‘Skint public sector’ affecting charity funding

Chief exec of the Cyrenians homelessness charity, and former Labour councillor, Ewan Aitken. Picture: Jane Barlow

Chief exec of the Cyrenians homelessness charity, and former Labour councillor, Ewan Aitken. Picture: Jane Barlow

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CHARITIES are being urged to look beyond the “skint” public sector for their funding and do more to generate their own cash.

Ewan Aitken, chief executive of the Cyrenians homelessness charity, is calling on the voluntary sector to use the current “austerity politics” as an “opportunity to do things very differently”.

The former leader of Edinburgh City Council will use a speech in the capital to highlight how social enterprise, which he describes as being “essentially commercial activity that creates profit for the benefit of the parent charity”, can be used to generate funding.

While he will say that this could mean voluntary sector organisations entering “the world if not the governance model, of the private sector”, he will also stress: “We, and the rest of sector, must not fear being in this place where the driver is profit.

“There are risks involved but the risks of staying wedded to a public sector contract or even a grant application/corporate-giving model are, in my view, even greater.”

Mr Aitken will claim that in Scotland it “feels like that right now we are in a perfect storm of a referendum result that’s created far more questions than answers”.

He will argue the current climate of austerity has brought about “a blame culture where poverty is seen as a self-inflicted lifestyle choice” while the country faces “growing levels of inequality not seen since Victorian times”, with this fuelled by a “housing crisis” and an economic recovery which is based on “low paid, insecure jobs”.

Mr Aitken will say: “The only way to face the social and economic problems of the next five years, in particular the desperate consequences of austerity politics, is to see them as an opportunity to do things very differently.”

Increasing income from sources outside of the public sector will be key priorities for the Cyrenians in the next five years, he will state.

At the moment, the charity relies on this for 82% of its funding but Mr Aitken will say that “that is just not sustainable”.

He will state: “The public sector is basically skint. That means not only can it not afford to do all it wants to do, it can no longer define what and how it needs to be done.

“Instead, there is a chance for us to collaborate on identifying need first, looking at new ways of meeting those needs and then using the public money that is available, not to define what is possible, but as leverage to develop funding packages that play to the third sector capacity for bringing money to the table from other places and in other ways.”

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