Havering’s voluntary and community sector sees funding cuts and staff losses despite higher demand, says HAVCO

Havering’s voluntary and community organisations are losing cash, employing fewer staff and relying more heavily on volunteers - even though more people need their services.

The information came in a report from the Havering Association of Voluntary and Community Organisations (HAVCO), who handed out a survey to gauge the result of funding cuts, a reduction in the availability of grant funding, and changes to commissioning across the borough.

Fifty-two organisations responded. Between them, the groups employ 1,220 staff and 2,980 volunteers.

The results, announced last week, showed a third of the groups had lost income, with just 13 per cent seeing an increase in cash. Similarly, more than a quarter of the groups had cut paid staff over the last year. Just five per cent had taken on more employees.

Sheila Keeling, development manager at Hornchurch ADHD charity Add+Up, said competition for grants had increased. Some staff at Add+Up have even started working on a voluntary basis because the organisation can no longer afford to pay them.

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“So many groups are going for external funding – we’re in so much competition now,” said Ms Keeling.

“We get the same level of funding from the council but our costs have increased.

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“We’re the only ADHD charity in the south-east. If we aren’t here, nobody is going to pick up our children – and young people with ADHD are at high risk of becoming involved with anti-social activities.”

The HAVCO survey also showed that, over the next year, 67 per cent of groups said they expected to recruit more volunteers within the next 12 months, compared with just 18 per cent who said they would employ extra staff. It wasn’t possible to say whether the groups would be replacing paid staff with volunteers.

But despite the losses in cash and staffing, most groups – 57 per cent – said demand for their services had actually gone up.

HAVCO CEO Kim Guest said a lot of the funding cuts were indirect. “The council has been really good, and is holding contracts in the voluntary sector, but people are losing health contracts and philanthropy isn’t as forthcoming.

“People give to national charities – what we want is for local charities to be flagged up as places to help because you can see the need on your doorstep.”

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