Charity sector’s warning to Chancellor has ‘gone unheard’, NCVO says

Charity

The National Council of Voluntary Organisations has criticised the Treasury’s failure to respond to calls to uplift public service grants and contracts, saying that the “stark warning from the charity sector has gone unheard”.

In November, the NCVO co-ordinated a letter, signed by more than 1,400 charity representatives, urging the government to address a sector-wide “crisis” caused by underfunded public service contracts in last year’s Autumn Statement, which went unheeded at the time. 

It called on Jeremy Hunt, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, to increase long-term funding to public bodies to ensure public service grants and contracts covered the cost of delivery and to uplift all existing and new grants and contracts.

The Treasury has this week replied to the letter, which the infrastructure body said failed to address the “crux of the issue”.

The response, from Laura Trott, chief secretary to the Treasury, mentions a £100m package of support announced for charities at last year’s Spring Budget, which included the £76m Community Organisations Cost of Living Fund and the £25.5m VCSE Energy Efficiency Scheme,

It also points to the government’s Contract Readiness Fund, which it says “enables VCSEs to better compete and participate in public service procurement in England”.

But Sarah Vibert, chief executive of NCVO, said that, while the sector was “grateful for these measures”, the Treasury “has not responded to the crux of the issue – public service grants and contracts are not properly funded to meet the rising cost of delivering them”. 

She said: “The fallout of years of underfunding is creating a crisis in delivery of these services. People who need support more than ever will slip through the gaps. This stark warning from the charity sector has gone unheard.”

Vibert added that the public services impacted by underfunding of grants and contracts typically aren’t crisis services, which is what the Cost of Living Fund focuses on.

She said: “Instead, they are things like sexual health clinics, social care, and training and skills programmes – crucial services, delivered by charities and organisations with a deep and unrivalled understanding of the communities and issues.

“They are also an investment because they often play a role in preventing people from needing more support or reaching crisis point.”

Vibert added that the NCVO will “keep calling for change” and would continue these efforts as part of its submission to the Treasury before next week’s Spring Budget.

NCVO is also planning to publish a report on Monday “which further sets out the scale of this crisis for charities and communities across the country”, she said.

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