February 13, 2008
It was a visit to Easterhouse in 2002 which inspired Ian Duncan Smith to create the Centre for Social Justice which has just published a candid report about Glasgow. Given his political background, Smith has an unusually perceptive appreciation of the impact of the community sector. Let`s hope the Scottish Government reflects this in its forthcoming Strategy.
Across the UK there are thousands of grassroots poverty fighting organisations working to tackle deprivation and social breakdown. These charities are transforming people’s lives on a daily basis. Glasgow is no exception with numerous excellent projects working with disadvantaged people.
Local and national government must recognise the invaluable role that innovative third sector organisations play in helping individuals and families to rebuild their lives and achieve their potential. They must recognise that people living in disadvantaged communities are more likely to engage with voluntary rather than public sector organisations: in some communities trust in state services is very low. We therefore recommend that Glasgow City Council uses the third sector, where there is a proven track record of success, to deliver an increased proportion of public services.
In response to a CSJ survey of voluntary sector organisations in Glasgow, Dougie MacMillan of Realise Community Project highlighted a key challenge for grassroots charities:
‘Lack of flexibility in the funding of voluntary sector organizations is a big issue…The funding of this sector seems to have become increasingly difficult for those small, community-based organisations that are often closest to, and most knowledgeable of, the communities affected by poverty.’
Therefore, to strengthen the third sector and enable it to play a greater role in our most vulnerable communities, increased levels of government funding are required. Crucially, this must be with less prescription and on a longer term basis than is currently available. There should also be greater indirect statutory funding through tax relief, match funding and community endowments