Funding in the Community and Voluntary Sector

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2009 Local Government Service Group Conference
18 February 2009
Carried as Amended

Conference notes that while the financial situation has tightened considerably in all local government funded services, it is often the community and voluntary sector which is hit hardest by funding constraints. Local authorities often turn to voluntary sector partners first when cuts need to be made, and the result is that voluntary organisations have to provide services on ever-smaller budgets.

The majority of UNISON’s members in the voluntary sector provide services in communities whose funding comes from local authorities, through contracts. These members provide vital services in areas like children’s services, learning disabilities and housing, and they deserve the full support of the union in our bargaining, organising and campaigning work. Many of them are not covered by a recognition agreement.

Over the last year, pay increases between 0% and 2%, well below inflation and below the increases awarded in the public sector, have become increasingly common. Redundancies have also increased dramatically, as organisations seek to reduce costs in both back office and care provision. UNISON has long predicted that these developments would take place, as a result of contracting out based purely on which organisation can provide the cheapest option.

Conference believes that the funding of all public services should be at a level sufficient to enable the provision of high quality services. Contracts should not be awarded on the basis of lowest cost – which harms both service users and staff. The Government should regulate local authority commissioners and voluntary sector providers, to remove two-tier workforces (so that organisations cannot compete on who pays staff the least), ensure that voluntary sector staff receive the same pay uplifts as those employed by local authorities, protect staff pensions, and ensure that the sector fully implements all relevant equality duties.

We welcome the Building our Futures Project being lead by Disability Action in Islington on behalf of a coalition of London disabled people’s organisation which aims to identify and gather evidence on the additional HR/Management issues faced by disabled people’s organisations because they are run and controlled by disabled people.

UNISON’s branches and regions need to ensure that these issues are priorities when campaigning and organising around contracting out to the community and voluntary sector.

Conference calls on the SGE:

1)To campaign alongside voluntary sector bodies like the National Association for Voluntary and Community Action and the Learning Disabilities Coalition, calling for stable and fairer funding for the sector, so as to ensure fair pay and decent treatment at work for UNISON members; lobbying government, carrying out research when appropriate and obtaining a high media profile for the work of UNISON’s members in the sector.

2)To support branches and regions as they engage with local authorities, and negotiate with voluntary sector employers, to ensure that the pay and conditions of staff who are transferred to the voluntary sector are properly protected and to ensure the two-tier code is fully applied.

3)To prioritise recruiting and organising in the voluntary sector, as the union seeks to secure more recognition agreements in the sector.

4)To emphasise that although UNISON will energetically protect the rights of workers in the voluntary sector, that we oppose the transfer of public services into the voluntary sector. We do not believe that the private or voluntary sector can deliver welfare provision better than the public sector.

5)To work with the National Community and Voluntary Sector Committee and the National Disabled Members Committee to make sure that funders, commissioners and government agencies recognise the extra costs faced by disabled people’s organisations when funding them.

6)To work with the National Community and Voluntary Sector Committee and the National Disabled Members Committee to campaign for the national and local voluntary sector compacts to take more account of the needs of disabled people’s organisations and for disabled people’s organisations to be more involved in the negotiations around these compacts.