviewed over the next six months.

Councillor Paulette Hamilton, cabinet member for health and social care at Birmingham City Council, said: "It has been well publicised that we face a huge financial challenge. We have to make difficult decisions about services we can continue to pay for and those areas where the council, reluctantly, must withdraw support.

"We have unfortunately got to the stage where we have to completely rethink how we deliver some services. But we are still here to work with partners to support people in a more joined-up way."

A spokesman for 10 Downing Street said the letter would be responded to by the appropriate person.

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