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The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

TFN is published by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, Mansfield Traquair Centre, 15 Mansfield Place, Edinburgh, EH3 6BB. The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) is a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation. Registration number SC003558.

Cost of living: we need a fair deal for voluntary sector workers

This opinion piece is almost 2 years old

Kirsten Hogg demands a fair and sustainable funding system

Deputy first minister John Swinney has called on the UK government to provide additional funds for public sector pay deals.

This was followed by COSLA calling on the Scottish Government to provide extra to fund increases for council staff. Now we call on both of these organisations to give the same consideration to fair deals for voluntary sector workers.

Times are tight for everyone, and it’s probably fair to note that no organisations seem to be able to provide the kinds of pay rises that would be needed to keep pace with inflation, but with voluntary sector staff already often paid less than their public sector counterparts, it’s crucial that staff in the voluntary sector aren’t left even further behind if additional funding is found for public sector pay deals.

Against a backdrop of one year funding agreements, little or no inflationary uplift, and difficulties securing investment in core costs, voluntary organisations are also struggling to provide uplifts to salaries at a time when their staff are facing rising costs and pressures.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that organisations that are able to give an uplift are looking at between two and five per cent, primarily secured through other fundraising to subsidise public grants and contracts.

More concerning than these low percentage increases, though, is the number of organisations whose funding agreements don’t leave any scope at all for uplift – a zero per cent rise is not at all uncommon.

We often note on behalf of voluntary organisations that contracts which don’t offer an inflationary uplift (and we know of some organisations where this has been the case for ten years or more) are effectively offering a cut in funding every year as prices rise, and the same holds true when wages have to be held static.

In order to attract and retain staff, and just to treat people fairly, voluntary organisations need access to investment that enables them to offer good terms and conditions, and meet the Scottish Government’s Fair Work aspirations.

Times are tight for everyone, and it’s probably fair to note that no organisations seem to be able to provide the kinds of pay rises that would be needed to keep pace with inflation

If public sector partners are able to find funds for the staff they directly employ to receive an uplift, they must put in place contracts and grants that enable the services they commission and fund to do the same.

So yes, this is an ask for more money now, but it’s also an ask (again) for a fair and sustainable funding system that routinely incorporates inflationary uplifts, offers multi-year agreements and makes adequate provision for core costs.

Many voluntary organisations are going to see increasing demand for their services as the cost of living crisis continues to bite, and already stretched staff, who have been going the extra mile since the start of the pandemic, will want to do all they can to meet that demand. That can’t be expected to carry on.

The sustainability of these vital services relies on these people, and on a funding system that enables organisations to pay them fairly, offer them secure employment, and plan for the future.

Kirsten Hogg is SCVO’s head of policy, research and campaigns.