Unite, the largest UK trade union, has called on the Minister for Civil Society Rob Wilson to reverse the estimated £3.3 billion in financial cuts imposed on the community and voluntary sector by the last government.
Unite, which has 60,000 members in the charity sector, and a total of over 1.4 million members, invited the government to help build “a genuine partnership that will see charities and community organisations regain their identity and flourish again”.
It will be contacting organisations across the sector with the aim of building a consensus on how to protect and strengthen the sector.
To begin its campaign it has published a strategy document – A strong voluntary and community sector – the foundation for a thriving society. In this it focuses on the need to restore the sector’s funding and rebuild the independence of not-for-profit organisations, reducing “government interference”.
Unite’s national officer for the sector Sally Kosky said:
“What has happened to the voluntary sector over the last five years is that there has been a vice-like squeeze with a savage reduction in funding, coupled with increased political meddling.
“There needs to be a fundamental rethink by the new government in its attitude to the sector – and this would mean a reversal of the funding cuts and a loosening of the government’s corset of political controls”.
The document examines the history of the charity sector’s relationship with the state, its infrastructure and regulation by government, an analysis of the funding cuts experienced by the sector, and an overview of the sector’s workforce, both paid and volunteer.
Its recommendations include:
• There must be clear funding commitments to rebuild youth work, play work, legal and advice services, arts, supported housing, disability support and mental health services and other services that have been lost.
• Government funding must be designed to support the independence, advocacy and additionality of not for profit organisations rather than use them to provide statutory public services on the cheap.
• Funding grants and contracts should cover the full costs of delivering the services and be guaranteed for a minimum of 3-5 years or longer with ample notice for renewal.
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