A Fife MSP has urged council chiefs to overturn the decision to slash more than £400,000 of ‘vital’ funding from charities supporting vulnerable families.
Voluntary organisations such as Fife Gingerbread and the Cottage Family Centre in Kirkcaldy could see their funding significantly cut as councillors backed a “recommissioning” programme of the children and families service last month.
In an effort to save money, £410,000 worth of cash will be cut from the 2021-22 budget which could see funding discontinued for 19 charities in the kingdom after a six-month transition period.
Removing £410,000 from the budget will have a negative impact on what are vital services for many of our children and young people.”
Claire Baker MSP
Local authority bosses say some organisations affected provide more universal services such as counselling schemes for parents – rather than focussing explicitly on services which complement the council’s efforts in education and social work.
Mid Scotland and Fife MSP Claire Baker said the decision will come as a huge blow to the charities who have been working “flat out” during the pandemic.
She said: “In the summer I hosted a round table discussion with a number of local family and children’s services groups, hearing about the impact of Covid-19 and the importance of continued funding support.
“The work of local voluntary organisations in supporting children and families is highly valued and many of these services have been working flat out to cope through the pandemic.”
Mrs Baker said removing such a sum of money from charities – such as several branches of Home-Start and WhoCares? Scotland – could damage the essential services provided by the family groups.
She added: “The understanding of local authorities means that there is a need to ensure value for money and while Fife Council may wish to pursue a reconfiguration of its services to achieve this, removing £410,000 from the budget will have a negative impact on what are vital services for many of our children and young people.
“I am urging Fife Council to reverse this decision and to make a firm commitment to our voluntary sector and to our children and young people.”
The Cottage Family Centre receives a significant part of its revenue from the authority funding which enables the group to support families experiencing financial hardship or alcohol or drug problems.
The Kirkcaldy-based charity also organises the town’s popular Christmas appeal to help struggling families.
Charities which explicitly support children, such as the Aberlour Childcare Trust, Barnardo’s, Fife Young Carers and Childline will continue to receive funding.
Head of education and children’s services Kathy Henwood said: “We are committed to working in partnership with the third sector to deliver services to the most vulnerable children, young people and families in Fife.
“The recent programme of work has involved regular engagement sessions with the third sector, including one-to-one meetings with organisations.
“Following a grant application process and consideration of the report at the education and children’s services sub-committee last month, we will continue collaborative discussions with all organisations currently commissioned.
“Organisations were provided with feedback prior to the meeting, and an engagement session has been facilitated by Fife Voluntary Action.
“Individual meetings will continue with organisations providing feedback on applications and discussion on future services, including funding streams.
“We commission a range of services in the third sector across a continuum of need, many focus on prevention and early intervention for the most vulnerable families in Fife.
“The size of the organisation has not been a factor in considering applications and we remain committed to supporting all organisations large and small.”