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UNISON publishes major report on funding and the recession in the voluntary sector


Serious problems in the UK's voluntary sector are laid bare in an independent report, released by UNISON today.

At a time when vulnerable Britons need charities more than ever, voluntary sector workers are reporting a huge range of problems, leading to sinking morale throughout the sector.

Findings show many workers are turning their backs on their careers to stack shelves in supermarkets, forced out by poor pay, increased stress and falling standards.

Massive cuts in funding are also affecting the public, as organisations fail to keep up with the demands of the public services they provide and struggle to compete with private sector contractors.

The report shows that the recession has seriously speeded up the problems, which stemmed from the Government's push for low-cost competition.

Findings include cost pressures affecting pay and conditions, with staff saying the charity sector is seen as a cut-price answer to larger economic problems. Due to the short-term nature of funding, insecurity is rife in the voluntary sector.

De-skilling has led to a rise in unqualified staff or volunteers, and staff are expected to face cuts while working increasingly long hours.

The huge focus on driving down cost is leading to burn out among workers, resulting in retention problems and extra expense for employers.

Dave Prentis, UNISON's General Secretary, said:

"The feedback from those working in the voluntary sector is shocking. The third sector should be properly funded and appreciated. It should not be a cut-price alternative.

"Workers are getting treated badly, with those normally willing to go that extra mile, being asked to go that extra marathon.

"Staff are facing job cuts, poor pay, unrealistic targets and increased stress. It's hardly surprising that it becomes too much for dedicated staff who can get a better deal working in a supermarket.

"And I find it extremely disturbing that some providers may go bust and some in home care are being 'wiped' out by private companies that undercut pay and conditions for staff.

"These services are needed now more than ever, to help vulnerable adults and children ride out the recession. But the Government doesn't translate that into proper funding or support for those hit severely by the recession. It's not too late for them to intervene to fund properly the sector.

"We want the Government to end the race to the bottom for public services provided by the third sector."

Example interviewee quotes:

Interviewee: "People leave to take an unstressed job in a supermarket. "There's a lot of stress on the senior staff as well who are having to bid for these contracts and they are just getting more and more insecure about their organisation. "They're spending more and more time scrambling for money, instead of running a service, and worrying about the next contract."

Interviewee: "It's entirely conceivable to me that we will get to that point in social care where you're actually paying people less than the minimum wage and expecting some health service users to tip. "It sounds crazy, but we're not that far away from it really."

Interviewee: "We've already seen in a couple of local authority areas, the voluntary sector completely wiped out of home care, as they just cannot compete due to their unit costs and staff costs. "They're still paying pensions and trying to do what they can for the workforce standards and they're being absolutely wiped out by private companies who don't pay pensions, who have zero hour contacts for staff."


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