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Increase in support for voluntary sector to provide vital services

Hammersmith & Fulham Council (H&F) is set to boost the amount it invests in voluntary groups in the borough by £396,000 this year – and a further £225,000 next year.

While delivering savings across the council’s overall budget, the new administration is due to allocate more  resources to support the Third Sector – resulting in a 13% increase in funding. This is instead of a 9.5% reduction that was previously planned.

The increased support is evidence that the administration views voluntary groups as, in many cases, the ones best placed to provide important local services to residents effectively and efficiently.

The voluntary groups that will be funded provide services across the board, including youth projects, support for older people, employment support, homelessness advice, community safety, environmental projects, public health, arts, culture and sport and specialist support for people who are disabled.

Cllr Sue Fennimore, H&F Cabinet Member for Social Inclusion, said: “Charities are the lifeblood of the borough, protecting and enhancing the quality of life for so many residents. They touch all parts of life, from supporting the Lyric theatre through to sports provision for younger people.

“There are many key services that are more efficiently and effectively provided together with the third sector, who bring both innovation and a deep understanding of the local area,” Cllr Fennimore added. “That is why we are working so hard to protect and enhance the local voluntary sector while still making the broader austerity savings demanded of us by the government.”

The news means that more than 54 voluntary organisations in H&F are due to share a total budget of £3,398,000 in 2015/16. In addition, that budget is set to increase again to £3,623,000 the following year. 

A decision on funding will be taken at H&F’s Council’s Cabinet meeting on September 1.

One local community group that has benefitted from council funding in the past is the Doorstep Library Network. It's a locally based charity that aims to improve the educational potential of disadvantaged children by providing books and stories in the home, while engaging with their parents and facilitating access to local support services.

Project Manager Katie Bareham said: "We've only been running for four years, but in that time the council's funding has been the catalyst to significantly expand our work.

"We've gone from providing one project reaching 20 local children to five projects reaching 320 children. The funding has been very helpful indeed," she added.

Another group that will benefit is Hammersmith Community Gardens Association (HCGA). It is a local environmental charity that manages several community gardens in the borough with a range of projects that include volunteer gardening sessions, environmental play schemes and environmental education in local schools.

HCGA Director Cathy Maund said: “We rely on grants from a variety of sources, but the investment from the council is very important and demonstrates to other groups that we are providing a vital community service and are backed by the local authority. It makes all the difference.”

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