FUNDING pressures faced by St Helens Council mean the local authority will not be able to support the voluntary sector at the same level that it has done historically.

The wealth of charities and organisations operating in the borough must learn to “adapt”, according to Caroline Barlow, St Helens Council’s senior assistant director for quality and finance.

She gave an update to the health and social care overview and scrutiny panel on Monday on the council's collaborative work with the voluntary sector.

Ms Barlow said: “The key message is that we cannot grant funds, we cannot support the voluntary sector in the way that we used to.

“Everything that is being delivered has to be based on achieving outcomes. 

"That’s a challenging message for the voluntary sector and we all need to try to work together to bring that message home.

“For example, we would expect them to use volunteers where they can. We would expect them to be less of a paid service and more about community action.”

Since 2010, the council’s funding for the voluntary sector has been slashed by almost 50 per cent.

In 2010-11, St Helens Council received £1.816 million in grant funding for the voluntary sector from adult social care.

In 2018-19, the total funding for the voluntary sector adult social care and health, a mixture of service level agreements and tendered contracts, was £1.019 million.

Ms Barlow said: “Like austerity has been challenging for the council, the council has got a challenging message for the voluntary sector to hear – that we really have to do more with less.”

Most of the work the council does in the voluntary sector is through Halton and St Helens Voluntary and Community Action (VCA). The council also works with the faith sector, through the Faith Forum.

Sally Yeoman, chief officer of Halton and St Helens VCA, told the Star the voluntary sector is under “enormous pressure”.

She said there was there was “no magic solution”.

“I don’t think people really understand,” Ms Yeoman said. “The reality is that volunteers still cost money, in terms of DBS checks, managing them and supporting them.

“Then there are issues relating to safeguarding and they have the potential for things to not go well.

“Whatever direction you go in there is a cost – even if the organisations do it themselves.”

The total funding provided by St Helens Council and St Helens CCG to the voluntary sector in St Helens is £2,346,612.

Each voluntary sector has a contract with the CCG and or the council and funding has been agreed until 2020.

Cllr Marlene Quinn, cabinet member for adult social care and health, said during the meeting that the voluntary sector is facing an “unprecedented demand” for services.

She said: “At this point in time and as we got further down the line with the austerity measures, I think the voluntary sector can really come into a prominent position.

“It always has been, but I think even more so now as we see local Government really being decimated in what it’s able to deliver and what it’s able to fund.”