Maintaining our voluntary sector spending

For the fourth year in a row, we’ll maintain our spending on voluntary sector organisations.

A few weeks back I used this column to announce that, thanks to the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement, the Council’s financial prospects were somewhat less bleak than we had feared.

Subject to final decisions by Government, the order of savings required from us each year will fall by about a third.  Sadly that still leaves us with about £8 million or so a year to find, which won’t be easy.  But the point is that while things aren’t exactly looking up money-wise, neither are they any longer plummeting.  Instead we may have moved to a more manageable decline in our financial position.

That is the financial context in which we have decided that, for a fourth year, the voluntary sector will be protected from cuts.  So come the new financial year, a wide range of local organisations will continue to receive a share of some £2.3 million.

But every choice involves a sacrifice, so they say, which is why I thought I should spend a little time explaining why for us the voluntary sector remains a priority.  And one of the best ways of doing so is to give an example of the kind of organisation that gets our money.

Migrants Organise, formerly the Migrant and Refugee Forum, will receive £56,400 in 2016-17.  For that smallish investment, we believe we get a good return.  Some examples:

Al-Hasaniya Moroccan Women’s Project is an organisation that works with the Moroccan community around North Kensington.  It provides support, activities and interventions, particularly for women and younger people.  But especially in its early days, it needed help to get up and running and the Forum, as it then was, was there to provide it.  It helped Al-Hasaniya find its way around the Council, introduced it to the key police officers in the area, connected it to other local institutions and helped it with funding bids.

The Nepalese community in the UK is fragmented and isolated, with few well developed community organisations; which is why Migrants Organise has been helping residents of Nepalese heritage to develop their own organisation.   There has been a programme of support, training and practical assistance and a community leader was also enrolled on its community leadership academy.

And it is Migrants Organise who has been helping manage the large number of volunteers offering to lend a hand with the refugee crisis.  In one month alone it supported 35 new volunteers, mostly from the borough.  It connected them with migrant and refugee community organisations in the local area who could use extra pairs of hands as mentors, befrienders, caseworkers and campaigners.

But it does a lot more besides.  Kensington and Chelsea is a remarkably diverse place.  Some communities are confident and assertive.  Some are not.  We want people from all backgrounds to be able to participate in British life on an equal footing:  Migrants Organise, and the voluntary sector at large, are one of the key ways we realise that ambition.