Following the council led meeting on the Cost of Living One Coventry Response there is a shared desire for voluntary sector organisations and public sector to work together, to combine their resources to provide food and support for the people who are suffering makes sense (see Evening Telegraph City comes together to continue work to tackle rising costs – Coventry City Council)
Dianne Williams, of the Coventry Food Network said:
“This is not an emergency anymore; people’s lack of food is an ongoing problem every day”.
“ this is not going away anymore”
But against a backdrop where voluntary organisations are struggling to meet demand - of helping people with ever more complex needs from debt and associated mental ill health, alongside supporting volunteers suffering burn out, through delivering of services, especially food banks. VCSE organisations are expected to manage with less funding to deliver the same services to more people. (Poverty Alliance)
Food banks have seen a change in the demographics of people who are using their services, people who would not consider receiving emergency food parcels before are now joining the queues at food banks and social supermarkets. (Christians against Poverty and Trussell Trust from Poverty Alliance)
Rishi Sunak’s reluctance to act on the recommendations of independent review bodies to increase public salaries, as he will not “shy away from “decisions people may not like” ( Rishi Sunak warns 'people may not like' decisions over public sector pay review - Mirror Online Rishi Sunak prepares to block pay rises for public sector workers (thetimes.co.uk)
Potentially meaning that more people will struggle to pay their bills, suffer mental ill health, and essentially become additional service users of VCSE services such as food banks, advice services and others to navigate their way through bills, mortgages, and finance. Rishi Sunak’s comments follow on from the junior doctors taking further strike action.
In the Road Ahead 2023 by NCVO, VCSE Sector organisations are struggling as much as any sector, making cuts, and saving money. Given the situation with volunteers and voluntary organisations feeling the pinch, both as staff and volunteers, alongside reduced funding, expectations to do more with less, when costs are high there is consideration being given to strikes by the third sector. According to NFP research, the public is in favour of some groups striking, such as nurses who were at the forefront of the pandemic but were less supportive of others.
In areas of the Southeast, Unite workers at the homelessness charity St Mungo’s are still (at time of writing) striking after ten weeks since May with the alleged support of their services users
“the Unite union members were joined by passing service users who live inside. One said to a striker, “I know how hard you all work.” ‘We back you’—homeless people tell St Mungo’s strikers (socialistworker.co.uk).
The management of St Mungo’s said that to raise salaries is not affordable and the organisation would no longer be “financially viable” the public response to the charity’s workers striking has so far, however been favourable. Being apolitical, the charity sector faces enormous decisions for the future.
Perception of charities by the public, and some statutory organisations is often confused as to “whether charity workers should be paid or not” despite the obvious fact that people with skills, knowledge and who can deliver particular kinds of services cannot live on fresh air. – or do specialised, targeted work for free. Similarly voluntary organisations giving their time to attend meeting within Integrated Care Systems, also cannot give their time for free, when statutory organisations have it paid for as part of their work role.
However, VCSEs continue to support, help, and empower those most affected by inequalities, and their value as a service and work force employer plays an important role in society.
“without compensated and comfortable workers, charities can’t continue to pursue their mission” Navigating Public Attitudes towards Strikes | nfpResearch
If there is no additional support for the voluntary sector, when volunteers are stressed, funding and resources are in short supply, who will pick up the pieces? and fill the gaps? during this unprecedented time. The ongoing need for a solution for improving people’s ability to gain employment, to have salaries that meet living costs, childcare to enable parents, particularly lone parents to work all need to be considered as we go forward.
VCSE Organisations have key roles to play in this, do we need to strike to raise awareness of the issues, or is there another way we can get the attention of the higher authorities, funders, and the public so we can provide help to those who most need it. VCSE organisations have key roles to play in this, do we need to strike to raise awareness of the issues, or is there another way we can get the attention of the higher authorities, funders, and the general public so we can provide help to those who most need it.
Sharing resources and collaboration is a part of the picture, and the change that is happening within Integrated Care Systems and Council Strategies. But this will take time and commitment. But even recently charities are closing their doors due to lack of funding in Coventry.
According to NFP research the VCSE Sector needs transparency, and an honest picture to reflect what difference the VCSE makes to people’s lives, but also what is happening to the VCSE sector and the challenges it faces – informing the communities and public it serves, alongside statutory bodies, funders, and others, before society runs out of options.
For more information about the Poverty Alliance contact Grapevine: