The announcement from Finance Secretary Kate Forbes on Tuesday was questioned by the SCVO.
The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) has warned that third sector groups have been let down by a lack of multi-year funding commitments in today’s Spending Review.
The national membership organisation for the voluntary sector in Scotland believes the Scottish Government’s spending plans fall massively short of what is urgently required by voluntary organisations across the country.
SCVO, which has a community of over 3,000 members, has criticised the Scottish Government for what it calls a half-hearted spending review that makes no mention of how the Scottish Government will invest in charities, community groups, and social enterprises over the long-term.
In its original response to the Scottish Government consultation on the Spending Review earlier this year, SCVO had called for it to be used to visibly address the disparities that have widened over many years between public services led by public bodies and those delivered by voluntary organisations.
SCVO had made the case that fair, flexible, and accessible funding is a vital requirement for the voluntary sector, calling for multi-year funding with greater flexibility, in line with inflation. This would ensure that voluntary organisations are able to be secure and sustainable, forward plan effectively, generate successful outcomes, and realise the Scottish Government’s Fair Work principles.
Kirsten Hogg, head of policy, research and campaigns at the SCVO, said the Scottish Government’s spending review “falls massively short of the commitment to mainstreaming multi-year funding for voluntary organisations that we expected to see”.
She added: “This four-year plan was the Scottish Government’s opportunity to make good on repeated commitments to longer term funding for the voluntary sector, so it is disappointing to see that it contains more warm words on the need for collaboration and partnership with the voluntary sector, yet next to no mention of the fair, long-term funding that voluntary organisations so desperately need.
“It comes at a time when voluntary organisations are struggling to cope with the cost-of-living crisis and rapid inflation, with a doubling in the number of organisations telling SCVO that rising costs are a major challenge in recent months. A long-term commitment to fair funding for the sector is vitally needed, and the Scottish Government has missed the opportunity to give this through today’s announcement.
“What this spending review lacks is any real detail that indicates the Scottish Government’s long-term support and commitment to Scotland’s voluntary sector and the vital services and programmes our organisations deliver as we move from one crisis to another, all the while looking to improve the wellbeing and people and communities across Scotland.”
The spending review, which covers plans for the next five years, were described as a “reset” by Finance Secretary Kate Forbes, who admitted there would be real-terms cuts in several areas of the public sector.
She said the review called “upon all of the public sector to look creatively at ways to sustainably address that challenge”.
Others within the third sector have questioned the content of Tuesday’s announcement, with the support given to local councils one particular issue under the microscope.
Peter Kelly, director of the Poverty Alliance said: “People in Scotland believe that government has a moral obligation to help make sure everyone has enough to live a dignified life, and where no-one lives with the injustice of poverty. That’s even more true during a time of crisis.
“It was good to see that the Scottish Government has highlighted resources for tackling child poverty and supporting people on low incomes. We need to see that matched with investment in the actions that we need to challenge poverty and meet our child poverty targets.
“A lot of those actions are at least partly the responsibility of local councils – things like investing in childcare that’s free at the point of need, in free public transport, in good public services, in social housing, and in our social security system. Without proper support for local councils, there is a danger that these actions might not happen – which will have direct consequences for households on the lowest incomes.
“We need to fund the investment we need to meet our poverty targets. The Scottish Budget mostly comes from Westminster, but we also have powers over income tax and local taxation. We hope to hear more detail from the Finance Secretary about how she will use those powers to fund investment in anti-poverty measures.
“We can’t afford not to meet the challenge of the cost-of-living crisis - its effects could be felt for generations to come, unless we take action now. We need every level of government to help turn the tide of rising poverty, and save people from a lifetime of struggling to keep their heads above water.”
Others also called for greater investment in the coming years in local services - with child poverty charities urging the Scottish Government to rethink it’s tax plans.
Director of the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) in Scotland, John Dickie, said: “It is absolutely right that tackling child poverty is a top priority within the Scottish government’s spending plans.
“That means direct investment in Scottish social security, in childcare, in housing and in removing the barriers parents face securing decent jobs. But it must also mean sustaining investment in the wider local services, like schools, transport, family support and leisure facilities, that families rely on to give their children the best start in life. There is no shortage of wealth or income in Scotland.
“The Finance Secretary must review all the tax and spending powers available to her to harness the resources needed to deliver direct action on child poverty without cutting the wider services critical to children’s wellbeing. We need to take tough tax and spending decisions as a country, not leave the impossible choices to those on the lowest incomes.”