Voluntary groups face funding cuts

HEALTH bosses have slashed thousands of pounds of funding to voluntary organisations, putting many vital services under threat, the EADT can reveal.Colchester Primary Care Trust has written to voluntary organisations either withdrawing their funding for the rest of the year altogether or threatening to do so unless the group can prove they can meet the PCT's “priorities”.

By Juliette Maxam

HEALTH bosses have slashed thousands of pounds of funding to voluntary organisations, putting many vital services under threat, the EADT can reveal.

Colchester Primary Care Trust has written to voluntary organisations either withdrawing their funding for the rest of the year altogether or threatening to do so unless the group can prove they can meet the PCT's “priorities”.

The PCT has also told voluntary organisations that unless they contribute towards achieving “national and local NHS priorities”, funding will not be available in future years.


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Potentially, the PCT, which is currently in deficit, could save up to £137,749 this year if funding is cut from every voluntary organisation under consideration.

Groups affected include Colchester Rape Crisis, HomeStart, Relate, Scope, Colchester Gay Switchboard, Age Concern, Crossroads, Youth Enquiry Service and Colchester Carers Centre for Children. A total of 29 services are under threat.

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Many of the organisations are now desperately trying to find alternative funding. They are otherwise faced with scaling back services, which they say would have a detrimental impact on vulnerable people.

Colchester Youth Enquiry Service (YES) said it could lose £9,367 this year as the grant for its workshop in schools project has been scrapped and funding for the group's core mediation and outreach work

may also go.

Jennifer Summerfield, chairperson of YES, which addresses issues such as homelessness and sexual health, said: “Having our budget cut in half half-way through the financial year is quite difficult.

“We're looking round for other potential funders. We're trying to put bids in. Ultimately the service can't run without money.”

Colchester Carers Centre for Children is losing £325 this year for its welfare benefits advice service and could potentially lose £2,503 from its young carers' project which provides valuable support to children who look after a parent with a severe mental health problem or physical difficulty.

The PCT was funding the project to the tune of £10,011 a year, but now Colchester Carers Centre has been asked to prove it meets NHS priorities.

Shirley Cuthew , the centre's company secretary, vowed to continue with the project even without funding.

But she said: “There's no money available. They've got to make financial savings. The voluntary sector is a nice easy target.”

Homestart Colchester, which supports new parents, could see its annual £33,185 scrapped. Manager Toni Van Rooyen said: “Families that use us or services like us should make their voice known, as should health visitors. We should not take this sitting down. The PCT should look internally before starting to pick us over one at a time.”

Dr Mike Gogarty, director of public health for the PCT, said the trust remained committed to working in partnership with the voluntary sector.

“Increasing demand for emergency and specialist health services means that Colchester PCT is in an extremely challenging financial situation. We are currently reviewing all areas of expenditure to enable us to achieve financial balance,” he said.

“We have already taken measures, including the freezing of management and administrative ie. non-clinical posts, and are looking at many more, such as the rationalisation of our estate.”

Dr Gogarty added: “It is essential that we use the limited resources we have as efficiently as possible in order to protect and improve front-line services, such as GPs and community nurses, and also to achieve financial balance, which is a 'must-do' target for every PCT.”

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