Funding cuts hit Norfolk charities

More than half of charities have had their funding slashed in the past six months, with some on the verge of closing for good, a shock new survey has revealed.

The struggle facing Norfolk's voluntary sector has been laid bare in a survey revealing that 65pc of 42 groups quizzed faced recent cash cuts.

While the study focused on charities in Great Yarmouth, groups across Norfolk said last night the grim situation was replicated throughout the county.

The survey, carried out by Voluntary Norfolk and Great Yarmouth Borough Council, also found that two of the 42 voluntary organisations look set to close at the end of the financial year, and a further six are under threat.

This has led some charities to investigate sharing facilities, resources and services in a bid to cut their mounting costs.

Sarah Jones, director of business development for The Benjamin Foundation, which supports vulnerable people in Norfolk, said: 'The funding climate is getting more competitive that's for sure and we have noticed we have to apply for a lot more funding grants to meet our targets.

'We are currently carrying out a strategic review of all of our service areas and the organisation as a whole to ensure we are fit for purpose for the future.

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'Part of that planning has also been building our portfolio of social enterprises to enable the charity to be more sustainable in the future and less reliant on external grants and funding, so that there is more security for the people we support through our services.'

The survey showed that 77pc of groups had experienced an increased demand for their services.

Brian Horner, chief executive of Voluntary Norfolk, said one of the positive outcomes of the report was that 87pc of bodies had started collaborating with other voluntary organisations.

He said: 'Collaboration in whatever guise, whether it is with other voluntary sector organisations, with local authorities or with private business, is likely to become increasingly important to the voluntary sector if it is to survive and continue to help the people it serves.'

An effort was made to ease the pressure on Friday when a charity summit was held at the Priory Centre in Great Yarmouth.

The event, organised by Great Yarmouth MP Brandon Lewis, was attended by 70 charities and hosted key speakers from grant-giving bodies to advise on working together and accessing future funding.

David Nettleship, the development manager for the GYROS - a charity which supports asylum seekers and immigrants in Yarmouth- said he found the summit useful for building relationships with other organisations.

He added: 'With the economy not likely to ease in the next two to three years charities are going to have to adapt and start selling their services.

'Another option is to ask for financial help from statutory bodies who benefit from the charities work. For example, if a migrant workers needs our help to apply for housing benefit, then the council should contribute financially to the service we offer.'

MP Brandon Lewis said: 'What is most encouraging is that despite the harsh economic climate people are determined to continue the work they undertake.

'There are so many charities in Yarmouth doing fantastic work and if they are finding it difficult financially then they should look to work together.'

Key speakers at the summit included Graham Tuttle from Norfolk Community Foundation, Louise Botwright from the mentoring service JUMP and a representative from the Big Lottery Fund.

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