OCS strategic partner funding decisions trickle out

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OCS strategic partner funding decisions trickle out1

Finance | Tania Mason | 8 Mar 2011

TimeBank and Community Development Exchange have been told they have failed in their bids to secure further funding from the Office for Civil Society’s strategic partner programme.

Both charities received emails from the OCS yesterday confirming that from next month they would no longer receive core funding from the programme.

The OCS has so far declined to issue a list of the partners that have been weeded out at the first stage.

National volunteering charity TimeBank has relied on the government to cover its core costs for several years, and last year received £775,300 of its £1.9m total income from the OCS, £525,300 of which was strategic partner funding. The vast majority of its other income was also derived from statutory sources, putting it at high risk from the public spending cuts. At 31 March 2010 the charity had reserves of £1,135,209.

TimeBank’s remit as a strategic partner of the OCS was to "shape the national debate on volunteering", according to its latest annual report. Over the last decade it claims to have contributed to mobilising 300,000 people to volunteer as well as improving the quality of volunteering.

Chief executive Helen Walker said: “This is a devastating blow for TimeBank which has been living and breathing the government’s vision for a Big Society for the past ten years.

“Without this vital core funding we will not be able to continue to deliver the level of service that we have based our reputation on and will have to considerably reduce our activities and staff as a result.” It employs nearly 40 people.

TimeBank is not going to take the decision on the chin, however. It has announced its intention to appeal and has already launched a petition, telling supporters that “if we receive 100,000 signatures our case will be debated in Parliament”.

The email to TimeBank arrived on the same day that the charity issued a press release announcing that it had been approached by Parliament to develop a website to encourage more MPs to volunteer. The site was expected to be launched in the autumn.

CDX loses 87 per cent of income

Community Development Exchange (CDX) received around £250,000 each year from the strategic partner programme, equating to around 87 per cent of its total income. Sophie Ballinger, communications officer, said it had submitted a bid for 2011/12 for around £75,000, meeting the OCS criteria that the programme funding should not comprise more than a quarter of a partner organisation’s total income.  But it learned yesterday that it too had fallen at the first hurdle.

CDX has already made one of its five employees redundant and all the rest have had their hours cut by one-fifth.  Ballenger said the organisation will now operate on its reserves while it explores alternative income options.

The LGBT Consortium, an umbrella group for charities supporting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people, told Civil Society that it was not invited to apply for continued funding and so did not do so.

Some other partners have made it through to the next round and were being interviewed at the Cabinet Office today and over the next few days.  Among these were Navca, Acre (bidding jointly with Community Matters), Urban Forum, Charities Evaluation Services (bidding jointly with Voice4Change England), Volunteering England and the Women's Resource Centre. 

NCVO, the Institute of Fundraising and the Citizenship Foundation all declined to comment, while Acevo, Social Enterprise London, Mentoring & Befriending Foundation, Bassac, BTCV, Social Enterprise Coalition, Church Urban Fund, British Youth Council and Community Foundation Network had not returned calls by the time this story went live.

YouthNet has already said it is not eligible for funding and youth charity v has agreed a separate arrangement with the Office for Civil Society.

The National Youth Agency said it felt it was not appropriate to apply as it had already got transition funding from the Department of Education.

Youth Action Network, which received 15 per cent of its £1m income from the OCS, announced its impending closure in January.

The OCS has already stated that it plans to cut the number of strategic partners from 42 to no more than 15 and that organisations that choose to merge or collaborate with others stand a better chance of success.

Rob Dyson
PR Manager & social web
8 Mar 2011

This seems naive and counter-intuitive. By investing in organisations that train, recruit and retain volunteers (and Timebank is a huge player in this sector) society will be paid back exponentially by volunteers that energise communities and personify the Big Society mantra.

A sensible strategy would be focussing money on things that promote Government policy - this would be joined-up and consistent with their narrative. It could also be used to PR Big Society on a localised level (there are many many case studies to be gleaned from Timebank's work). Maybe I'm thinking with my comms head on, but this decision appears a bit of an own goal for Government Big Society champions.


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