SCVO consulting on job losses as ‘large deficit’ looms

The membership body told employees that it has to make difficult decisions to guarantee its long-term future

The SCVO's headquarters in Edinburgh
The SCVO's headquarters in Edinburgh

Scotland’s largest charity membership body is consulting on job losses, Third Sector has learned.

The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations told staff last week that it would be necessary to make redundancies after the charity forecast a “large deficit” for the next financial year.

In an email to all employees, SCVO chief executive Anna Fowlie warned that the charity had to make “difficult decisions” to guarantee its long-term future.

Third Sector understands the consultation directly affects eight members of staff, although there are fears that further job cuts may follow.

One person familiar with the situation said they were concerned about the longer-term impact of the changes and worried that the SCVO could end up in a similar position to the National Council for Voluntary Organisations in England, which has cut one-fifth of its jobs in recent years.

Almost 100 people work for the SCVO, according to its latest annual report.

The body’s management decided to open redundancy talks after it lost Scottish government funding for its Community Jobs Scotland project, the email said. As a result, it said, the SCVO was “struggling to produce a viable business prospect”.

Fowlie pointed out that funding for the Kickstarter programme, provided by the UK government, was also coming to an end next year, and said the charity had “significant challenges in terms of income from our Glasgow properties”.

The SCVO makes money from renting office space in Glasgow to other organisations.

Fowlie wrote: “Unfortunately, that means that we’ve had to make some tough decisions.

“We’ve worked to reduce our direct expenditure wherever possible, but staffing accounts for the majority of our costs, so we also need to make some staffing changes.”

A redundancy consultation is underway with the team involved in delivering the Community Jobs Scotland programme.

If the SCVO cannot find an alternative way to fund the scheme, “the expectation is that work will end in September”, the email said.

In the meantime, staff are still set to receive pay rises this year and the charity said it was open to the idea of selling property if that was necessary to generate additional income – although that was not being viewed as a short-term solution.

The SCVO’s income rose steadily between 2018 and 2020, to about £16m, according to filings with the Scottish charity regulator, although it rose to more than £60m last year, mainly due to one-off funding programmes from the Scottish government to help charities deal with the Covid-19 pandemic.

Although Fowlie said she did not expect the SCVO’s financial situation to worsen in 2022/23, and that no further redundancies were planned this year, she admitted in her email that the charity “may arrive at 2024/25 facing another significant drop” in income.

Tim Hencher, director of delivery at the SCVO, told Third Sector: Putting any member of staff at risk of redundancy is a big decision that no organisation wants to take. To lose long-standing colleagues who have achieved so much for young people and for the sector is upsetting.

“However, that is the nature of project funding and SCVO is just like any other voluntary organisation. When funding stops and the work disappears, we have no choice.”

Hencher added that “we might be able to avoid some redundancies” if enough local authorities take up the Scottish government’s offer to continue the Community Jobs Scotland programme, which he said had supported more than 10,000 young people.

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