Sector faces massive job losses, survey claims

28 Aug 2015 Nick Garbutt    Last updated: 28 Aug 2015

Lauri McCusker: unhappy

Scope reports on the latest threat to community and voluntary sector funding

The community and voluntary sector faces significant redundancies and massive cuts as a result of as a result of the transfer of funding to address social need from the community and voluntary sector to the re-vamped local councils, according to a survey.

The Regeneration Bill which is currently going through the Assembly will see local councils taking responsibility for community and voluntary sector funding support. Including the Community Investment Fund and Neighbourhood renewal with more than £50 million being transferred.

These monies are targeted at the most deprived areas in Northern Ireland, and are supposed to help improve the quality of life and to help build community infrastructure and capabilities.

Until now this work has been carried out through a partnership between the department and the community and voluntary sector. Aims, objectives and priorities have been agreed. There is a formal written agreement in place through a “Concordat” and even a joint forum between government and the sector to discuss, monitor and evaluate progress.

However now that the monies are being transferred from DSD to local authorities the sector has not been included in the discussions about how the transition will be managed and what role community and voluntary groups will have in projects under the new arrangements. This dialogue has taken place between the department and the councils on transition plans, with no consultation with the sector.

Already there is disturbing evidence emerging from some council areas that the sector will be shut out from schemes it currently supports, and that at least some of the monies will be diverted into economic rather than social regeneration schemes.

With the transfer due to take place in April and scant indication of where and how the funds will be spent in the future, affected organisations are becoming increasingly concerned.

The Fermanagh Trust has conducted a survey with 26 other organisations that receive CIF funding

It concluded that the transfer of CIF funding will result in at least 16 organisations having to close down unless they are core funded by councils by April of next year. From the organisations surveyed there would be 70 redundancies by that date with a further 56 thereafter and a total loss of £1.5 million in funding.

Much of the feedback from those surveyed suggested that either local authorities were not yet “ready to meet with them” or else were intending either to carry out the work themselves in-house or else put it out to public tender.

Lauri McCusker who runs the Fermanagh Trust said: “"Our survey dealt with the Community Investment Funding, which is less than 4% of the total amount of funding which is being transferred from the Department to the Councils. When you include Neighbourhood Renewal and other funding the impact on the community and voluntary sector will be significant across NI"

"All this begs the question what is the point of the Concordat and Joint Forum, especially when it appears that the Regeneration Bill, the single biggest piece of legislation in terms of its impact on the sector is not at the heart of these discussions?"

"There have been no discussions between CIF funded organisations and DSD in the last three years or no agreed transition plans with the community and voluntary sector organisations and DSD."

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