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Funding Services for Children & Young People

Voluntary Sector Funding - A Consultation Paper

Unison Scotland's response to the Scottish Executive's Consultation on the Merging of Voluntary Sector Funding Streams for Children and Young People's Services

June 2003

Executive Summary

  • UNISON Scotland agrees that there needs to be a more coherent funding strategy for voluntary organisations.

  • We fully recognise that a greater degree of funding is needed in this sector, although the amount proposed by the Scottish Executive is not enough to make a significant difference.

  • We support the proposal to join up the national funding streams in the sector in order to create better integrated services for children and young people.

  • We believe that a more coherent and strategic plan will make it easier for employers to set up proper pay, conditions and training for UNISON Scotland members working in the voluntary sector.


UNISON is Scotland's largest trade union representing over 145,000 members working in the public sector. Our members are employed in local government, the health service, care services, water authorities, and in the voluntary sector. We welcome the opportunity to respond to the Scottish Executive's consultation document on the Merging of Voluntary Sector Funding Streams for Children and Young People's Services. We agree with the proposal to rationalise funding for voluntary organisations providing services to children and their families. This should lead to more efficient management of services for children and young people. However, as a trade union representing many members in the voluntary sector, UNISON Scotland is concerned that rationalisation could lead to job losses in the sector. We believe that the new strategic plan should include encouraging employers to offer staff secure jobs, better pay and conditions, health and safety protection and training.

This paper constitutes UNISON Scotland's response to the consultation document issued by the Scottish Executive on Funding Services for Children and Young People in the Voluntary Sector.


Services for Children and Young People

UNISON Scotland agrees with the Scottish Executive's proposal to create greater coherence in its funding for voluntary sector organisations. We welcome the Executive's proposal to provide funding for the wide range of voluntary sector organisations listed in the Consultation Paper. A more strategic approach to funding should be beneficial to the client groups and staff working in the voluntary organisations. Longer term funding means that employers can plan their finances over a longer term. UNISON Scotland calls for a review of terms and conditions for staff working in the voluntary sector. Many of our members working in the voluntary sector are still not receiving proper pay and conditions. The voluntary sector's contributions to public services is duly acknowledged in the Consultation Paper:

"The ability to attract additional resources and the added value this provides.

The commitment made by volunteers which can add significant value and increase human capital."

There is a difference however, between the utilisation of the voluntary sector, and the abuse of the voluntary sector. The use of the voluntary sector should not be in substitution of public services. Nor should changes in voluntary sector funding be an excuse for avoiding workforce pay and conditions. UNISON Scotland believes that workforce issues must be addressed if the Executive wants to achieve its aims of a successful and coherent scheme. We note with some disappointment that workforce issues have been omitted from the Consultation Paper.

Recruitment and Pay in the Voluntary Sector

Charities are having difficulties recruiting and retaining staff. Crippling skills shortages, low pay and heightened competition from the public sector are presenting serious challenges for the sector. Staff turnover in the voluntary sector has continued to rise. The Voluntary Sector Survey shows that staff turnover has increased from 8.5 to 10.7 per cent despite wage increases being above the rate of inflation. (1) There are widespread complaints of recruitment problems, with 50 per cent of the organisations experiencing difficulties recruiting new staff. (2) Pay is one of the biggest problems in the recruitment and retention of staff. Research finds that salaries lag behind other sectors by as much as 25 per cent. (2) Income alone is not the only challenge facing the sector. The equal pay gap is widening in the voluntary sector. Two recent studies show a significant pay gap between men and women working in the voluntary sector. (3) Other factors posing severe difficulties for voluntary organisations include, a tight labour market, the high cost of living and staff being more empowered to move elsewhere. UNISON Scotland strongly recommends that workforce issues be included in the Executive's review of funding for the Voluntary Sector.

Health and Safety

A Unison survey revealed that voluntary sector workers are stressed and underpaid, but so committed to their jobs, that just under a half regularly do hours of overtime for nothing. The survey shows the deep commitment of UNISON members to their work, but it does highlight a number of important concerns that need addressing. Low pay and the lack of training opportunities need to be tackled if the sector is to be recognised as professional, skilled and relevant. Key survey findings include:

  • 80% thought their workload and pressure had increased in last 12 months
  • 77% wanted job-related training
  • 57% thought they were underpaid for the job they do
  • 85% described themselves as open to change in the workplace
  • 42% had given serious consideration to leaving their current job
  • 67% said the main reason they stayed in their current job was their commitment to the work
  • 55% believed that clients' expectations had increased over the year.

These workforce issues must be given the consideration they deserve, as the Scottish Executive is relying on the voluntary sector more and more for their services.

Scope of the New Fund

UNISON Scotland acknowledges the need to merge national funding for voluntary services for children and young people. It is not clear however, what the changes in funding will mean to voluntary organisations not included in the funding proposal. While some voluntary organisations will benefit from the funding changes, we are concerned that others may lose out. As a trade union with members in many different voluntary sector organisations, we are particularly anxious about the possibility of job losses caused by any changes. We therefore cannot fully comment on the scope of the fund without further information on these implications.

Administration and Organisation of Assessment Process

UNISON Scotland supports the involvement of the voluntary sector in the assessment process. To that end they should be major players in discussions on service needs and priorities. However, for UNISON, the proposals do not quite go far enough, as we firmly believe that the community and voluntary sector should also be accountable to the local communities they serve. Effective voluntary sector engagement with the community planning process will be vital. >From April this year the Local Government in Scotland Act 2003 has provided a new framework for relations between local Councils and voluntary organisations. The Scottish Executive Health Minister Malcolm Chisholm launched the Health White Paper Partnership for Care on 27 February 2003. The greater involvement of the voluntary sector in the Partnership for Care raises issues of resources and capacity for UNISON members within the voluntary sector.


UNISON Scotland supports a more coherent and strategic programme for the voluntary sector. Too often voluntary organisations cannot plan from year to year because they do not know if and when funding will be available. This has repercussions on client groups and staff. Longer term funding should help alleviate these problems.

In The Review of the Scottish Executive's Policies to Promote the Social Economy (January 2003), the Scottish Executive made it clear that it proposes to support an expansion of the social economy as part of the wider agenda to improve service delivery and tackle deprivation. The Executive's plan is to encourage this sector so as to increase the range and supply of organisations able to effectively deliver public services.

UNISON Scotland supports and acknowledges the important role of the voluntary sector. We do not support however, any kind of abuse of voluntary sector workers, many of whom work for very little or as volunteers. In reviewing its funding the Executive should take workforce issues into consideration. As in any other sector there are issues that are relevant to staff working in the voluntary sector; such as health & safety, terms & conditions, pensions, annual leave, unfair dismissal, discrimination, maternity, pay, bullying and harassment and stress at work. There is a difference for both the employees and volunteers working for charities. Pay isn't the be-all and end-all. Staff in the charity sector are often working to "do good" or "change the world". Many highly intelligent people go into the sector, not for the money or prestige, but for the satisfaction of helping others. Most of the organisations in this field depend on this goodwill of the workers. Nevertheless, we believe that all workers should have access to membership of a trade union as a fundamental right. And a fair day's work is still a fair day's pay, no matter what the job entails. We fully support our members in the voluntary sector, and firmly oppose any abuse of their hard work. If the Executive is to rely on voluntary organisations more and more for services to the public, then they must ensure that workers in this sector receive the same standards of working conditions that their counterparts in other organisations are receiving.


  1. PersonnelToday 5 November 2002
  2. PersonnelToday 12 November 2002
  3. PersonnelToday 28 January 2003

For Further Information Please Contact:

Matt Smith, Scottish Secretary
14, West Campbell Street,
Glasgow G2 6RX

Tel 0141-332 0006 Fax 0141 342 2835

e-mail matt.smith@unison.co.uk

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