Surviving or Thriving in Newcastle
Tracking the impact of spending cuts on
Newcastle’s third sector
In partnership with Funded by
In this report we focus on Newcastle, and explore how the austerity measures are being
felt by 53 voluntary sector organisations, their clients and the wider communities that they
serve. Between them they directly support 56,000 people, many of whom feel isolated and
have increasingly complex needs.
For me, the most alarming news is that nearly half of organisations are expecting to close
a service in the next year, and nearly a fifth may be forced to close down all together. As
57% of organisations report that they are already operating on their reserves, the stark
reality is that as their savings dwindle organisations will be forced to close. As public
services are squeezed it is essential that the safety net that they provide is there to
support vulnerable people.
I would like to pay tribute to the staff, trustees and volunteers that are working incredibly
hard to keep the show on the road. As funders and commissioners expect more for their
money and as service users present with greater levels of stress and distress, these
tireless individuals show nothing but commitment dedication and concern. Many of them
also face losing their own jobs in the coming year.
As Newcastle strives to be a fairer city, then ensuring that the voluntary sector not only
survives, but thrives will be one of the best ways to demonstrate that tackling inequality is
at the heart of what the city stands for.”
Table of contents
Table of contents ...................................................................................... 3
Executive summary .................................................................................. 4
Methodology ............................................................................................. 7
Who took part? ......................................................................................... 7
How the sector is funded .......................................................................... 8
Reduced funding ...................................................................................... 8
Increase in demand for services ............................................................... 8
Response to need..................................................................................... 9
Impact on beneficaries and communities ................................................ 10
Forecasting the future............................................................................. 11
Optimism remains................................................................................... 11
The Newcastle story ............................................................................... 12
Case studies........................................................................................... 16
Newcastle Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB)............................................... 17
Tyneside Women’s Health ...................................................................... 19
Newcastle Law Centre............................................................................ 21
Skills for People...................................................................................... 24
During January 2012, Newcastle CVS in partnership with VONNE undertook the
sixth survey in the continued monitoring of the impact of the economic downturn on
the north east’s third sector. In the six months since the last survey, north east
communities and the voluntary and community groups that support them have been
hit harder than ever by the continued economic downturn and the current round of
public sector spending cuts.
53 organisations responded to the survey representing a broad cross section of third
sector organisations across Newcastle, from small neighbourhood groups to large
enterprising charities. Between them they supported over 56,000 individuals in Newcastle,
and over 2,230 organisations. They employ 1,400 people and rally almost 15,000
Over the past 6 months respondents said
• 59% have seen a decrease in funding
• 37% have lost staff
• 57% have experienced an increase in demand for their service
• 57% are using reserves
Future prospects continue to look bleak:
• 45% expect to, or are considering closing a service
• 49% will be, or are considering making staff redundant in the next 12 months
• 47% expect to, or are considering reducing the number of beneficiaries they support
• 18% may close in the next 12 months
There continues to be a heavy reliance on public sector funds, with 71% of respondents
sourcing some, or all, of their income from public sector grants. 57% are now using
A quarter of organisations are considering merging.
It is clear that third sector organisations have faced the brunt of cuts as predicted in earlier
surveys. Organisations are facing continued rising demand, but with public sector
spending cuts, decreases in funding from trusts and foundations and depending on
reserves, they are now in a very fragile state. Staff have endured salary cuts, a shorter
working week, so the staff that remain do more, work harder and get less pay. Managers
have spent a lot of time going through reorganisations, cutting out any waste and
becoming very focussed on service delivery. This needs to be seen against a background
of an increase in demand for services. In six months’ time many organisations in the
sector may no longer be robust enough to survive.
As ever the story isn’t really about the organisations that completed this survey. It is about
the vulnerable people they support in their communities and how they will cope without
those organisations and services there provide that help. Despite the loss of staff,
services and funding the results show that in the last year those 53 organisations
supported well over 50,000 beneficiaries. It is the impact on those individuals that will be
the key issue facing Newcastle in the next 12 months.
This report is the sixth survey in the VONNE Surviving or Thriving series which monitors
the impact of the economic downturn on the voluntary and community sector in the North
East; the previous survey being published in August 2011. It focuses on the Newcastle
upon Tyne area and was carried out in partnership with Newcastle CVS. It highlights both
headline figures from fifty three organisations that are active in Newcastle, as well as five
case studies that illustrate the actual situations of voluntary organisations.
Voluntary Organisations’ Network North East (VONNE) is the regional support body for the
voluntary and community sector (VCS) in the North East. Its mission is to support and
promote a thriving, effective sector of charities, voluntary and community groups and
social enterprises in the North East of England. Further information about VONNE can be
found on their website www.vonne.org.uk/aboutus.
Newcastle CVS promotes voluntary and community action in Newcastle. It does this
through supporting and developing local organisations, encouraging networking and
involvement opportunities and representation and influence on behalf of the voluntary and
community sector. Further information about Newcastle CVS can be found on the website
The results from our five previous surveys showed the third sector in the North East had
been responding to the economic downturn by supporting a greater number of
beneficiaries, but were struggling with decreased resources and increasing demand on
their services. The Newcastle picture in this report mirrors these results.
Through this report we also aim to produce a series of recommendations and specific
actions to ensure the most appropriate support is being provided to help build the
resilience of the third sector in Newcastle.
Newcastle CVS and VONNE would like to thank all organisations who took part in this
work. We would also like to thank the support of our funders Millfield House Foundation.
In total 53 third sector organisations working in the Newcastle area took part in our survey.
The findings from their responses form the basis of this report.
Respondents to the survey were:
• able to remain anonymous
• not obliged to answer all questions
• able to choose more than one answer to several questions
Unless otherwise stated, the data highlighted throughout this report is given as a
proportion of organisations responding to specific questions.
For the purposes of this report the third sector includes voluntary and community
organisations, groups, charities, social enterprises, mutuals, and co-operatives. The size
of organisations has been defined by their annual income:
• Small organisations have an annual income between £0 and £50,000
• Medium organisations have an annual income between £51,000 and £500,000
• Large organisations have an annual income of £501,000 or more
Who took part?
Of the 53 organisations taking part in our survey they supported over 56,500 people and
2,230 organisations in Newcastle this past 6 months. That is just under a fifth of
Newcastle’s population of 292,000. They employed 1,398 staff and utilised the support of
14,621 volunteers. Over 400 individuals give their time as trustees to help run and govern
the respondent organisations.
A wide range of services were delivered by the respondents to our survey. Support for
education and training, older people, disability, young people, and volunteering were the
most popular areas.
The combined income of the respondents for 2010/11 was over £45million. 50% were
medium sized organisations, receiving an annual income between £51,000 and £500,000.
25% were small organisations under this figure down to zero income. 25% were large
organisations receiving £500,000 or more.
How the sector is funded
The recent Northern Rock Foundation’s Third Sector Trends
Study found that the third sector in the North East relies more
on statutory funding compared to other parts of the country1.
Our results continue to demonstrate this, with 71% receiving
public sector grants and 61% receiving income from public
57% of organisations are utilising their reserves to top up
57% using reserves
their income level.
reported loss in funding
Our previous surveys had showed that the sector had been
dealing with a double impact of reduced funding and
increased demand. This continues to be the case with
those reporting a decrease in funding at 59%.
Respondents said they had lost in total £2,891,758 in
Increase in demand for services
The increase in demand for services remains high at 57%. Despite this increase, a
significant proportion of organisations have lost staff (37%). We calculate this equates to a
minimum of 75 staff in this survey alone having lost their job. Despite this, only 16% plan
to decrease the number of services they provide. Many organisations report cutting back
staff hours or wages rather than making staff redundant, meaning services can still
Third Sector Trends Study Mapping Registered Third Sector Organisations in the North East. David Kane and
John Mohan. August 2010.
Response to need
Despite the challenges the third sector in the North East
have been doing what they do best, responding to need.
40% of all respondents have increased the number of
beneficaries they support.
However only 16% plan to expand the number of services
they provide, perhaps demonstrating that the capacity to
respond to demand is weaker. Only 17% plan to increase
have lost staff
the number and type of beneficiaries they support,
suggesting that capacity to respond is now at its limits.
48% plan to engage additional volunteers in the coming year,
with a further 26% considering it.
Impact on beneficiaries and communities
We asked respondents to tell us what the impact of the recession and public sector
spending cuts has been on the beneficiaries and communities they serve. Instead of
providing elaborate analysis of the comments we feel it is better to let the respondents
speak for themselves. Below is a selection of comments that illustrate the responses
“Demand for our services increases all the time, together with expectations
from clients, funders etc. Many of our funding streams are short-term, which
means we are constantly having to apply for new funds to replace cuts in
“We regularly have to close our “The staff have managed to maintain
public "open door" advice sessions the quality of service but at a high
because the waiting room is full to personal expense. Despite taking on
capacity.” the extra staff we are still understaffed
and the effect on morale is corrosive.”
“The decrease in funding has had a major impact on our charity - we have had
to make staff redundant and look for alternative premises to store our specialist
equipment and office space as the premises we are in are proving to be too
“Loss of early interventions and “The Council and PCT need to take a
relatively small contributions to the much more strategic and pro-active
voluntary sector can lead to approach to the voluntary sector.
significant societal problems in later Rather than allocating funding through
years.” an open bidding process they should
be directing it towards those
organisations that they wish to survive
and from whom they will continue to
“(We ask for)…fair contracts that pay a fair price for a fair services, based on
needs of all customers, before service providers like ours are left with no choice
but to close a very personalised, value for money and needed service, with an
excellent track record.”.
Forecasting the future
Respondents were asked to anticipate what might happen to their organisation in the
coming twelve months.
Staffing and volunteers
Overall 49% anticipated making redundancies. 74% plan to increase the number of
45% plan to close a service and 47% are considering reducing the number and type of
Closing the organisation
18% will or may be closing their organisation. 31% may merge their organisation with
Despite the difficult challenges faced by many organisations a number of respondents still
appear to be fairly optimistic about their future.
59% reported they are considering expanding the number of services they provide. 55%
are considering or plan to increase the number and type of beneficiaries.
The Newcastle Story
By Sally Young, Chief Executive, Newcastle CVS
This report is the sixth survey in the VONNE Surviving or Thriving series which monitors
the impact of the economic downturn on the voluntary and community sector in the North
East; the previous survey being published in August 2011. However as it focuses on
Newcastle upon Tyne, it can also be seen as the annual State of the Sector report
published by Newcastle CVS, following the last one in January 2011. This combination
highlights both headline figures from 53 organisations that are active in Newcastle, as well
as five case studies that illustrate the actual situations of voluntary organisations.
Loss of public funding
Last year’s State of The Sector report highlighted the loss of government grant aid to
Newcastle. The Working Neighbourhood Fund was worth £9.3 million in Newcastle, and
funded around £6.3 million of voluntary sector projects; this was completely finished in
2011. The Supporting People grant was worth £16.3 million in Newcastle in 2010, and
was subject to a 39% cut; with a great proportion of this used to fund voluntary sector
services for vulnerable people. Area Based Grant was worth £13.4 million in 2010 and
most of this was stopped, with some elements going into new grants. Most of these
Government grants were linked to deprivation, which meant that areas of higher need,
such as Newcastle, lost a lot of this central support, without any replacement.
The other key impact on Newcastle City Council was its own reductions because of the
loss of Government grant and changes to the formula funding and weighting. Together
with internal cost pressures, it meant the City Council had to make cuts of £43 million in
2011-12, is looking at cuts of £30 million for 2012-2013 and is considering cuts of a further
£55 million in the following two years. There are also going to be changes in how the
Business Rate will be distributed and Council Tax benefits will be more localised; these
further changes could have additional detrimental effects.
One of the anomalies of North East voluntary organisations is they have a greater than
average reliance on public sector funding, so cuts in the overall public sector funding
translate to larger cuts in the North East voluntary sector.
In the last year Newcastle City Council has seen a change in political leadership, changes
in committee structures, different councillors in leadership roles and the end of the
Newcastle Partnership. The Wellbeing for Life Board is being established as the key
partnership group that will tackle inequalities and improve wellbeing and health; there are
three voluntary and community sector places on the board. The Council has also
established a Fairness Commission and a Living Wage Commission.
In 2010, Newcastle City Council established the Newcastle Fund, a four year £10 million
grant aid fund. In 2011, 198 applications were made, representing a significant
oversubscription (over four times) of the funds available. The council agreed to fund
£1,294,400 of these new proposals and together with the commitments of round one (from
the previous year) of £1,593,275 will grant aid a total of £2,887,675 of voluntary and
community activity in 2012-2013. There are 69 new projects funded. This is more
generous than many other councils, but needs to be seen in the overall context of the loss
of government grant and the amount of money coming into sector two years previously.
Newcastle City Council has done a recent breakdown of investment into the voluntary and
community sector, which works out at £46.3 million per year; the vast majority of this
funding is used to deliver adult and children’s social care services.
Newcastle Primary Care Trust (PCT) invests around £5 million into the voluntary and
community sector. The majority of this goes to the two hospices, a mental health charity
and a health development charity to provide services. Around 35 Newcastle charities
receive funding from the PCT to deliver services. There are concerns that the move
towards Clinical Commissioning Groups, larger clinical support units and the cuts of £20
billion from the NHS in the next four years, will see the loss of a significant amount of
There have been a few national funding opportunities – the transition grant, Transforming
Local Infrastructure, and Big Lottery specific initiatives, but these have tended to be short-
lived, specific opportunities which do not, in any way, compensate for the loss of the
funding described earlier.
Another route to funding is through public sector contracts, but these are becoming much
bigger and complex and some national ones are paid in arrears (Payment by Results). As
the recession grows, more organisations are chasing contracts so there could be a larger
number of private and non-local providers delivering services, which would have
previously been delivered by local charities. Inevitably public sector organisations see
competition for contracts as a way of reducing costs.
There are more applications to Big Lottery and grant-making trusts. Often the decisions on
funding are taking longer because of the numbers of organisations that have applied. The
Northern Rock Foundation is still giving out grants (over £200 million in the last ten years),
but its future after 2014 is still unclear. The Community Foundation (Tyne and Wear and
Northumberland) continues to be the most successful community foundation in the UK, but
gives out smaller (but essential) grants to mainly community groups.
The recession has had an impact on trading and giving as people and organisations have
less money to donate and / or buy goods.
Getting behind the numbers - our case studies
The case studies were chosen from particular areas where changes are taking place.
Concerns about the impact on advice organisations are widespread. In 2010 the local
Rights Project was closed, after losing major Legal Services Commissioning contracts and
the Migrant Impact Fund was stopped mid-year.. Voluntary sector advice organisations
are going to be disproportionately affected by the Legal Aid changes as they provide a
greater proportion of social welfare services which might not be covered by Legal Aid in
the future. At a time of recession, there is an even greater demand for advice services.
A women’s organisation was interviewed as the evidence illustrates a disproportionate
amount of the public service cuts and welfare reforms impacting on women. Nationally
many women’s organisations are experience a loss of funding, and the Fawcett Society is
campaigning on this issue. Newcastle CVS is also undertaking a small study on women’s
organisations in Newcastle, which will be published in March 2012.
A young people’s project was chosen as a case study, as nationally many youth
organisations are closing and services are being cut. Although the Government has
established the National Citizen’s Service; this hasn’t been evaluated yet but it is being
rolled out to cover 30,000 young people. However the cost of putting just half of all 16
year olds through the course is more than the entire budget spent by local authorities on
youth services before 2010.
An organisation that works with disabled people was chosen as the Hardest Hit campaign
has shown the number of different cuts that are facing people with disabilities. As well as
the welfare reform changes, many of which haven’t happened yet, there have been
reductions in council provision, far fewer supported employment vacancies and less
support and understanding about disabled people.
‘Make or break’ year for many
So given this context and the information from the organisations themselves, a question is
why haven’t more closed. The research illustrated that 59% had seen a decrease in
funding and 37% had lost staff. The last year has been illustrated by organisations getting
through on a mixture of reserves (57% are using reserves), reorganisation, redundancies
and mainly resilience. Staff have endured salary cuts, cuts in their terms and conditions of
service, shorter working week, and, at best, pay freezes. So the staff that remain do more,
work harder and get less pay. Managers have spent a lot of time going through
reorganisations, cutting out any waste and becoming very focussed on service delivery.
This needs to be seen against a background of an increase in demand for services.
Clearly the situation is becoming even more unsustainable. A charity that focussed on
community empowerment and community development to improve health will close this
year. Several organisations believe this will be their ‘make or break‘ year. Mergers are
not a reality for some organisations as there are minimal savings or advantages. There is
less capacity for partnership working and exploring new arrangements as management
capacity focuses on service delivery. There is less capacity for campaigning and some
organisations are increasingly nervous about being critical in case they are regarded as
However the power, voice and independence promoted by voluntary and community
action are even more important than ever. Citizens, vulnerable people and children rely on
voluntary and community organisations to improve their lives, tackle the inequalities, give
them voice and just help them through their everyday lives.
The impending impacts of the welfare reforms, potential changes to our NHS and
further local government cuts means the voluntary and community sector needs to
be stronger than ever – be willing to be flexible, responsive and change for the
better. After all it’s what we have been doing in Newcastle for the past 150 years.
In these difficult financial times, Newcastle CVS recognises that asking for more funding
could be seen as being unrealistic. But the work done by local organisations is often
preventive and stops people from using more expensive services in the long term. We ask
for more appropriate and considered use of funding in the following four recommendations.
1. Newcastle City Council has declared itself to be a Co-operative Council. We
recommend the City Council formally explores the opportunities for working with the
voluntary sector to explore co-production, supported commissioning, consortia and
partnership working. The City Council should include social clauses in all
commissioning and procurement requirements
2. Newcastle City Council and Newcastle PCT (and future Clinical Commissioning
Groups) should review some of their procurement arrangements and consider more
grant aid and commissioning of services jointly. This would reduce some of the
unnecessary contractual costs, dual monitoring costs and the unintended
consequences of some decommissioning, commissioning and budget reduction
3. The general public in Newcastle should consider how they can support voluntary and
community action. This could involve volunteering, becoming involved as a
management committee member or trustee, or donating skills, goods or money.
4. There should be no disproportionate cuts to the sector and there could be a top up of
the heavily oversubscribed Newcastle Fund, when the mid-year budget position is
We interviewed a number of organisations to better understand the impact of cuts
on how they and their beneficiaries were coping. Here are their stories.
Newcastle Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB)
The organisation works across the city of Newcastle, but also manages a small project
across the north of the Wear.
Newcastle CAB offers free confidential advice to anyone who lives or works in Newcastle.
The advice can cover any problem, but it tends to be about debt and welfare benefits,
followed by housing, relationships, victims of crime, domestic violence, consumer issues,
and neighbour disputes. It offer advice about employment issues, and this area of work is
getting busier as there is very little legal aid available including representation at
Employment Tribunals. This will disappear altogether soon under recent Government
The CAB notes there is a perception that legal aid has already disappeared so people are
frightened to go to a solicitor because of potential costs. The CAB is non-threatening and
often the first point of call for many people who need help.
The service is not just for the poor, but for everyone across the city. The CAB targets the
hardest hit, but it does get middle class clients and makes no distinction whatsoever
between clients or their problems.
The impact of the recession on the organisation is that the CAB has to do more work with
fewer resources; all commissioners and funders expect more for their money. The CAB
has to be careful about over-stretching. There are more volunteers because of the
increase in Worklessness. A greater number of younger people are volunteering. There
have always been law graduates who come for the experience until they get a job and this
is increasing. It is important to make the most of the graduates whilst they are there; so
that they don’t forget the clients in whatever they do in the future. There are three
volunteers for every staff member and managing volunteers is very different to managing
The recession means that clients are desperate for help; they are more confused than they
have ever been. All the government services are automated now and clients often can’t
get through on helplines. A number of organisations, e.g. Job Centre Plus, are more
impersonal and do fewer face to face interviews (as this is more expensive). But most of
the CAB clients don’t have email and can’t afford to phone and wait a long time to be put
through to the right person. The system has become very complicated and hard to use
which deters people from using it. Increasingly, clients want to talk to someone in person.
For some people, telephone advice is fine to use, but inevitably the CAB see people who
can’t use telephone and computer systems.
The CAB is expecting an influx of people aged under 35 in financial difficulties because of
the recent changes to Housing Benefit and other welfare support.
There are a large number of people who have been refused Incapacity Benefit and want to
appeal. A lot of resources are used in helping people prepare an appeal case for Tribunal.
This means there is a greater overall cost to the state. Shona Alexander suspects that
some of changes proposed to the Legal Aid Bill are being challenged by the Law Lords
as they can see the potential for their Court Services being blocked up with appeals. In the
future, support and representation on welfare benefits appeals won’t be covered by legal
aid and this will have implications on human rights. Inevitably this will also impact on
client’s mental health, and is likely to put more pressure on NHS services.
There is evidence of an increase of a number of people with mental health needs who are
coming to use CAB services. There is a lot of evidence to prove that debt seriously
impacts on people’s mental health, and most CAB debt clients say that their health has
suffered as a consequence of their money worries.
The average client debt at the CAB is £14,000, and in 2010 - 11 Newcastle CAB dealt with
£16.5 million of debts on their behalf. The CAB’s welfare benefits advisors gained
£709,365.89 in extra income for clients
The increase in people coming to the CAB means sometimes people have to be turned
away. This happens particularly on a Monday morning when people have been worrying
about a problem over the weekend. The queues are sometimes very long despite efforts
to speed up initial client assessments at “Gateway” interviews.
One of the new projects, Cowgate CAB at Home, has already paid for itself three times
over. This provides the full range of CAB advice, not just debt and benefits. It involves
home visits to clients or pre-arranged interviews at the Cowgate Centre as many people
won’t come into the City Centre for advice. The service is most effectively publicised by
word of mouth, rather than leaflets. Residents in the Cowgate area are inundated with
junk mail, especially from loan companies. A lot of the problems that are experienced by
the residents are interconnected which is why the CAB service is so popular as a “one
stop shop” for advice. Since July last year, the project has helped clients to gain an
additional £109,242.23 in extra income - unclaimed welfare benefits and tax credits for
which they were eligible. It has also dealt with a staggering £300,997.39 in debts on
behalf of clients, all in that one neighbourhood in just six months.
It is impossible to think what would happen if the CAB had to close. The cost to the public
purse would shoot up dramatically as the CAB does lots of prevention work. There would
be increases in domestic violence, children going into care, more demands on GPs and
other NHS services, money and debt problems, and homelessness. It is hard to measure
prevention work. There would be very few other places for people to go if CAB support
finished. The CAB stands for a lot, it has a high recognition rate, it is trusted by clients, it
is well respected by other agencies and it works well with other public sector services
particularly Newcastle City Council, Northumbria Police, and NHS Trusts to improve life for
Shona Alexander, Chief Executive, said:
“The CAB is a survivor, but we don’t rest on our laurels. We need to diversify our income.
This recession is not going to be short term and we are not going to get back to what we
had. We were set up in the Second World War so we have never had an easy run. The
private sector is not as good at doing what we do. We are very cost effective, but above all
we are very local. We know our communities, and we help people to pay back to others
by becoming CAB volunteers. We work with whole communities, not just individuals.”
St Cuthbert Chambers, 35 Nelson Street, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 5AN
Tyneside Women’s Health
Tyneside Women’s Health’s defined area of benefit is the four boroughs of Tyneside
(Newcastle, Gateshead, North Tyneside, and South Tyneside). The organisation operates
centres in Newcastle and Gateshead.
Tyneside Women’s Health (TWH) exists to improve women’s mental health and emotional
wellbeing and to that end provides:
• Drop in support
• Mental health courses; e.g. Coping with Depression, Managing Anxiety
• Therapeutic activities e.g. yoga, singing, craft
• Targeted support & groups; e.g. for older women, women affected by domestic
abuse, women from black and minority ethnic communities, and lesbian and bisexual
• Opportunities for service user development and participation
The organisation works with:
• Women with common mental health problems such as anxiety and depression
• Women who are vulnerable due to a range of issues, such as isolation, domestic
abuse and the inequalities in relation to race or sexual orientation.
• Women with severe and enduring mental health issues
Feedback from TWH is that economic challenges on communities and women in particular
appear to have contributed to an increase demand for services. There are ever increasing
numbers of women approaching it for support as well an increased range of complex
needs. 453 service users engaged with TWH in the 2010 / 2011 financial which
represents a huge 25% increase on the previous year. Year on year the figures have
increased and although the 11/12 year is not concluded yet, it appears that the increase
will continue. In addition to the increased numbers of service users higher numbers of
service users are reporting that their mental health issues are exacerbated by debt,
financial pressures and worries about changes in the welfare system. 17% of first time
service users in 10 / 11 reported debt and financial pressure as a concern. While figures
are not recorded, anecdotally, service users with long term mental health conditions are
more frequently reporting that the stress of changes in the welfare system is having an
adverse impact on their mental health.
Due to increased demand and increased complexity of need, the staff members’
workloads increased. This is because TWH has to continually seek ways of ensuring that
the quality of service users’ experience does not suffer because of the increased numbers.
To do this changes to processes with the aim of preventing bottlenecks, are required more
often, which adds to the workload of staff. Luckily the commitment and dedication of TWH
staff is in huge supply.
The impact of national economic problems on the organisation has been mixed. As
mentioned, levels of need have drastically increased which staff link to the economic
downturn. However, TWH was fortunate in 2010 to secure grants from two new funders
which took effect in 2011. The result is that the financial situation of the organisation
improved compared to previous difficult years. This is at the same time when many other
organisations have experienced a drop in funds. One main difference reported by TWH is
that the cut in public sector funding has prompted a definite increase in the levels of
scrutiny from public sector funders, such as local authorities and Primary Care Trusts. The
organisation’s management report that such involvement by public sector funders is
welcome yet also note that the scrutiny places demands on so called “back office” staff.
This is at the very time when some public sector funders are suggesting that organisations
seek ways of reducing “back office” support. TWH is clear about its wish to have close,
on-going contact with public sector funders as a matter of course, rather than it being
prompted by the need to achieve cuts in spending.
TWH has been notified of a proposed cut for the new financial year from one public sector
funder and is currently trying to work out how to minimise the impact of this cut ie to
ensure if at all possible that a reduction in staff hours does not follow. It will cut
expenditure in every other area possible in an effort to retain current staffing levels and are
well seasoned at such activity, particularly due to the tough years prior to 2011 as
There is a balancing act in terms of how organisations like TWH undertake service user
consultation in financially challenging times. TWH reports that every time staff and
trustees undertake service user consultation sessions, they are required to reassure
service users that no plans are afoot to close TWH services. This is because service
users invariably report that the biggest worry for them in the run up to consultation is that
services will be cut. This is important to bear in mind, not just for mental health service
users, but for any services that support vulnerable people.
TWH asks service users what they think would happen if they had not made use of its
services and this quote represents the type of feedback received.
“I would still be in the revolving door with my mental and physical health in decline.”
If such support didn’t exist from TWH, then the needs of the women would most likely
require more expensive interventions “upstream” – which arguably may not have the same
benefits. Women report that they value the fact that TWH offers a female only
environment and one which promotes peer support and encouragement. The loss of this
would increase the isolation and vulnerability of the women concerned and add to their
Kate Mukungu, Chief Executive Officer said:
“I would encourage Local Authorities and incoming Clinical Commissioning Groups to
really engage with and get to know their local voluntary and community sector. We will
solve more problems together than apart. As well as offering good value, voluntary and
community sector organisations remain true to their mission and values through good
times and bad times. Our particular strength is the way in which we engage effectively
with communities and vulnerable people so public sector funders should feel confident
about making the best use of us that they can. That’s what we are here for.”
Tyneside Women’s Health
Swinburne House, Swinburne Street, Gateshead,NE8 1AX
Newcastle Law Centre
Newcastle Law Centre supports clients across the North East of England. It provides legal
advice and representation in court and at tribunals, for vulnerable people and people on
low incomes, in its specialist areas of law. It also provides second tier support and training
for other voluntary organisations and community groups. It also has a role in policy work
as a campaigning organisation to challenge the root causes of poverty.
The Law Centre works with individual clients, local voluntary and community organisations
and public bodies. The people it works for, the clients are often vulnerable people on low
incomes and cannot afford to pay for the legal advice they need. Although a local
organisation, it has also national connections as it is a member of the national Law
Newcastle Law Centre has lost almost half of its funding over two years and this has
inevitably meant it has had to make as many savings as possible through internal savings
and reducing the staffing.
In 2010, the Law Centre lost its contract, which represented significant part of its income,
to deliver advice on housing and welfare benefits from the Legal Services Commission.
The payments for the work conducted under the remaining legal aid contracts are only
received when the cases are closed which mean that sometimes, there may be significant
delay for getting paid for the work that has been done and the monies that have been paid.
In addition, in October 2011, the Legal Services Commission implemented a 10% cut in all
civil legal aid fees, which is a further significant cut in all legal aid income the Law Centre
Some projects have ended without being replaced. This year its long term funding from
the Equalities and Human Rights Commission, which funds direct casework relating to any
discrimination matters, comes to an end and currently there is no funding to continue this
important work in the future.
It also previously received long-term core funding from Newcastle City Council, but the
switch to the Newcastle Fund grant has resulted in a loss of £30,000 a year (from £95,000
Taken together, all these funding cuts are very significant. The core costs of the Law
Centre have been reduced to the minimum, so there is no unnecessary funding being
spent internally. The point has been reached where core costs cannot be cut further, and
therefore any additional cuts will have to be from service provision and staffing.
At the same time, there has been a notable increase in the number of clients contacting
the centre. Many people who contact the centre are desperate and have already tried to
find someone to help them for a considerable time without success as they are unable to
afford to pay for the advice they need. Although the centre tries to assist as many people
as possible due to the recent funding cuts, unless the person seeking advice qualifies for
one of the current funding streams, they cannot be helped as there are no extra resources
to cover the costs for providing advice. Some people get frustrated and find this difficult to
understand as the Law Centre is a charity and therefore should be in a position to help
The Law Centre’s philosophy is that everyone is entitled to justice and equal treatment. It
is important to quantify the need on the ground and inform the decision makers about what
is happening and put forward proposals as to how the existing needs and gaps in services
can be addressed appropriately.
Collective campaigning can make a real difference. This is demonstrated in the current
campaign against the proposed legal aid cuts; where as a result of intensive campaigning,
some changes have already been made to the initial proposals and it is hoped that more
will come shortly. Every voice makes a difference and it is a duty of the Law Centre to give
voice to those who sometimes feel that they are voiceless. Therefore the Law Centre has
supplied specific examples, information and case studies that have been used in the
relevant debates and media. There has also been strong support from for example (local)
Lords Beecham and Shipley, and there has been cross-party support against the Bill with
the Newcastle City Council recently passing a resolution against the proposed legal aid
One of the problems that comes with reduced funding is the available time to engage in
policy and strategic work as this is affected by increasing day to day operational work and
time that is needed to draft and submit funding bids.
Having access to free specialist legal advice saves a lot of time, resources, stress and
hardship. Many studies show that providing people with early advice also saves significant
amounts of money. Most legal practitioners agree that there are certain areas in which the
legal aid expenditure could be reduced but the current proposals are simply a step too far
as the government seems to have adopted an ‘all or nothing’ approach. This means that if
the area of law remains in scope, then people will get advice and representation in court
and if it does not, they will not get anything, not even the most complex advice for appeals.
There will be a direct impact on other services if this advice work is not funded. Loss of
access to legal aid will impact on people’s health, their mental health, and lead to an
increase in homelessness and an increase in debt. These short term savings will have a
long term impact. Without such advice, for example, there would be more people taking
forward cases that have no real merits; people not enforcing their legal rights as they do
not know about their rights; people submitting important applications without
understanding what they really need to do and more people representing themselves in
court without fully understanding the procedure and using significant amounts of court
time. Further, the proposed Universal Credit system will introduce a completely different
welfare system and inevitably such a major change will result in some issues that need
resolving. This is not a good time to do all of these major changes together and take away
the safety net people have in having access to free legal advice.
It is not easy at the Law Centre at the moment. However, there is a strong belief that
drives the organisation forward and that is the pride of the services provided and the real
difference that the service makes to people’s lives. It is the knowledge that if the services
came to an end, some people who could not afford to pay for the legal advice they need
would not have access to justice. The notion that there would be only justice for the rich
not for the poor is completely unacceptable for everyone involved with the organisation, as
this would go against all the fundamental principles of democracy and fairness.
Mia Sevonius, Manager of the Newcastle Law Centre said:
“Free legal advice for those who cannot afford to pay for it privately is essential to ensure
that all people are equal and have access to justice”.
Newcastle Law Centre
1st Floor, 1 Charlotte Square, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 4XF
Skills for People
Skills for People deliver services across the north east of England. It also does some
national work to promote exemplary activity and best practice e.g. the Quality Checkers
work. Around 65% of the work of the service delivery takes place in Newcastle.
Skills for People is an organisation that works with disabled people. It is a charity that is
led by and is influenced by disabled people, the vast majority of whom have learning
disabilities; some with high support needs. It promotes the rights and self-advocacy of
disabled people, supporting them to have control over their lives, to be included in their
communities, and to be treated fairly. They work with people who are isolated to help
them live more active and integrated lives.
Skills for People works with both children and adults. People can refer themselves, or they
might be referred by professionals. Many people come because they have heard about
the support on offer from others.
The work done is of three types. Firstly the organisation offers a range of services to
make sure people with learning disabilities get the support they need to live their lives.
This involves the provision of advice, information, advocacy and training for people with
learning disabilities and their families. This includes helping them to make the most of
personal budgets, and the support available from their families and communities.
Advocacy, including Independent Mental Capacity Advocacy is provided to protect and
promote the rights of individuals. Skills for People also run courses led and designed by
people with learning disabilities relevant to their needs e.g. on relationships, friendships,
sexuality, loss and feelings, self-directed support and leadership.
The second key area of work is support to organisations that support disabled people; this
involves training and consultancy. Skills for People also supports people to shape the
services which affects their lives through checking the quality of the services provided..
Currently this Quality Checkers programme is extending into health, looking at how
effectively GPs respond to people with learning disabilities.
The third area of work is support for people to speak out and to have a voice. This can be
as an individual, as well as collectively in a group. Groups of disabled people deliver
awareness raising, e.g. in local schools through the ‘Changing our Future’ project.
Skills for People believes in the social model of disability – that is that the biggest problem
for many disabled people are the barriers that are imposed by the actions, reactions and
assumptions of others that can limit their lives. Historically many people received
segregated services and are still often socially isolated. Few people with learning
disabilities have jobs, they are more at risk of hate crime, they experience greater
inequalities in health, and they suffer more ill-health.. People with learning disabilities
have the same aspirations as everyone; most people want control over their lives, a home,
meaningful occupation and happy relationships.
The impact of the recession on Skills for People as an organisation means the last few
years have been a struggle. For the first time (in nearly thirty years), staff have been made
redundant. The position of the organisation is reviewed every December/January and
reserves will be used next year to keep the organisation going. The key issues are
uncertainty and insecurity. Time has been devoted to restructuring the organisation,
because of the uncertainty, and this distracts from the work that needs to be done.
The funding streams have changed dramatically so even when there is the same amount
of money coming in, it is now from different sources and for different activities. Historically
grant aid gave some capacity for involvement in networking, partnership working and
policy work; there is no funding and much less capacity to do this now. The organisation
recognises the importance of these activities and continues to work in partnership and
network with local organisations, but it is a challenge.
The organisation believes it will face a more difficult time to come. Last year, they were
successful with the Newcastle Fund and also the (national) Transition Fund which gave
them a great start to reshaping the organisation, trying new ideas and making new links.
They also received DoH Social Enterprise Investment Fund grants that paid for major
refurbishment work in their Jesmond building, making it a really good community asset that
is being used more and more as a hub to provide opportunities and information for
disabled people which is especially needed in the current funding climate.
Four years ago, the business plan was about growth. The recession means the
organisation isn’t growing at the size and speed hoped for, so they are now focusing
diversifying funding sources and making the most of their skills and space.
Similar to other advocacy organisations, funding for non-statutory advocacy services is
much reduced. This means that the organisation can offer advocacy to fewer people, and
must prioritise more tightly. The fear is that advocacy will not be available to those in
need, or only available to those in crisis.
Skills for People have changed how they work in response to the development of
personalisation and financial pressures. They have created ‘Help and Connect’: a model
which links their services together in a more integrated approach; offering each individual
service user the support most appropriate to their need. It is based on the belief that
people with learning disabilities and their families can be active participants in their
communities; they have valuable knowledge and experience which means they can help
themselves and each other, given the right kind of support, at the time when they need it.
The organisation aims to build skills and confidence of disabled people and their families
and to provide them with support which will empower them. This might mean providing
information about personal budgets, support plans, or what is going on in the area. It
might mean joining a speaking up group like the group for mothers who have learning
disabilities, which allows them to build up their self-confidence and discuss the challenges
they face. Some will need advocacy to help them with decision making or to protect their
rights. This approach fits well with their values.
One of the problems is that commissioners are requesting more specific outcomes and it
isn’t clear how Skills for People will continue to obtain the resources needed to respond to
new types of support needed to help people lead better lives. Also there is less time for
the organisation to be involved in partnerships, at a time when there are more
opportunities for this. Liz Wright, the Chief Executive, is involved with the Newcastle
Learning Disabilities Partnership Board and the Newcastle Adult Safeguarding Board.
There is less capacity to support people with learning disabilities to be involved to have
their say. Time is needed for development, not just for delivery.
Contract writing is problematic because if a national organisation competes for a bid, they
are likely to have policy officers and bid writers, and Skills for People doesn’t have that
capacity. Last year they got support from the Social Investment Business to employ a
Business and Finance Manager to try to address this issue but the threat remains.
For people who use Skills for People’s resources and services, the biggest concerns are
uncertainty and change. It isn’t just the recession, but the moves towards personalisation,
the Council’s budget cuts and the uncertainty about the welfare reform changes mean
people are getting more nervous. More day services are closing, so there is greater
reliance on community support, but there are fears that this too may be diminishing. The
most common complaint is people coming in with nothing to do, they are bored. If
packages of care are reduced, this could mean more social isolation.
The percentage of people with learning disabilities in work is low. There were over 40
applicants for a self-advocate job. There were 175 applications for an administrator post.
There is more competition for jobs from highly qualified people. This will inevitably further
disadvantage people with learning disabilities who would be able to work.
The majority of changes to benefits will happen in April, and there is a lot of fear and worry
around. People are worried about the Work Capability Assessment, which assesses
people’s level of support needs. A number of factors which mean people with learning
disabilities need support are hard to measure. As people often have communication
problems and different levels of understanding, it can be hard to have a true assessment.
Given the number of people who are turned down, yet successful on appeal, there are
concerns about the appropriateness of the test and whether people understand their rights
and right to appeal and the need for advocacy.
In 2010/11 91% of Skills for Peoples income for service delivery was from statutory
contracts including Local Authorities and NHS Trusts. In 2011/12 income for service
delivery remained at similar levels but only 63% came from statutory contracts, the rest is
from grant giving Trusts and Foundations. This is not a sustainable source of funding.
If the services of Skills for People were cut or stopped, there would be more social
isolation, people would be facing more crises, there would be less empowerment and
people would be less able to speak up, and more people would be left vulnerable. A
number of people have been involved for some time, as Skills for People is easy to
access; people know where the building is, they have pride in the place, they feel a sense
of belonging. Skills for People employs thirteen people with learning disabilities and offers
a number of voluntary opportunities.
In terms of personalisation, it is important that people help each other and work to
coproduce services, and have appropriate help and support. If not, there would be a poor
use of limited resources and an increase in vulnerability. Networks would dissolve.
Liz Wright, Chief Executive said:
“We are concerned about the challenges which disabled people are facing, in this time of
such change, welfare reform and economic uncertainty. For Skills for People, it means we
must be flexible, develop to address need, and work with our partners, and colleagues to
make the best use of limited resources. Although we have been lucky to receive funding
to support our development, we face really tough challenges in the years to come – which
will make it more difficult to spend the time we would like on development, networking, and
involvement in local strategic bodies.”
Skills for People
Key House, Tankerville Place, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE2 3AT
Streetwise covers Newcastle, Gateshead, North Tyneside and South Tyneside and
Sunderland, and a few people from Northumberland use the services. It isn’t constituted
by geographical area, but it is based in Newcastle city centre.
Streetwise is a young people’s organisation. It has a particular focus on sexual health and
mental health. It offers counselling, therapeutic group work, counselling in schools, sexual
health drop-in sessions which include the C-card induction, condom repeats, pregnancy
testing and referrals, chlamydia testing, LARC (longer acting reversible contraception), and
general information, advice and guidance.
It works with young people aged 11 to 25 years. There are slightly higher numbers of
young people who use Streetwise who come from more deprived areas. There has been
increase in use by young people from more middle class areas. There are around 8,000
contacts with 5,500 young people a year. Streetwise delivers a significant number of the
C-card inductions across the city.
The recession means there has generally been less funding for the organisation.
Commissioners want to focus more on impact and this seems to be used as a reason to
get rid of services. Commissioners aren’t always being honest and rather than admitting
there is insufficient money, they are raising spurious ‘impact issues’, as an excuse for
reducing funding. At the same time there is a shift in the public’s perception of charity, and
many don’t understand the concept of voluntary organisations as opposed to volunteer-run
Management has had to work very hard to keep morale up. Sometimes the service is
portrayed as ‘icing on the cake’ rather than being genuinely needed. Staff are more
unsettled and see the reality of other organisations shutting their doors. At the same time
staff are working harder and longer for Streetwise because of the increases in the
numbers of young people coming. Staff are constantly looking at ways of reducing the
waiting list and more difficult decisions will have to be made.
There are mixed messages from the Government about voluntary organisations and it is
hard to keep morale up when there are no easy answers.
The recession is having an impact on the young people going to Streetwise – there is an
increase in stress levels, they are worried about getting a job. It isn’t appropriate for
Streetwise to refer young people to agencies who can’t realistically help them. There is a
lack of hope and this is dangerous as it isn’t clear how this will end.
However, the young people who do come into Streetwise are better informed especially
about sexual health because of the work done in schools. There are concerns that this will
go over the next few years and there will be more young people who don’t have basic
There has been an increase in the numbers of young people needing counselling over the
last few months.
Housing need is increasing and there is little that Streetwise can do as it is not specialised
enough. It refers young people to other support organisations, but several have already
been told by the Newcastle Housing Advice Centre where to get blankets from if they over
eighteen. There is not enough housing.
The Streetwise income for 2010-11 was £503,000, this year it will be £387,000. This is a
23% drop in income.
If Streetwise didn’t exist then young people would have to go to their local NHS facilities
(which are not necessarily geared to work with young people). Some will not go anywhere
and will be more likely to have unprotected sex and get pregnant and are more at risk from
sexually transmitted infections
Some young people would not get counselling choices as most NHS therapies are CBT-
based (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) which doesn’t work for everyone and is limited to
Streetwise currently gets referrals from 27 GP practices because they know they are there,
they offer a relatively quick service and young people like to use it because it is not in a
clinical setting. Voluntary sector workers often work very differently to NHS workers.
35-37 Groat Market, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 1UQ
Newcastle upon Tyne
Telephone: 0191 232 7445
Fax: 0191 230 5640
Newcastle Council for Voluntary Service is a registered charity (number 11258777) and
company limited by guarantee (number 6681475)