Written evidence submitted by Involve
Yorkshire & Humber (BS 92)|
Involve Yorkshire & Humber works across the region
to represent and promote the interests of the voluntary sector.
We deliver projects on workforce development, rural communities,
the BME voluntary sector and conducts research about the area
with a particular interest in disadvantage.
Involve Yorkshire & Humber is a membership organisation
- many of our members work with voluntary and community groups.
2. GENERAL COMMENTS
We welcome the ideas about Big Society. However,
the lack of clear policy or programme detail and initiatives which
appear to undermine or contradict the concept make it difficult
to see any co-ordinated direction.
3. SPECIFIC POINTS
3.1. Involve Yorkshire & Humber with Sheffield
Hallam University, has carried out research about the impact of
cuts in public expenditure in Yorkshire & the Humber.
It shows that:
3.1.1. 26,000 voluntary sector jobs are under
threat because of cuts;
3.1.2. some areas are suffering a triple whammy:
are already disadvantaged and have high levels of deprivation
and their voluntary sectors tend to have lower levels of volunteer
and civil society activity;
are suffering deeper public spending cuts than elsewhere; and
voluntary sector has received higher levels of public investment
than the national average.
These areas include Hull, Bradford North Lincolnshire
3.1.3. the result is that the voluntary sector
is being cut back hard and picks up the result of public sector
cuts in terms of increasing numbers of clients;
3.1.4. the high proportion of BME communities
in some of these areas means that the impact of cuts will be disproportionately
3.1.5. 60% of charities in Yorkshire and the
Humber have less than a year's reserves so their capacity to survive
spending cuts or re-organise is limited; and
3.1.6. all this means that Big Society is not
"big" everywhere. Agendas to promote it need to be played
out very differently in different areas. (Report: A big society
in Yorkshire & the Humber? CRESR Hallam University and Involve
Yorkshire & Humber, February 2011, available here
3.2. The speed of cuts is detrimental too. It
does not allow for any considered changes within voluntary organisations
and results in loss of capacity, experience and skills. In addition,
the service re-design that Big Society is supposed to be about,
requires collaborative work between public bodies and the sector
and cannot happen in time. This is a lost opportunity.
Budget cuts could mean that service providers focus
on those who already access their services, therefore excluding
the most marginalised members of communities.
It is important to say that the cuts are not just
local but also result from the end of Government spending programmes
such as the Future Jobs Fund.
3.3. The impact of these changes and losses in
trustees of voluntary organisations is very negative. It means
that their energy is turned to repeated re-organisations rather
than their contribution to their community, service or cause.
3.4. Infrastructure organisations are being badly
affected by cuts. This means that the essential building blocks
for effective Big Society action: engaging communities, training
new charities, offering technical advice will not be available.
So, the V-involved project supporting young people's volunteering
has been cut, the Yorkshire & Humber Faiths Forum has lost
all its staff: at a time when dialogue between faiths is vital.
3.5. It is difficult to see how Big Society can
be developed if the foundations of voluntary action are being
3.6. The voluntary and community sector has the
capacity to deliver public services except that, as described
above, the very organisations that might deliver are reducing
their staffing or closing. By the time commissioning happens many
organisations will have closed.
3.7. The size of public contracts for services
is in many cases too big for smaller organisations to tender.
The DWP contracts or ERDF contracts have minimum bid levels which
demand large organisations. Some contracts are designed for payment
by results -making it impossible for smaller organisations to
3.8. Whilst sub-contracting may be possible in
some cases it often seems that the tough delivery is done by the
local organisation whilst the main contractor skims off the value
thus undermining local and community organisations' capacity to
3.9. All this means that the unique contribution
of community-based organisations to deliver tailored services
for their locality and to develop social capital is lost thus
reducing the quality of services and sector engagement not enhancing
3.10. It is crucial that commissioning is equitable
and that there is recognition of the difference between voluntary
sector organisations and private companies and that currently
there is not a 'level playing field'. The process itself needs
to recognise the added social value brought by voluntary and community
sector organisations. Whilst some BME voluntary and community
sector organisations have successfully secured contracts, for
many the barriers created by commissioning and procurement processes
have prevented them from effectively competing. This reduces the
potential market reach and limits the positive impact for marginalised
3.11. We also find that public bodies do not
understand the representative role of voluntary sector infrastructure
organisations: so their contribution to service design or commissioning
practice is overlooked because the assumption is made that they
are only interested in delivery not in policy formulation: again
a loss of important perspectives and on the ground understanding.
3.12. It is a breech of charity law to subsidise
public services from charitable funds. And by using volunteer
labour the whole notion of voluntarism is undermined. In addition,
volunteers come and go: they cannot be the basis for public services
which require consistent provision.
3.13. Whilst we welcome increased commissioning
of public services from the voluntary sector-without a stable
funding environment it is difficult to see that services to vulnerable
people can be delivered consistently.
3.14. The voluntary and community sector can
deliver in an innovative and value driven way to the most marginalised
communities, seen as "hard to reach" by many service
providers. The role of the sector in promoting underrepresented
voices also needs support to ensure that excluded communities
are included in the Big Society.
3.15. Our experience is that there is very often
poor funding practice (withdrawal of contracts at short notice,
failure to stick to the Compact agreements and so on) so that
the environment is not supportive of developing the market and
the supply chain of new suppliers from the voluntary sector. We
fear that large national service charities will be regarded as
safe and financially stable by commissioners and so the innovative
work of smaller organisations is overlooked and lost.
3.16. We support the central and democratic role
of local authorities working with the voluntary sector to improve
services and engagement.