What will happen to v?

Solent Youth Action‘s biggest project is vinvolved – delivering the vinvolved national volunteering programme.

When I say it’s our biggest project, there are different ways you could measure this – number of young people helped, number of volunteering hours contributed, etc. It’s not a definitive thing.

One way of measuring is by income. Our finances are all on the charity’s website, but let me pick out a small summary.

funding graph

The funding we receive from vinvolved is the darker purple bit. The point I’m making is that they pay for a lot of what we do.

A little context: v was launched as a result of recommendations by The Russell Commission, established by David Blunkett and Gordon Brown. It’s seen by some as being the result of a Labour initiative.

Before the general election, I was at a meeting for charity leaders where Conservative MP Nick Hurd (now a Minister for Charities, Social Enterprise and Volunteering at the Cabinet Office) reminded us that the Conservatives were quite critical of the creation of v, believing that it would inevitably “soak” some money to run itself – money which should go directly to charities. He accepted that v has “done some good work”, but said that he was not able to make any commitments to future funding.

Even before that, there were occassionally news stories of criticism about v from Conservative MPs.

Our contracts with v (as everyone elses) end next April. Will they be renewed? Or will we lose nearly 80% of our funding?

We don’t know. Because v don’t know if they will have money themselves.

Civil Society estimated that v receive 95% of their income from the Government Cabinet Office, one of only four organisations to get over 80% of their funding from government, and one of only nine organisations to get over £500,000 a year from government.

Until the outcome of the Government Spending Review, due to conclude in the Autumn, we don’t know what money – if any – the Government will be able to find for v.

So… to summarise the situation for SYA.

We are a charity who receives most of our money from a single organisation – one that was launched by Labour, as the result of a Labour Commission, that itself receives £51,681,000 (95% of it’s income) from a Government that is committed to major public spending cuts and which has criticised it in the past.

I can believe that the Government will find money for volunteering in the outcome of the Spending Review. But will that money go to v? Or will they set up a new initiative of their own? What if the Conservatives’ Big Society policy becomes a new organisation set up to lead their vision of how volunteering should be done?

And even if they do decide to set up a new organisation, what is the likelihood that it will it will be set up and launched in time – funded, staffed, with parameters established for how they will fund charities, publish the process for applying for funding, allow time for charities to apply, and review funding applications… all by April 2011? It seems unlikely.

Say they announce a replacement for v, but that it wont be ready to launch until Autumn 2011. What happens in the interim? From April, we will have lost nearly four-fifths of our funding. And will still have staff to pay. What do we do in the meantime to pay the bills while we wait for whatever replaces v to be created? Will the transition be planned for?

Okay, I’m painting a skewed and overly negative picture, and skipping over more positive things, like the fact that the Government recognised the positive comments they received about v in a consultation on social action. And there have been reports that the Government is in regular contact with v during this time.

And there is a lot that we can do – and are doing – to prepare for this. We have some reserves, we can start planning for funding cuts, we can search and apply for funding from other non-governmental funds to make up the difference, and lots more. Four years ago I was blogging about uncertainty about the future of v’s predecessor, and we survived that transition okay.

But the point remains that this is a difficult and massively uncertain time. Like a lot of organisations, we just have to wait until the Spending Review is announced.


One Response to “What will happen to v?”

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