Sector welcomes main Budget provisions

Extra cash for organisations working with people affected by the recession is a 'positive step'

Sector leaders have welcomed the announcement in the Budget of a £20m Hardship Fund for voluntary organisations delivering front-line services to vulnerable people who have been affected the recession.

The money, which is additional to the Government's £42.5m third sector action plan, announced in February, will be targeted at organisations with "resource constraints" because of increased demand.

Steve Johnson, chief executive of Advice UK, a support network for advice centres, said: "Any additional resources at the present time are welcome because the budgets of charities will be coming under extreme pressure, if they are not already."

Jay Kennedy, policy officer at  the Directory of Social Change, described the fund as a "positive step".

"We are happy that it is going be in grants and that it's for existing organisations and the work they are doing, rather than trying to create new, merged organisations," he said. "The caveat will be the eventual criteria and the terms and conditions of the funding."

The opportunity for voluntary organisations to help create 150,000 new jobs for the young unemployed announced in the Budget was also welcomed by the sector.

Peter Kyle, deputy chief executive of chief executives body Acevo, said the programme would offer voluntary sector organisations match funding to create jobs for young people. He said the scheme would offer £6,700 per young person if charities could stump up the same amount.

"The third sector is often strapped for capacity, and now it has the capacity to take on more ambitious projects, get people involved in the sector and train young people," he said. "Many charities are trying to incorporate the young and vulnerable in meeting their charitable endeavours. This will help them extend that."

Work and Pensions secretary James Purnell praised Acevo's role in developing the jobs programme. "Without the work of Acevo this announcement would not have been possible," he said.

The Government also announced an additional £18.75m to enable credit unions to make affordable loans to people on low incomes. An extra 85,000 loans are expected to be made over the next two years as a result.

"Our credit union members are thrilled by the Government's commitment to greatly increase the amount of money that will be made available through credit unions to help those most in need of financial help, who may otherwise turn to loan sharks and high-cost doorstep lenders," said Mark Lyonette, chief executive of the Association of British Credit Unions.

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