Government funding 'should be flexible'

Call to include financial value of volunteering in assessments

The secretary of a volunteer counselling service has urged the Government to consider the financial value of volunteering when judging income thresholds for emergency funding.

Beacon Bolton Counselling Service in Lancashire wanted to apply to the Government's £15m support fund, a key strand of this year's £40.5m third sector recession action plan.

The fund was set up to help voluntary organisations that have seen demand for their services rise during the recession.

Paul Hassall, secretary of Beacon, said he thought his organisation would be eligible because its client base had doubled in the past year. But it was told that only organisations with incomes of between £30,000 and £250,000 could apply.

The organisation is staffed by 35 volunteers, has been running for 20 years, but has an annual income of about £20,000. Hassall said there should be greater flexibility to encourage volunteer-led groups.

"We think the value of work done by volunteers should be taken into account when looking at the size of organisation," he said.

"This grant would have been perfectly suited to the work we do. It's as if the Government has reached out to us, then snatched its hand away again.

I understand why the Government has set the £30,000 threshold. It wants to ensure that the organisations it is giving money to are financially stable.

"But we're a much larger and more stable organisation than we look because so much of our work is done by a large group of volunteers."

A spokeswoman for the Cabinet Office said that organisations with turnovers of less than £30,000 should apply to the Grassroots Grants programme.

"The eligibility criteria for the targeted support fund were set after consultation with the third sector," she said.

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