Potential cuts to Derbyshire's voluntary groups are to be postponed, due to the apparent impending need for them to support vulnerable residents who may need to shield from Covid-19.
Derbyshire County Council says it anticipates that voluntary groups will be crucial in providing support to vulnerable residents for “a considerable period of time”, specifically for Covid-related reasons.
It says a review of funding to voluntary groups is to be put off until March 2022, saying “due to the possible emergence of new variants and local lockdowns, current support will continue with many residents being asked again to shield”.
The news will come as a double-edged sword for these groups, which, while welcoming an extension to their funding agreements until March, will be bracing for potential cuts after a further traumatic wave of Covid-19.
A total of 14 different groups provide county-council funded help and advice and essential volunteer-run services across Derbyshire.
Many of these are led by centres for voluntary services (CVS) in each district of Derbyshire.
They offer vital support for the elderly and vulnerable – helping to direct people to services they need most and offer free advice on often complex and serious issues.
This also includes food parcel and prescription assistance, loneliness and befriending help along with transport to and from hospitals and health centres for crucial appointments.
The groups carry out support and offer services which prevent many residents having to go into care homes, hospitals and GP surgeries – saving the county council and NHS millions.
Their funding was set to be reviewed this September but will be extended through to March at a cost of £226,114.
In addition, the council is to give out a one-off top up of £250,000 (£30,000 per district) to last a year “to ensure adequate infrastructure capacity to support those identified as clinically extremely vulnerable whilst providers pivot back towards their core infrastructure”.
It says: “Voluntary and community sector infrastructure providers across the county have been a vital source of support in mobilising volunteers and the wider sector to assist with response and recovery efforts and support residents, many of whom are classified as clinically extremely vulnerable throughout the Covid pandemic.”
The council’s review will see equal funding given out at a district level, which will see a substantial cut in some districts while others will see increases.
It says: “Work will need to take place over forthcoming months to develop options which move towards a greater equity of provision from March 2022.
“Support for the voluntary and community sector across the county should be fairly distributed.”
In January last year, the council said it was giving out £400,138 to voluntary community infrastructure groups and this was to be cut by £50,000 to £353,000.
Each district would get £41,500 annually, with a separate extra pot of £21,000 – reduced from £30,800 – for county-wide services for black and minority ethnic groups and rural communities.
Before the proposed move, the High Peak had received £73,808, followed by Erewash with £73,473 – with significant cuts to bring the district level funding down to £41,500.
Meanwhile, Bolsover had received £22,488 and Chesterfield £24,461, with the change in funding to see these areas gaining substantially more money.