ME North East umbrella group ‘struggling to cope with the recession’

From Community Newswire, 10 December 2009.  Story by Emma Foster

People from across the North-east’s most vulnerable and disadvantaged communities are set to lose out as charities struggle to cope with the recession, according to a report published today.

Voluntary organisations are finding demand for their services soaring, while their funding falls, according to the results of a survey, carried out by North-east voluntary sector umbrella body Vonne.

More than two thirds (68%) of the organisations surveyed reported an increase in demand for their services and over half (55%) have experienced a decrease in funding, according to the ‘Still Surviving Not Thriving report.’

A quarter (26%) of organisations have reduced staffing levels this year and 10% expect to close down within the next twelve months. Small organisations are the most at risk with 33% expecting to close in the next year, it added.

Vonne said the study, which builds on the results of a similar survey carried out six months ago, showed that the situation has worsened for charities and the vulnerable people they support.

ME NORTH EAST STRUGGLING TO COPE

One of the charities struggling to cope with the recession is myalgic encephalopathy (ME) support charity ME North East.

The charity, which supports people with the condition, said it was struggling to meet a shortfall of £25,000 per year, as funding opportunities diminish and more people seek the charity’s help due to cuts in public and private sector budgets.

Jennifer Elliott, ME North East chief executive, said: "If we are not able to source additional funding we will have to reduce some of the services we provide, or in the worst-case scenario cancel services altogether.

"That would mean there would be no one to deliver those services our beneficiaries find vital, particularly our children’s services and for those severely affected.

"With little or no statutory service provision for these people, and limited prospects for the future, this may result in an increase in the number of people with ME becoming neglected, socially isolated, and dropping out of society."

THE VULNERABLE AND DISADVANTAGED HAVE MOST TO LOSE

Jo Curry, chief executive of Vonne, said that it was the region’s most vulnerable and disadvantaged people who would lose out.

She added: "The outcome of our follow up survey, Still Surviving is predictably depressing.

"As the impact of the recession begins to bite for the voluntary and community sector, the picture painted gets increasingly bleak.

"So far as it is possible to predict, the situation will get considerably worse before it gets better.

"Already we are beginning to see savage local authority cuts announced for the third sector.

"Northumberland County Council and Stockton Borough Council have announced cuts of 20% for next year and we are told that the sector there is, not surprisingly, ‘reeling’.

"Whatever the outcome of next year’s general election, there will be further huge cuts in public sector spending and this will quickly filter down to the voluntary and community sector.

"We ask the public to imagine what they would do without their local charities, as sadly this picture is becoming increasingly real.

"Go out and volunteer, give generously and ask of our region’s leaders to do all they can to support the life blood of our communities in this difficult time."

THESE ARE THE HARDEST-HIT GROUP OF CHARITIES

Vonne said the hardest hit were charities advising on family support, rural organisations, black and ethnic minority organisations and volunteering groups.

It said it had forwarded the report to all of the North-east’s MPs and prospective parliamentary candidates, other key stakeholders, the Office of the Third Sector and the Treasury. It will hold a meeting to discuss the findings with the Government Office North East this month.

A total of 105 organisations completed the survey in September and October 2009, from a broad cross-section of the sector across the region.

Vonne aims to ensure that the voluntary and community sector plays a full part in the life of the North-east. To read the report or for more information about Vonne visit their website.

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