Local umbrella bodies seriously underfunded

Mathew Little

Voluntary-sector umbrella bodies, such as councils for voluntary service, volunteer bureaux and community group federations, remain underfunded, a new survey has found.

The report from the Compact Working Group concludes that voluntary- and community-sector infrastructure does not receive adequate funding from local authorities. It found that in a quarter of areas underfunding is "serious". In particular, more than 50 per cent of respondents in the West Midlands said that organisations needed more money.

Ben Hughes, chief executive of the community organisations body Bassac, said that six of its members were forced to close last year because they lost public-sector funding.

"Some more of our members will have their funding completely cut from next year and others are suffering cuts so severe that their very future will be untenable," he said. "Core funding is being reduced year on year by local authorities."

Despite emergency funding from the Home Office last year, volunteer bureaux are also under threat.

Chris Penberthy, chief executive of Volunteer Development England, said: "If there is serious intent about volunteering then it must be backed with serious money."

The report argues that lack of money is hampering partnership with local authorities and statutory health bodies and preventing the development of local Compacts. Seventy per cent of local voluntary-sector development agencies say they have no resources for Compact development.

But according to Hughes, even where a Compact exists, it is often flagrantly flouted. "The reality is that in most cases the Compact is completely ignored," he said.

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