Councils protecting charities from cuts and using new tactics to improve services

Published on Friday, 16 December 2011 10:57
Posted by Scott Buckler

New and innovative ways to work with charities and voluntary groups are being used by councils to improve services whilst saving taxpayers millions, the Local Government Association has found

These new approaches are helping to reduce the number of children being taken into care, help troubled families and improve care for the elderly. These changes will lead to services improving and better outcomes for customers.

Councils have been given cuts of 28 per cent in the current spending review, compared to an average of just eight per cent across Whitehall, and are continuously looking to be innovative in how services are delivered. Whilst councils are taking up the challenge to reform public services and have been working with voluntary and community organisations to help them adapt to the current challenges, government departments have not shown the same ambition for change.

Councillor Sir Merrick Cockell, Chairman of the LGA, said:

"Councils right across the UK are finding innovative ways to continue working with voluntary groups to help local communities.  Most of us have seen the important work these groups do locally, providing key frontline services to the elderly, young and vulnerable.

"As the most efficient part of the public sector, councils have managed to protect charities from many of the cuts passed down by Whitehall. Whilst some voluntary groups have inevitably seen their budgets reduced, every effort was made by councils to avoid this happening.

"It is important that charities themselves now look to innovate and challenge the status quo like councils already have. For instance, this means forming larger groups to bid for funding, or making tough decisions to refocus their own organisations."

The new and innovative ways of working by councils include:


  • Using volunteers to support families in need to reduce numbers of children entering care and save councils over £1,500 per family. CSV is providing Lewisham Council and Southend-on-Sea Borough Council with trained and supervised volunteers to assist families in need. In Southend, 87 per cent of cases were moved to a lower level of safeguarding concern following support from the programme. 11 of the 37 families in Southend were removed from child protection plans altogether.
  • Adopting community budgets to partner with government and charities to help troubled families and save millions. Blackburn and Darwen Council is using community budgets to transform and integrate local services for families with problems. The initial stage, which involves working with 30 families in the area, is expected to lead to savings for the taxpayer of between £2 million and £7 million.
  • Providing funding to big groups of charities to improve the delivery of services for young people.  Lancashire County Council is working with a group of 37 delivery partners and six non delivery partners, called Young Lancashire. This is primarily focussed on getting young people into jobs, education and training.
  • Refocusing health care and help for the elderly around what local people say they want.  Hartlepool Borough Council worked with the local primary care trust and Turning Point to find out the views of residents. Residents and local community organisations have now taken over the running of health and care services through a social enterprise, focusing them on the needs of local people.
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