Sunday, March 08, 2009

Could this be the end of Liverpool's organised voluntary sector?

Read this letter from LCVS - Liverpool Charity and Voluntary Services - with my bolds.

"Liverpool Charity and Voluntary Services (LCVS) needed an extra £500,000 to maintain its engagement and empowerment programmes with Liverpool’s third sector and Liverpool residents after April 2009.

Funding from the former European Objective 1 ended in December 2008 and the work has survived on a grant from the City’s Working Neighbourhood Fund since then.

From April there will be a severe reduction in the range and level of services given though its networks and its groundbreaking ‘Your Community Matters’ events.

Alan Lewis, Chief Executive of LCVS, said: “This is a great disappointment, but we understand the economic climate. We will be inventive with the resources we have left to achieve the maximum involvement of people in decisions that affect their lives. We are working with public bodies to agree what activity to save”

The involvement of over 1,600 third sector organisations through Liverpool Community Network (LCN) is at risk. LCN brings together charities and community groups from across the city to work in partnership with public bodies to improve the quality of life of all.

The neighbourhood based ‘Your Community Matters Events’, which have already involved over 2,500 residents across all wards of the city are also likely to end.

Job losses are inevitable and up to 15 posts are at risk.

“Liverpool has been a national leader in community involvement. We are losing capacity to continue this work just when public bodies and housing associations are required to do more of it.”

LCVS will still deliver its March round of ward based events enabling local residents to meet with local Police and Council officers and other key decision-makers to discuss what can be done to improve their neighbourhood."

To say I am appalled would be a considerable understating of the position.

I rely on LCVS every day, as I suspect does more or less everyone in Liverpool. We rely on LCVS to direct community, charity and voluntary groups towards advice, funding opportunities, support, encouragement, networking. I could go on, but I am too upset to list everything.

I cannot conceive, simply cannot imagine a Liverpool without the support that such a big part of LCVS exists for. What will happen for all our voluntary services if they have no networks to support them? How for instance can the Liverpool First Community and Cohesion Task Group (that I sit on) - which should look at all this important work across the city - continue effectively without the LCN networks?

We cannot lose the LCN networks, not when they are growing stronger day by day. Look at the ground-breaking work being done by the LGBT Network just now for instance, or the dire need for the Faith Group while the BNP are threatening to take a MEP seat in June's elections.

And those 15 lost jobs - they are not just any jobs, they are the people who help the voluntary sector to find funding for their projects, to teach them how to set up constitutions, how to train their volunteers, how to apply for CRB checks, how to market their services....I could go on.

This is a terrible body blow for the city, please do not underestimate the scale of this disaster.

It is precisely at times like this, at times of a recession, when the voluntary sector comes most to the fore, when it is needed more than ever. This is not the time to be winding down the provision. Some services that LCC cannot now fund will have to be carried out by the voluntary and charity sector, that is an absolute. But how can they do this without these 15 staff members?

I know that the administration on LCC will be whining just now about their reduction in resources and how they have had to cut their cloth, I know all that. But it is all a matter of priorities, a good council will maintain the provision for the things that they care about. That is the essence of politics - you set your priorities and the things that you will never compromise on, what a terrible indictment it is that LCVS is not a priority for this council.

The new all encompassing Area Based Grant was supposed to give local councils more freedom to set its own priorities, 40-odd ring-fenced funding pots all merged into one and we could spend it on more or less what we liked, that should have guaranteed the future of LCVS because we should have supported them. As I understand it, the WNF is now part of the ABG and this LibDem council could quite easily have chosen to go on supporting LCVS via the ABG.

I know that many ward councillors have not enjoyed Your Community Matters events, I have heard from many about the shortcomings that they have seen with this method of community engagement. But I can say for certain fact that in Kensington and Fairfield it has been an unqualified success. In fact at the last meeting I spoke from the stage to say that it was a much criticised feature of the new devolved accountability, but that in our ward it has been fantastic - vastly better attended and enjoyed than our dire Area Committees, and everyone cheered.

Ironically our next YCM is tomorrow and I was really looking forward to it. I have invited 2020 Liverpool to come along and engage the residents in dicussions about their preference for our new pavillion in Newsham Park and also Claire Chang of Dream High to talk about the charity's work in supporting new businesses in Kensington, Fairfield, Old Swan and Dovecot about their start-up plans.

We had 80 at the last meeting and each one is more popular than the last. But it seems that tomorrow will be a requiem not a celebration of our community engagement. We used to get 5 residents to joint ward meetings. It is obvious what K&F people prefer and that is YCM events.

Only last week Liam and I went to a special YCM event for the Chinese Community at the Pagoda Centre in Riverside ward, off Duke Street. We were invited because after Riverside ward, the next biggest grouping of Chinese people live in Kensington. There must have been 150 people there, and I was hopeful that this would be the first of many, now I know it was the last of everything.

I think this decision is one of the worst things I have seen as a Councillor and I am bemused as to why I learnt about it in the newspapers and through a press release from LCVS even though we had a full council meeting only last week where this could have been mentioned.

This is a truly dark day


steve faragher said...

Maybe they should let Liverpool Direct take over LCVS,by keeping eveything in house they should be able to find the extra half a mill.

er only joking it would cost three or four times more using LD

scouseboy said...

The voluntary sector plays an extremely valuable part in Liverpool life.
To hit it this hard is a crime against Liverpool residents.