At meetings where people from statutory organisations are extolling the virtues and importance of the VCSE sector, I quite often feel like saying “SHOW ME THE MONEY” over and over again, just like Cuba Gooding Junior says at an increasing volume to a confused Tom Cruise in the film Jerry Maguire. He doesn’t want warm words - he wants cold cash. I can’t remember what happens after that but it all ends happily when he realises that the most important thing is love - “you had me at hello”. I love a happy ending.
I talk to people from lots of voluntary sector organisations and my impression is that things are getting even more critical. There is just not enough money to go around and there is huge competition, increasing demand, underfunded contracts, siphoning of money to very large VCSE organisations and increasing numbers of VCSE organisations trying to fill the gaps left by cuts in statutory services. Even outstandingly good VCSE organisations who tick all the right boxes and used to be able to count on a high level of success in securing grant funding are struggling. Many organisations are trying to find alternative sources of funding through private donations but we all know how difficult it is to develop it to a large scale. There are only so many high value donors to go round.
There is a pretty general understanding in the health and care sector that VCSE organisations are critical to the health and wellbeing of communities, and they do things that statutory organisations just aren’t good at. If people are lonely or isolated or are in debt or have nothing meaningful to do then it is the VCSE that is best placed to help. This is the key reason for the development of social prescribing services that support people to link in with local organisations.
What social prescribing is finding, of course, is that in some places there are big gaps in available support and in other places the support quickly becomes full. They are also getting the message loud and clear from the organisations that they are referring people to, that they need more of the pie. If they are essential to someone’s health and wellbeing then where’s the funding to go alongside that?
The bottom line is that the statutory sector needs to dig deep and come up with more money. Clinical services are hugely expensive and there will never be enough money to fix all the problems that people have, and we all know prevention is better than cure. Money spent on the VCSE sector is more cost effective and more equitable, as it will be focused on those with most need as those are the people who the sector works with.
In terms of overall health and social care budgets, we are talking peanuts. Manchester largest NHS Trust is a £800 million pound business. An extra £10-20 million spent in Manchester on VCSE organisations could make an enormous difference. It wouldn’t fund every VCSE organisation that wants money but it could ensure that there are some basic core VCSE support right across the city, from Higher Blackley all the way south to Woodhouse Park.
Relationships depend on love but sometimes you need to sort out the money.
A kiss may be grand but it won't pay the rental
On your humble flat, or help you at the automat
But square cut or pear shaped
These rocks don't lose their shape
Diamonds are a girl's (the VCSE’s) best friend
(ruined lyrics from Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend)