The report by the think-tank Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) North claims that the government’s big society agenda is at risk of failure, because central and local government are too focused on commissioning large charities to run public services, rather than providing grants for small local organisations, such as youth clubs, that are the “bedrock” of civil society.
IPPR North analysed a sample of 28,000 organisations with incomes of less than £60,000, and found that only 10 per cent were located in the most deprived neighbourhoods. But those in the most deprived areas where twice as likely to be receiving statutory funding and, therefore, were most vulnerable to cuts.
“We know that small community groups play a vital role in supporting the social and economic health of poor neighbourhoods – they’re the youth clubs giving young people places to go and support groups for people going through a difficult time in their lives,” said Ed Cox, director of IPPR North.
“Yet it is these organisations that are being hit hardest in the areas that desperately need their support. Where richer communities are better able to rely on volunteers and local philanthropy to see them through this lean period, the so-called big society finds it harder to survive in the communities that need it most.
“This survey is just the tip of the iceberg as there could be as many as half a million small organisations not captured in the statistics.”
The report meanwhile suggests that the Big Society Capital funding initiative, which provides organisations with funding from dormant bank accounts, is poorly tailored to the needs of small charities, arguing that such cash should be reserved for small community groups.
Faiza Khan, deputy chief executive of the National Council for Voluntary Youth Services (NCVYS), said the report chimes with her organisation’s own findings.
“NCVYS’s Comprehensive Cuts series of reports pointed to dwindling resources over 2010 and 2011 in the youth sector as a whole – unfortunately we have seen finances continue to be squeezed,” said Khan. “We know that smaller charities struggle to access resources.”
Khan said small community groups were struggling to find specialist support that could help them attract funding, in areas including networking, communications, evaluating outcomes and “simply having the time to put bids together while running frontline services on a shoestring.”
“NCVYS is keen to encourage more collaboration between larger and smaller charities, where charities pool their resources, enrich their offer and deliver more to young people,” said Khan.