Orkney's MSP Liam McArthur has today described the Scottish Government’s commitment to reform funding to third sector organisations as “falls short.”
Last month Orkney MSP Liam McArthur wrote to the Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Communities & Pensioners’ Rights, calling on the Scottish Government to "remodel grant agreements so that funding streams for 2016/17 can be agreed before Christmas.” Mr McArthur also called on the Minister to commit to a minimum of three year funding agreements from 2017/18, with an inflationary increase.
Mr McArthur’s calls followed Voluntary Action Orkney highlighting a report setting out the difficulties encountered by Third Sector due to what they describe as a "standstill" in grants from the Scottish Government over the past five years. As a result, staff have been left in the dark and many receive redundancy notices as a precaution, in case funding does not materialise.
The Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Communities & Pensioners’ Rights has this week responded to Mr McArthur stating the Scottish Government, “aims to provide third sector organisations with 3-year funding allocations.” However, the Minister also confirmed that the Scottish Government would only guarantee the first year’s funding, leaving years two and three left on a provisional basis.
The Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Communities & Pensioners’ Rights continued, stating that no decision will be made until the Scottish Government sees the outcome of the UK Spending Review on November 25th.
Commenting, Orkney MSP Liam McArthur said:
"I welcome the Scottish Government’s intent to support my call and set out longer term grants. This is needed if voluntary organisations are to be enabled to better manage the demand for services. However, for third sector staff who have faced the annual prospect of being served with redundancy notices ministerial ‘good intentions’ are not enough.
“The work done by volunteers in Orkney is absolutely invaluable. It is therefore vital that, with increased demand for services, proposed reforms to funding streams for third sector organisations are committed to in full. Unfortunately, the commitment from the Scottish Government falls short.
“Politics is about priorities. The Scottish Government can set out now, regardless of the UK Government block grant, whether or not they intend to prioritise funding reform to voluntary organisations. That is the challenge the Scottish Government must meet.
“Equally, the UK Government must face up to its responsibilities as well. Since the last election, UK Ministers have introduced further cuts to spending that go well beyond what is needed to tackle our country's finances. The result is that organisations working with some of the most vulnerable individuals and groups are struggling to cope.
“It should be the priority of both the Scottish and UK government to help ensure that the third sector is able to continue responding positively to the needs of our community. I will therefore keep up pressure on the Scottish Government and UK Government to provide the support that is needed.”
Gail Anderson, Chief Executive of Voluntary Action Orkney, added:
“I welcome the Scottish Government’s intent to provide three year grants, but with a plea. The Scottish Government must ensure that the third sector will not bear the brunt of any proposed reduction in funding when considering its draft budget.
“The third sector is increasingly recognised as an important partner in the delivery of vital services, particularly in achieving early intervention and prevention. Indeed, Voluntary Action Orkney has a significant role to play in supporting and developing local third sector activity and in enabling effective engagement and participation in partnership work.
“However, if there is a reduction in services due to a lack of sustainable funding the consequence will be critical for the challenges faced by individuals and communities. There is no doubt in my mind, the negative impact will hit the most vulnerable people hardest while costs to the public sector will inevitably increase.”