Written evidence submitted by Voluntary
Action Broxtowe (BS 95)|
Voluntary Action is a local fully accredited volunteer
centre and infrastructure support organisation which has been
working at local level since 1979 covering the borough of Broxtowe
in Nottinghamshire The centre received 2,000 enquiries last year
and interviewed over 800 volunteers. The centre has specialist
projects which enable volunteers with learning difficulties, mental
health needs and those whose first language ids not English to
volunteer successfully in our community and we support over 250
local groups and organisations.
Definition of the Big Society
1.1 Voluntary Action Broxtowe believes that the
Big Society can be defined very much in terms of the work we now
do assisting and enabling local people including those from vulnerable
groups to contribute to the community in which they live by volunteering.
1.2 Voluntary Action Broxtowe feels this is not
a new concept but something which local volunteer centres have
been doing for many years. Local services like ours should be
at the very heart of the Big Society.
The impact and consequences of reductions in public
2.1 What is happening here in Nottinghamshire
simply does not reflect what David Cameron is saying on a national
level. Whilst he is promoting the idea of people on a local level
playing a bigger part and having more power to decide things in
their local community organisations in Nottinghamshire which already
facilitate his vision are being subjected to the most savage cuts
in England. It would appear that Nottinghamshire has done the
very opposite of what he suggested as they have "done the
easy thing and cut money to voluntary organisations working in
2.2 Nottinghamshire has always been justly proud
of a vibrant voluntary sector meeting local needs at a local level,
but there are now many groups who will not survive the coming
year. The cuts have come with no consultation with the sector
and no time to plan. Getting alternative funding in takes time
and groups have not been given any time at all. Infrastructure
groups like ours that provide help and support for the sector
including assistance with identifying new funders and help with
applications have been excluded from even applying for Grant Aid
ourselves this year and we are told no funding will come direct
to local centres like ours despite receiving support in the past.
So at the very time when we have an increase in groups needing
help and support from us our own organisation is at risk. At almost
the end of our financial year there is no clear picture as to
whether we will receive anything in the coming year.
2.3 We are concerned that any new money for volunteering
will be distributed on a national basis excluding smaller local
charities like ours and going instead to national charities who
lack local knowledge and credibility, or the government will set
up new and expensive structures to distribute funding which will
soak up much of what might be on offer.
The role and capacity of the sector to deliver
local public services and the appropriateness of using charitable
income or volunteer labour to subsidise costs
3.1 To use charities and charitable money to
replace statutory services goes against the very ethos of the
sector. Guidelines from many of the Charitable Trusts and Foundations
which support our work in the sector state quite clearly in their
guidelines that funding from them cannot be used for this purpose
Traditionally this money has been used to enhance services or
fill gaps in services or to provide a service where there is no
statutory duty to do so, but never to replace statutory funding
if this was the intention money would simply not be given on that
basis by a wide variety of funders who support the sector.
3.2 Voluntary Action Broxtowe is a fully accredited
volunteer centre working since 1979 to high standards to promote
good practice in volunteering. Part of this good practice is that
volunteers should never be used to replace a paid workersuch
practice goes against the most basic principles of volunteering
and devalues it. Volunteering is proven to enable people to gain
in confidence, new skills and experience and move on in their
lives. It should never be devalued as a cheap option to replace
3.3 Volunteering is not free Volunteers require
organising, support training and paid expenses and they should
be treated with the respect and given the support they deserve.
Possible problems and challenges from increased
commissioning of public service provision by the voluntary and
community sector as envisaged by the Government
4.1 Many of the groups providing good valued
services in our area are very small as until two years ago when
we took on a wider role Broxtowe had no infrastructure organisation
to help local groups here to develop and grow. Now just two years
later this support is being put at risk.
4.2 As a result of the previous lack of support
many groups here lack the knowledge skills and capacity to tender
for public service provision unless they are provided with support
to do so This will mean bigger organisations who can deliver on
a wider geographical area will move in, attracted by the new opportunities
commissioning will offer, and smaller more local services will
be squeezed out and valuable well liked, well respected local
services will be lost, which is the direct opposite of what the
Big Society is supposed to be all about.
4.3 Even if they are able to come to some form
of subcontracting with a larger outside organisation top slicing
of funds by that organisation will not enable them to deliver
anything of quality in the way that they do now.
The right to form employee owned public service
5.1 This would enable newly formed groups to
spring up which would put at risk the local organisations which
are already delivering much of David Cameron's vision at the level
he says he wants it delivered.
5.2 Whilst we believe strongly in partnership
work and we work to encourage this approach safeguards need to
be built in or valuable local well respected services could be
lost in an attempt to save money Once lost it would take years
of work to replace local service providers.
Governance and accountability issues rising out
of different organisational forms of social enterprises and cooperatives
and the provision
6.1 Consultation needs to take place with the
voluntary and community sector in a meaningful way to ensure that
safeguards are built in and accountability measures are practical
and workable and do not become an added burden on an already overworked
Implications for central government and the civil
7.1 It is essential that the government engages
with the structures which already exist within the voluntary and
community sector rather than setting up new ones and that it uses
organisations such as NAVCA which can gather the sectors views
at the most local level via its members rather than setting up
new structures which would fail to do so leaving local groups
marginalized and voiceless This would also be the most cost effective
way of engaging at a local level.
The place of local authorities in the transfer
of power from Whitehall to communities and the role democratically
elected councillors should play
8.1 We support the principal that power should
be decentralized to the most local level, but feel there is a
risk that local authorities could seize power for themselves and
not truly support community ownership of assets and services unless
safeguards are built in by the government which ensure local people
are supported to make full use of their new rights.
Potential conflicts with other aspects of public
9.1 Personalisation should result in greater
choice of service for service users and in that way would be a
good thing, but amongst service users here currently there is
a feeling of not knowing what it is all about and being very worried
they cannot cope with such a change and what will happen if they
can't manage this.
9.2 For organisations here there still some lack
of knowledge about personalisation and what it will mean for them
or the opportunities it presents. The internal structures needed
to make this work are not yet in place in many organisations and
will cost money at a time when groups have been so severely cut
that they are having to cut back on what they already deliver
So currently due to the severity of the cuts here in Nottinghamshire
there is in actual fact less of a service to buy.
9.3 How can local groups and organisations be
expected to provide the additional staff time a major change like
this will require with no additional funding.
9.4 The transition fund was a too tight a timescale
for some groups to even realise it was available and what it could
be used for, let alone get an application in on top of everything
else they are coping with right now.
9.5 Many groups have never charged for services
so this is a big shift for them We are actively working with groups
and providing training, but are having to look at how we can limit
our own services next year as we are also facing massive cuts
so we are limited now in what we can do.
Thank you for this opportunity to put our views forward.