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Derbyshire voluntary groups get six-month reprieve in council spending review

Monday, November 18th, 2019 5:19pm

By Eddie Bisknell- Local Democracy Reporter @EddieBisk

Dozens of voluntary groups, paid by the council to provide vital care and assistance to the vulnerable, elderly and disabled, are to be granted a reprieve from possible funding cuts.

Derbyshire County Council is currently carrying out a review of all of the grants it gives to voluntary groups.

It announced the review in February. Its annual grant funding to voluntary groups totals £1.2 million across 76 grants. All the money paid to these organisations was secured for a year while the review is carried out.

The grant-funded groups run advice centres, home comfort services, discount furniture projects, lunch clubs, befriending for the isolated and lonely, food banks, and support for those with dementia and learning disabilities.

The review has been triggered by a need for the authority to save money – £63 million by 2023.

It will examine whether each group and the services it runs are “cost-effective, coordinated and sustainable”.

Groups could see their funding pulled or reduced as part of the review.

Now the county council has granted these voluntary groups a six-month reprieve – with grant funding currently lapsing in April 2020.

It is now set to approve an extension of all existing grants until September 2020 while it finishes its review – at a cost of £713,446.

A report on its plans for funding beyond September will be published in July.

Examples of the grants include £16,067 to Glossopdale Furniture Project; £27,027 to Heanor Salcare; £12,463 to Level Centre Ltd in Matlock; £6,000 to Glebe Field Centre in Crich; £10,882 to New Mills Volunteer Centre; and £45,062 to Derbyshire Law Centre.

A range of wider organisations such as the centres for voluntary services (CVS) across Derbyshire’s districts and boroughs – including the Dales; Erewash, High Peak and South Derbyshire –  are also grant-funded by the county council.

They carry out support and offer services which prevent many residents having to go into care homes, hospitals and GP surgeries – saving the county council and NHS millions.

The report on the six-month reprieve will be discussed at the council’s cabinet meeting on Thursday, November 21.

It says that there is already no budget to cover the cost of the 10 arts service grants from April 2020 and that the six-month extension – costing £68,907 – will be covered from the council’s reserves.

The authority previously said that it aims to give £27,005 to volunteer-run community transport groups which have already been hit and are struggling due to Derby and Derbyshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) cutbacks last year.

After a round of intense scrutiny and debates, many led by Derbyshire County Council, the CCG opted to make just shy of £500,000 in cutbacks to these groups.

Councillor Barry Lewis, leader of the county council, said in February: “We’re very proud of the work of the voluntary and community sector in Derbyshire, which does an excellent job helping the council support local people.

“We were disappointed the NHS pulled funding from two jointly-funded community transport services which help people get to their GP and hospital appointments.

“By proposing to increase our funding level to these services, we’re ensuring vulnerable people still continue to get the help they need.”

He added: “We have ongoing pressures on our budgets and by securing grant funding for another year it gives us the time and space to have a conversation with the voluntary sector about what the future funding landscape looks like while trying to protect the vital work they do.”

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