Charities feel pressure of credit crunch

THE credit crunch has put voluntary groups and charities under huge pressure at the very time they need to help the most vulnerable in the community, a leading official warned last night.

Craig Robinson

THE credit crunch has put voluntary groups and charities under huge pressure at the very time they need to help the most vulnerable in the community, a leading official warned last night.

Jonathan Moore, chief executive of the Suffolk Association of Voluntary Organisations (SAVO), told the EADT that many were facing tough decisions about cutting or reshaping services.

He also warned that there were fears it would become harder to raise much needed funds as people looked for ways to tighten the purse strings and save money.

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“I think it will hit across all sizes of organisations but in different ways,” Mr Moore said. “Suffolk's small kitchen table groups will continue to do what they do as best they can but the medium sized groups - with two or three employees and bigger - will probably be hardest hit with many facing very difficult decisions about cutting or reshaping services in response to the conditions. There may be some casualties in terms of both organisations and employees.”

Mr Moore said that need for voluntary sector services will only increase because during tough financial times people experience marriage breakdown, develop health problems and need more advice and guidance.

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“That demand is only likely to get bigger because we help the most vulnerable people in our society,” he said. “Unfortunately at a time when our organisations are needed the most we are coming under the most pressure.

“Certainly stress levels amongst our members and colleagues have increased - they are worried about how they will sustain services and how they will meet clients' needs.”

He said the main concern was that people will stop donating as they look at ways to save money.

“Many small organisations are absolutely dependent on donations and people volunteering their time free of charge,” he said. “Of course it's understandable that people try to save but we would like to see people prioritising charity giving and set aside part of their personal budget for it.

“A lot of money also comes in through grant making trusts. Quite clearly these are dependant on their own investments and that's going to be impacted on by the wobbles in the stock market.

“Therefore opportunities to fund projects are going to get tighter and more competitive, which will have a knock on effect on voluntary groups and what they can offer their clients.

“We would also like people to think about if they are able to volunteer and find ways to help their own communities.”

Mr Moore said he had already held talks with Suffolk County Council officials to discuss the best approach to tackle some of the problems.

“It is more important than ever during these tough times for charity leaders to plan ahead,” he added. “It is vital that they look carefully at their objectives and funding streams, to ensure that they have the best strategies in place to deal with any likely changes.”

Jane Storey, deputy leader of Suffolk County Council, said they were determined to reduce as far as possible any impact on the services provided by local voluntary and community groups.

“As well as direct funding to citizens' advice bureaus and credit unions, we are working on plans to support voluntary organisations that have a role in helping to alleviate problems caused by recession,” she said. “I know all councils in Suffolk are acutely aware of the position of the voluntary sector, and will be determined to do everything they possibly can to support them through any difficulties.”

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