12 February 2016

Plans to maintain the amount of grant aid funding for voluntary organisations have been announced by Sheffield City Council, despite the authority having to save a further £50million this year.

This funding makes a difference to people’s lives in Sheffield.

The £1.66million voluntary sector grant funds 20 organisations and more than 50 lunch clubs. They help vulnerable residents, tackle loneliness and isolation, and help turn people’s lives around – all with the support of more than 1,400 volunteers. Local research into the lunch club element of the funding has shown a social return of £3.55 for every £1 invested, with enormous benefit to the people of Sheffield.

Councillor Mazher Iqbal, cabinet member for public health and equality at Sheffield City Council, explained: “Our voluntary sector grant aid funds organisations that make a difference to people’s lives. These are people who are vulnerable, may be living in poverty, and at risk of loneliness and isolation.

“This is important. We know the difference our funding makes and are committed to doing everything we can to help those most in need in our city at a time of continued budget cuts.”

Sheffield Citizens Advice is set to receive £876,000, the biggest award from the council’s £1.66million grant aid fund. Andy Buck, Chief Executive, said: “We are delighted that the council is continuing to support us. We help about 20,000 people every year, many of whom are facing great difficulties, often about poverty, housing and employment. The people we help often tell us that we are a lifeline, without which their problems would become much worse. Our advice helps people to resolve these problems, and so get their lives back on track.”

Sheffield Association for the Voluntary Teaching of English (SAVTE) also receives grant aid funding and is set to receive £34,140 next year. The organisation recruits and trains volunteers to teach English to some of the most isolated people in Sheffield, whose first or fluent language is not English. This includes people from black and minority ethnic backgrounds, refugees, asylum seekers and EU migrant communities.

The organisation helps reduce people’s isolation by providing language skills so they can better take part in everyday life. It also boosts the skills of more than 100 volunteers, with one third of last year’s new recruits moving on into paid employment.

Sara Saxon, SAVTES’s manager, said: “We help some of the most excluded people in Sheffield and, by providing them with life changing language skills, help them move on into further learning, employment, engagement and integration into mainstream communities. Our volunteers really benefit too as they gain additional skills and develop confidence, many going on to paid work.

“We’re really grateful for the council’s support given the financial climate – not just for the grant but also the professional support and guidance of officers, which has been invaluable. On a personal note, I am proud of our city where people volunteer their time to help others and a council who recognise and support the needs of vulnerable people.”

The plans for voluntary sector grant aid funding for 2016/17 will be discussed by the council’s Cabinet on Wednesday, 17 February.

The fund will continue to support lunch clubs in Sheffield and 60 clubs currently receive funding from the council. More than 600 people help run them, many over 80 years old, and altogether they give 63,000 hours of time each year and serve 1,800 people.

The funding will also support organisations which help residents in financial need, homeless people, ethnic minority women, refugees, asylum seekers and new arrivals, people with mental health problems, street drinkers and young women.

A new grant fund will be developed for next year and the council will be working with the voluntary sector to develop this. This will prioritise activity that tackles poverty, reduces inequality and promotes wellbeing; key goals for the authority.