Public urged to support local causes through turbulent times

Charity workers in Scotland are struggling amidst ongoing economic, social and political uncertainty, according to findings published today.

A survey conducted by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) in December 2018 has shown that the majority of respondents are worried about what increased demand for services and lack of secure funding will mean for the people and communities they support over the next 12 months.

Of the 300 staff who responded to the survey, 100% are concerned about rising overheads, 82% are worried about the challenges created by funding cuts, and 81% expect demand for their services to increase in 2019 (up from 72% in 2017). Three out of every four respondents also think that the financial situation for the third sector as a whole will get worse over the next year.

Despite this, most remain confident about the future of their organisations, with nearly two thirds reporting confidence levels of 7 out of 10 or higher. 

And to combat uncertainty, many are devising new and innovative ways to ensure their organisations remain resilient and well-managed despite overwhelming external pressures. 73% of respondents think their organisation will collaborate more with others, 78% plan to develop new projects and services, two thirds plan to make changes to their funding strategies and two in five hope to invest in trading and enterprise as a means of boosting their organisation’s financial security.

With four out of five people having used a charity in the last year, charities are the lifeblood of Scottish communities.

At SCVO’s annual Gathering event – being held today (20 February) and tomorrow at Glasgow’s SEC – many of the events are focussing on funding, strategy, sustainability and governance, highlighting the demand for information on these topics amongst charity organisations.

Anna Fowlie, Chief Executive of SCVO, said: “We are calling on Scottish communities to take action to champion their local charities, social enterprises and voluntary groups.

“Resilient charities still feel optimistic and are willing to innovate, but they cannot overcome the challenges they face alone. Donate, volunteer, write to your local councillor or MSP if a charity you know is struggling – please get involved and show your support however you can.”

Facing a battle on many fronts

Food Train provides a range of services, delivered by volunteers, to older people in Scotland including grocery shopping home deliveries, home cooked meals, household support services and befriending services.

Despite being an award winning charity, which has drawn praise for its vital work across Scotland, Food Train has faced a battle to retain the funding which allows it to support communities who are often isolated.

Michelle Carruthers MBE, Chief Executive of the charity, said medium-sized organisations are feeling the pinch of local authority funding reductions: “It is certainly a very difficult time at the moment. There is such a squeeze on funding from the public sector. We are often being asked to look at a cut of 10 to 20 per cent from a budget that is already severely reduced.

“We are having to get out there more and more to ask the public for support and donations, and at the same time competition for funding from trusts and foundations is higher than ever, and their criteria is getting tighter every year.”

Despite reductions in funding across the board, demand for Food Train’s services continues to increase.

“We continue to see significant increases in the demand for our services,” Carruthers added.

“In some of our branches we can have 10 to 12 referrals for support in a single week. Most of these are coming from the public sector.

“The pressure from them to us is very significant.”

The warning to those in power is clear, if funding cuts continue then services will be forced to close – such as North Ayrshire’s Food Train service which shut in March 2018 after the charity lost its £75,000 funding package from the North Ayrshire Health and Social Care Partnership’s Integration Joint Board.

“Like many organisations, we have a long history of working with people in communities to help them live well; all the evidence tells us it works, improves lives and keeps people living well at home.

“But the message that we are getting is that the cuts are meaning the statutory things are now only being funded. The things that are good for people, that can help them live well, are being cut despite all the benefits of preventative services.”

View the full report of our findings here.