Shock news today – Councils cutting charity funding with more than 2,000 charities sacking staff and closing services with those working with the young and disabled worst hit. For those of us working in the sector the shock is that it is only 2,000 as horror stories of contract cuts have been circulating for the last year.
Does it matter? In the scheme of things the £110 million at risk in the report http://falseeconomy.org.uk/ is small fry compared to wider cuts in public service spending. If cutting charity money saves public sector staff maybe, if it saves an experienced SLT or an excellent advisory teacher, that is a good thing?
Except that so many of the charities being affected are, like so many third sector bodies, the ones that focus on the most vulnerable. The niche groups. Those requiring specialist help. Those who are too expensive, too difficult, too marginalised for the state sector to reach.
The picture is still unclear. Alongside these cuts the ‘market’ is, as I have written before, opening up in ways that we could never have expected and some third sector bodies are preparing for an increase in income or moving further into public sector delivery. Under ‘Any Qualified Provider’ a range of voluntary organisations are gearing up to compete for public sector contracts which into the future may include speech and language therapy provision. In Lincolnshire the Council is considering moving all schools into academies supported by one charity and last week saw the announcement that a new charity will take forward the Achievement for All programme working with schools to improve outcomes for children with SEN (including speech, language and communication needs (SLCN)).
So what's role for charities into the future? What is the real picture? Trust members - has your local income gone up or down? Are you gearing up for bigger things or are your services at risk? For public sector staff – are charities a blessing picking up the needs that you cannot or a drain taking resources away from where you need it? Can the not-for-profit ethos be protected or will we see a rise in ‘for profit’ provision to support children with SLCN? And most of all how will we ensure that the needs of the most vulnerable, and often the most disenfranchised, are best met.