Voluntary sector in ‘dire situation’

Community Transport Waltham Forest

Community Transport Waltham Forest’s elderly shopping service is one of those under threat of closure

Voluntary groups in Waltham Forest that receive money from the council are nervously awaiting the outcome of a town hall spending review.

Waltham Forest Council claims it must reduce its budget by £45million by 2018 and began a voluntary and community sector (VCS) service review in March this year.

The results of this review are expected this autumn – making for a nervous wait by those charities and not-for-profit services that rely on council funding to survive.

Voluntary Action Waltham Forest acts as a voice for the sector and its general manager Barbara Bishop told the Echo about the challenges being faced.

She said: “Local authorities are suffering massive cuts from government. Waltham Forest has to make savings of £45million, so it has to look somewhere to make those savings and it is inevitable that there is a knock-on effect on the voluntary and community sector.

“Voluntary Action, along with the wider sector are now looking at additional ways of raising money so that we aren’t fully reliant on the local authority.

“Although there are some areas of service delivery, for example in health and social care, that will still require substantial support from statutory agencies, some organisations are looking at becoming social enterprises as well as approaching external funders.

“While we are all naturally concerned, it has also made us look at our own funding and find new ways to raise money.”

Helen Tredoux is chairman of Voluntary Action and also the director of Waltham Forest Community Transport, a service that has already been told it will lose a £27,000 council grant from next year.

“Our elderly shopping service will be cut,” Helen said. “We have about 65 regular users and 200 members.

“We pick them up and take them shopping and drive them home again, it helps them live independently at home for longer.

“We did brace ourselves for massive cuts three or four years ago, but the loss will be huge. The council has been very cagey about what is in its review, some groups don’t know if they will be funded beyond September.

“It is a dire situation.”

The Waltham Forest branch of charity Age UK is another group left in limbo. It has launched a petition demanding the council continue funding the £30,000 its adult exercise classes cost to run each year.

Consultants Rocket Science have been undertaking the VCS service review on behalf of the council. Councillor Liaquat Ali, cabinet member for community safety and cohesion, said: “The voluntary and community sector is extremely important and plays a vital role across Waltham Forest.

“The council is conducting a review of its relationship with the voluntary sector to look at how we can create capacity and opportunity in the sector going forward.

“Our voluntary sector partners have been engaged in the review process, and we look forward to discussing the outcome of the review with them later this year.”

To sign Age UK’s petition click here.