Plea from welfare bosses facing funding cuts

By Jessica Elgot, November 4, 2010
Bullish: Nightingale’s Leon Smith

Bullish: Nightingale’s Leon Smith

Jewish charities will be seeking millions of pounds in extra donations from the community to combat budget cuts from local authorities and a rise in demand for services from recession victims.

Yet charities including Jewish Care, Norwood, Kisharon and Nightingale recognise that they are approaching the same pool of supporters, who are feeling the pinch of higher taxes and economic uncertainty. Councils are expected to cut around 20 per cent of their adult social services budgets - the £2 billion extra given to social services by central government was not ring-fenced, so councils are not obliged to pass on any extra money.

Barnet Council, for example, is cutting £18 million over three years from adult social services and around £9.6 million from children's services.

Jewish Care, the community's largest charity, has already cut £7 million over five years, including 17 head office redundancies.

Chief executive Simon Morris said: "We will need to raise nearly £16 million from the community this year. We can count on the generosity of the Jewish people but they have been hit hard, too."

He questioned whether having so many Anglo-Jewish charities was "duplicating administration work" and urged the community to support struggling domestic charities, rather than sending money abroad.

"Charity begins at home. No one is going to look after our elderly apart from us. No rich Israelis, Russians or Americans will donate to us."

Both Jewish Care and Nightingale do not know how much funding for residents from local authorities will be cut.

Eighty per cent of Jewish Care's users have some council support. "We have always been under-funded," Mr Morris claimed."We do not receive the full cost of care from local authorities. There's a shortfall of about £200 a week per bed."

At Nightingale, the south London home's chief executive, Leon Smith, said 50 per cent of residents received some support from councils. "Local authorities are under contract to increase their funding for our residents currently in the home each year, in line with inflation.

"We expect they will not increase this year and that many councils will ask us to reduce our fees. It's ludicrous and it's unacceptable. We must ask for the generosity of the community but of course we know they have been hit, too. Charitable giving is a luxury which people cannot afford. And bequests are being affected because people are spending their money - they are living longer."

Kisharon's chief executive Beverley Jacobson echoed the call to prioritise home-based charities.

"People must support local causes for the next year or two. It's important we give our support to Israel but we need to look after our home charities." The charity, running adult and children's services for the learning disabled, is facing cuts of 20 per cent to its adult budget. Expecting to make savings of five per cent through streamlining suppliers' costs, Mrs Jacobson would like to find £300,000 more in donations.

"We're still figuring it out but we believe we'll be able to keep all our services," she said. "The last thing we want to do is cut pay or make redundancies."

Selling buildings was a possibility. "We have seven venues and we want to consolidate them. We will see if we can make money through the development potential of those sites."

Robert Mutch, chief executive of learning disabled charity Langdon Community, said the charity was "philosophically opposed" to negotiating fee levels with local authorities which have to be subsidised by community donations.

Langdon College in Salford and residential homes in Manchester and Edgware are 100 per cent funded by the local authority - the charity uses donations for special projects.

"Barnet Council have asked us, for example, to reduce our fees by 16 per cent," he reported. "But we do not believe we will actually have to cut the budget, we will simply take on more people for the same fee.

"We thought budgets would rise with how many people we take on but that's not how it will work now. We plan to charge for more of our services - otherwise we are giving services for free for no reason. But it's extremely tough. We will robustly defend our services and we will not allow cuts which leave people vulnerable."

Last updated: 3:32pm, January 5 2011