Cash-strapped charities' survival fight

VITAL services around Suffolk are facing cuts today as cash-strapped charities face a battle to survive.

VITAL services around Suffolk are facing cuts today as cash-strapped charities face a battle to survive.

According to staff at charities, as well as their umbrella organisation the Suffolk Association of Voluntary Organisations (SAVO), a disturbingly high number of voluntary groups in the county are lurching from week-to-week.

They are desperate to find the funds that will secure their future, but all competing for money in what appears to be an ever diminishing pot.

Some charities are facing a financial black-hole so dire they are no longer able to take on new volunteers because they can not afford to train them.

Jonathan Moore, chief executive of SAVO, said: “It feels like a lot of us are Robinson Crusoe on our island and it's a question of survival.

“There isn't enough money to go round and everyone wants it.

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“It's going to have an incredible impact, especially with older people and younger people, because services that people are reliant on will be cut.”

Mr Moore said the reasons behind the collective plight were a mixture of public giving remaining static, less money going from the Lottery to causes, especially with cash being diverted to fund the 2012 Olympics, the amount of money from statutory authorities falling, grants for causes being aimed at new projects rather than established charities and more demands on the services and resources of all the charities.

Mr Moore said that as SAVO was a voluntary organisation without a research budget it was impossible for it to be sure how many charities in Suffolk were facing real difficulties.

But he said the organisation had recently been dealing with a large number of voluntary groups that were finding it difficult to stay afloat.

He said: “The funding available doesn't reflect the increases in costs and so many charities are struggling.

“There is a lot of potential in the voluntary sector but the investment needed is being held back. That is going to be damaging when the plans are actually for the voluntary sector to be playing a key role.

“It really is a worrying time; we're desperately trying to lobby the organisations that can make a difference about the impact of funding cuts.”

n Is your charity struggling to make ends meet? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

A national perspective: The Charity Commission

THE Charity Commission said it was aware that some charities across the country were facing difficult times, but added that there were also many positive signs for good causes.

He said: “The number of registered charities has been growing year-on-year.

“The amount of funding that is available probably isn't increasing year-on-year to match the growing number of charities so charities are looking at new ways of raising money and new ways of encouraging people to donate money.

“There are cases where charities are struggling but overall the numbers are still going up.

“A lot of people, if they heard these charities were in hardship and might have to wind-up, would be horrified and maybe dig deeper.”

Suffolk School for Parents, a Sproughton-based pre-school which helps children with motor-learning difficulties in Suffolk, is facing closure unless it can find the £5,000 it needs to keep running each month.

The charity has been forced to employee a professional fundraiser to help it stay afloat.

Debbie Buckingham, team leader, said: “Funds have become hard to find because the funds are for new projects rather than continuing the good ones.

“We don't want to have to be bigger, bolder or better - parents like it the way it is. Every year they want us to do more, just for you to provide an excellence service is not enough.

“We're not alone, there are thousands of good causes so the big funds are difficult to get.”

The Suffolk Deaf Association's Ipswich branch on Fonnereau Road needs £15,000 to £20,000 to stay open every year.

And after being forced to spend a lot of money on making their building more accessible because of government regulations, they have come dangerously close to monetary disaster.

Pearl Kerridge, the branch secretary, said: “The branch's funding has been dangerously low.

“It's such an important service, the one place deaf people in Ipswich can go to meet - it would be awful to lose it.

“We're all wanting funding to keep going and it's hard to get money for core funding just to run things day-to-day.”

Age Concern Suffolk, which supports elderly people across the county, has had its funding cut by Suffolk County Council. It has already cut some services and needs to find £150,000 more this year if it is to continue to provide what it considers essential care.

Daphne Savage, chief executive, said: “We have got a real financial struggle this year. We thought last year was bad but this is worse.

“We have seen lots of funding cuts and so have to work much harder at fundraising. But more of us are going for the same charitable trust.

“You have to be an optimist to work in charities.”

SUFFOLK County Council admitted its own financial plight had meant funding for some causes had been reduced.

But it said it expected the funding it spent on voluntary causes in 2007/8 to be the same amount as in 2006/7 - £38.8m.

Councillor Graham Newman, responsible for adult and community services, said: “We are committed to working alongside the voluntary sector to build capacity for services in Suffolk.

“The volunteer organisations that work in partnership with Suffolk County Council are vital in helping meet the needs of residents across the Suffolk community. And I believe the community enjoys the benefits of strong working relationships between the council and voluntary organisations.

“I recognise that the current budget restrictions have led the council to reduce funding for some voluntary organisations.

“But I hope that the changing circumstances and funding challenges we face will help develop a closer working relationship to deliver the best we can for the people of Suffolk.”

There are 3,218 registered charities based in Suffolk

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