Representatives from every corner of the voluntary sector in Wales have jointly expressed their alarm at the draft Welsh Government budget and the future direction of travel.
The Third Sector Partnership Council (TSPC) is a key mechanism for voluntary organisations to talk to, and hear from, Welsh Government. Together TSPC members represent all areas of work for the voluntary sector in Wales.
Following the announcement of Welsh Government’s draft budget, and our statement on the alarming consequences for the voluntary sector in Wales, TSPC representatives have released the following joint statement.
STATEMENT FROM THE THIRD SECTOR PARTNERSHIP COUNCIL
The Third Sector Partnership Council (TSPC) wants to express its anger and deep concern at the proposed cuts in Welsh Government’s draft budget for 2024/25.
An alarming direction of travel
- This budget sets out an alarming direction of travel where the voluntary sector is expected to deliver and prop-up frontline services without being involved in decision making or having sufficient resources to operate.
Welsh Government’s lack of funding for early intervention and prevention programmes and its failure to invite the voluntary sector to work together in finding solutions to the crises facing Wales are deeply concerning.
Citizens Advice Cymru are supporting a record number of people this winter, many needing referral to crisis support services, such as food banks. Building Communities Trust’s preliminary survey results show 60% of community organisations are dealing with new types of needs for their service users and 45% are operating services previously provided by the public sector.
This demonstrates a dangerous shift of responsibility onto the voluntary sector without providing the necessary support, coordination and collaboration. The voluntary sector must be valued and equal partners in achieving our shared ambitions.
Contradicting the Well-being of Future Generations Act
- Welsh Government is contradicting the Well-being of Future Generations Act, its own legislation, with short-term thinking that is damaging to the people of Wales in the long term.
The Well-being of Future Generations Act’s goals cannot be achieved without appropriate investment or adhering to the Five Ways of Working: long-term, integration, involvement, collaboration and prevention. There is little evidence Welsh Government has used these principles in the drafting process of this budget, which severely undermines the ability of public bodies and voluntary organisations to enact them in the new financial year.
The Future Generations Commissioner noted in his Submission to the Senedd Finance Committee on 10 January 2024:
‘The prevalence of crisis situations in recent years means that now more than ever we need to be investing in preventative approaches so that we mitigate future problems and are better equipped to deal with them.’
Long-standing injustices, like homelessness, will only deepen. The proposed Homelessness Support and Prevention budget is £3m less than in the indicative budget published in February 2023. The draft budget also proposes a real terms cut in Housing Support Grant funding. This is despite a Cymorth Cymru survey indicating that 66% of providers already operate waiting lists for services and 40% are likely to cease services if there is no funding uplift.
Ambitions like ending homelessness in Wales, as set out in Welsh Government’s White Paper, cannot be achieved without cross-sector collaboration, appropriate support and funding.
Voluntary sector hit hard across several portfolios
- The draft budget will hit the voluntary sector hard across several key areas of work, undermining organisations tackling some of Wales’ biggest threats like entrenched poverty, health inequalities and the climate and nature emergency.
The cuts contain another significant reduction to the Social Justice budget, creating uncertainty for equalities-based voluntary organisations that represent people who are disadvantaged or discriminated against. Following the closure of the national women’s equality charity, Chwarae Teg, there has been no redistribution of funds to support services for women.
Beyond the Social Justice budget, many essential services and activities that the voluntary sector provides fall across Welsh Government portfolios, other public bodies and Local Government. The impact of these cuts goes beyond the direct reduction of funding to voluntary organisations. It impacts all public services, many of which rely on collaboration with the voluntary sector to reduce the already overwhelming numbers of people arriving at their doors for help and support.
The fallout from the draft budget will land hardest on the most vulnerable people in Wales and place an increasing number at greater risk. This includes people already facing poverty, social exclusion and worsening physical and mental health. Inadequate funding for wrap-around voluntary sector health and social care services, for example, will result in increased pressure on Wales’ vital public services at a time when they are already struggling to cope with rising demand.
Our next steps
In the coming days, we will continue to engage with the budget scrutiny process to raise the voluntary sector’s concerns and the significance of the wider impacts that these funding decisions will have. We have a range of considered proposals that offer different solutions, and we would be happy to discuss them with Welsh Government, public service providers and our wider network.
The TSPC network is made up of representatives of voluntary sector networks working across 25 areas of sector activity.
The main purpose of the TSPC is to make sure that the principles set out in the Third Sector Scheme are put into practice. It also provides an opportunity for the sector to raise issues of interest or concern.
Have you been affected by this draft budget? If so, please contact email@example.com.