Council reverses decision to cut Third Sector funding – but only for a year

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As previously reported in February, Fife’s Children and Families Division had been planning to defund nineteen charitable organisations of annual funding from April to save £410,000.

However, the council administration has found now found money in its surplus to plug that gap for 2021-22, under its new budget arrangements agreed earlier this month.

Kathy Henwood, Head of Education and Children’s Services, said: “Last week’s budget decision means we can reinvest the previously agreed saving of £410,000 into our third sector commissioned services. This is a very welcome opportunity to support the programme of improvement and make sure commissioned services enhance and add value to vulnerable children, young people and families in Fife.”

Ms Henwood added that while the funding gap has been plugged for 12 months, the planned recommissioning scheme will proceed as planned, with the cash boost enabling a “smoother transition. We will be continuing work already underway, engaging with organisations who are subject to six months transitional funding to assess whether current service models can be re-aligned to the requirements of the new service briefs.”

In 2019, under a “recommissioning” scheme, council officers reformulated the criteria to decide whether charities qualified for funding, eventually proposing the scheme in January this year Those who could not tailor their services to fit the new criteria were told to find funding elsewhere after a six-month transition period.

Although third-sector bodies were reluctant to publicly criticise the recommissioning process, privately criticised it as opaque and said the new criteria were too narrow in. The move disproportionately affects family-oriented services such as Couples Counselling Fife and branches of help-at-home charity Home-Start and the Kirkcaldy based family charity, The Cottage.

The Council was aware of the effects the cut will have on local charities. A briefing note circulated last month noted that efforts were ongoing to find alternate sources of funding in other departments or external groups. It concluded: “We recognise this a very difficult time for third sector organisations involved.”

Councillor Dave Dempsey, who had warned of charities disappearing “over the edge” said the restoration of funding for 2021/2022 gives the Council room to manoeuvre. He added that the Council should use the time wisely to support affected charities. “It is important that officers avoid going round exactly the same sort of circles in six months’ time.”

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