As the dust settles on last week’s budget, it has become clear that financial support for the voluntary sector will take a hit
Scotland’s voluntary sector is facing up to £1 million in cuts from the Scottish Government – despite the heroic role it has played on the pandemic frontline.
As the dust settles on last week’s budget, it has become clear that financial support for charities will take a hit.
The cut – of between £800,000 and £1m – will be made to the Third Sector Unit, which provides support for infrastructure bodies such as the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO), the Third Sector Interface network and Volunteer Scotland.
This is despite the warm words for the sector, and in particular its response to the on-going Covid emergency, from all levels of the Scottish Government – from the first minister down.
While the sector as a whole generally welcomed some of the headline commitments in the aftermath of week’s budget – such as the doubling of the Scottish Child Payment and the raising of care workers’ pay – an analysis of the details has proved less pleasant.
SCVO chief executive Anna Fowlie said: “We are disappointed that despite all the talk of the importance of Scotland’s voluntary sector during the pandemic, the cabinet secretary for finance and the economy thinks it’s acceptable to cut her government’s third sector budget.
“Just that same morning, the Scottish Parliament praised the work of Scotland’s voluntary sector during the pandemic and emphasised the importance of the infrastructure that supports it.
“It is quite incredible that we then saw the Scottish Government plan to reduce its support for voluntary sector infrastructure only a few hours later.
“Voluntary organisations need support to do their vital work for people and communities. Any cut will result in weakened support for voluntary organisations, and their volunteers, across Scotland at a time of rising costs and increased demand.
Labour MSP Pam Duncan-Glancy, who formerly worked in Scotland’s voluntary sector, added: “At a time where we have seen third sector organisations step up and step in, it is absolutely galling that the Scottish Government has ripped £1 million from their budget.
“Throughout the pandemic these organisations have been plugging the gaps in support that the Scottish Government was unable to meet itself – the budget should have guaranteed them more certainty over their funding arrangements, not taking money from their pockets.
“Third sector organisations have kept communities functioning, pulled people from crisis and provided support to so many. It’s absolutely vital that the government recognises their value.”
However, a Scottish Government spokesperson reiterated the administration’s support for the sector, saying: “The third sector is a valued partner and benefits from what SCVO estimated in 2020 to be around £500m in investment across the whole of Scottish Government.
“Next year we will continue to support the third sector across government portfolios. In addition we will invest £25.8m in the third sector infrastructure and programmes to create the best conditions for the sector to recover and thrive.
“We have committed to increase multi-year funding for the third sector and where possible we will do so. However, our ability to fulfil our devolved responsibilities remains hampered by a centralised UK budgeting approach that gives little fiscal flexibility. “
The commitment to shift to multi-year funding models was welcomed – but came with a call for the Scottish Government to stop being “risk averse” and to speed up the creation of a morse stable funding landscape.
SCVO’s Anna Fowlie said: “More welcome is the cabinet secretary’s commitment during the budget debate to multi-year funding for the voluntary sector, and the plans for a resource spending review next May which will allow for spending to be planned on a three to four-year basis.
“While this is an important step towards meaningful multi-year funding for the sector, it is not in itself enough. We look forward to working with the Scottish Government to ensure that this shift to funding voluntary organisations on a multi-year basis includes a shift in practice to include important elements like inflationary uplifts and greater flexibility.
“There is also nothing stopping Scottish Government being less risk averse right now with relatively small amounts of money. This would make a huge difference to the stability and confidence of charities, community organisations and social enterprises, allowing them to focus on the people they work with rather than wasting time continually chasing money.”