10/09/2010 - Ulster: Charities in crisis?

OUR RECENT article Ulster: More NHS cuts on the way? reported that cuts in the Health Service in Ulster will be much deeper than expected.  Initially, Health Minister Michael McGimpsey had been told to make savings of £113m as part of cuts imposed by the Stormont Executive earlier this year.

However, it’s now thought that the true figure will be significantly more than this.  Indeed, according to our sources, the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust has already started targeting services.   

Hot on the heels of this comes more bad news for Ulster.  For now it’s been revealed that the voluntary and community sector is facing a black hole in funding of up to £85m from this year.

At the moment, it’s not too clear where the axe will fall.  However, the Northern Ireland Council of Voluntary Action (NICVA), which oversees voluntary groups, believes that major frontline services could be in danger.  These would include summer schemes, care services for older people and vital support services for disadvantaged groups.

Belfast-based Solidarity National Executive member David Kerr said that he was opposed to any cuts:

“Many charities have already been hit by a fall in donations – brought on by the recession.  If central government funding is slashed, this may well lead to job losses within the charity sector as well as a reduction in the services they provide.  Ironically, in the current economic climate they have never been busier.”

He noted that charities would have to start looking for funding from elsewhere.  Many will turn to the Big Lottery Fund.  However, this will place BLF finances under even more pressure. 

He went on to support the call from Solidarity General Secretary Pat Harrington for the trade union movement to “build a genuine broad-front coalition to stop the Con-Dem cuts in their tracks.”

Mr. Kerr added that as well as campaigning against the cuts, trade unionists should be thinking in practical terms of how we can support those who are worse off than ourselves.

“This would represent true socialism – patriotic socialism.  It’s a form of socialism the founders of the wider labour movement would recognize.”

He concluded:

“How can we help ordinary British workers in their hour of need?  If we trade unionists can’t look after those who are in serious difficulties – maybe single-parent families, those with special needs or the disadvantaged – then who will?”


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