Groundbreaking research by UNISON in the community and voluntary sector graphically demonstrates the impact that Austerity has had on not-for-profit services and on the workers who provide them. Services to the most vulnerable people in society as “hanging by a thread. The UNISON survey of almost 3,000 workers from across the UK, uncovers dangerously underfunded services leading to hardship and exposing children and the disabled to risk.
UNISON is calling on the Government to have a major rethink in its attitude to the third sector. Its sink or swim philosophy is leading to a struggle for survival. Almost unnoticed by the public, many charities have become increasingly financially dependent on winning contracts from the public sector. As austerity has bitten, funding for these contracts has been squeezed to breaking point.
Staff morale has dipped, and low pay is endemic, leading to rising levels of personal debt and long-term financial hardship for many in the sector.
The union is warning that whilst charities are reputable and trusted by the public, they do not have a magic wand, so cuts are putting vulnerable people at risk.
Dave Prentis, General Secretary of UNISON, said:
“This survey must ring alarm bells in Whitehall. The Government should give charities the means to do what they do best and that is to improve lives and care for people. The whole sector is reaching breaking point and Ministers need to wake up to the damage and misery that their austerity drive is creating.
“The voluntary sector attracts many thousands of dedicated, hardworking staff, who know that they won’t be paid big bonus salaries but who have a right to expect a fair deal for their clients and themselves. Instead many workers are bearing the brunt of the austerity drive, through damaging cuts to their pay and conditions.
“Charities increasingly rely on winning public sector contracts just to survive. Private companies use them as ‘bid candy’ in an effort to improve their chances of winning more public sector business. The whole contracting-out process means that accountability for public services is increasingly at arm’s-length, and this has led to public fears and damaging reports over the quality of services to children and the disabled.”
The full survey is at: http://www.unison.org.uk/at-work/community/
A “Guardian” article based on the survey is at: http://www.theguardian.com/society/2013/nov/06/budget-cuts-hit-community-services
Key survey results:
Housing Association sector
} 73% say more tenants falling behind with rent
◦ 35% said the top reason was the bedroom tax.
◦ Also complex benefit changes, personal finances
} 58% have more debt management staff
} 37% report less non-statutory services
} 43% see more anti-social behaviour
} 72% are concerned that children may be slipping through the safety net
} 15% not enough time to monitor children and follow up concerns of neglect or abuse
} 36% not have enough time to prepare risk assessments and support plans
} 52% fewer outside activities (such as visits)
Disabled peoples’ services
} 67% say clients left at risk because care package reduced
} 46% more clients moved into “the community” without proper support
} 59% service users becoming more socially isolated, 67% concerned this results in self-harm and depression
} 57% concerned about high staff turnover
Rights and advocacy
} 80% say harder to get representation and advocacy, as well as basic advice
} 77% clients have to phone up or go online more rather than face-to-face
} 77% identified specific groups losing out –disabled, elderly, BAME people
} 21% had their pay cut in last year
} 24% don’t get the living wage
} 18% in over £10,000 of personal debt
} 24% have more than one job
} 5% have four or more jobs
} 9% are on a zero hours contract
} 55% work more than their contracted hours
} 24% work longer than a year ago –average 3½ hours more per week
} 78% worked while unwell (since austerity)
} 74% stressed because of work
} 17% need job training in key areas
} 40% say current morale poor or very poor.
} 46% experienced violence / aggression at work since 2010
◦ 20% from colleagues (mostly managers)
} 23% not feel confident telling senior managers about problems with service.
} 29% intend to leave current job next year