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Britain’s charities say the country is still “broken” - new survey

Some of Britain’s most effective grassroots poverty-fighting charities believe Britain is still a “broken” society, according to a new survey carried out by a leading think-tank.

The survey, carried out by the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), reveals that 80 per cent of respondents consider Britain to be “broken society”.

The CSJ released its survey, based on questioning 100 small grassroots voluntary bodies across the country, to coincide with the annual CSJ Awards, which recognise the often-unsung contribution of charities in Britain.

The charities are part of the CSJ Alliance, a network of over 300 small voluntary sector organisations throughout the UK dedicated to combating the causes of poverty such as family breakdown, welfare dependency, drink and drug addiction, educational failure and serious personal debt.

The names of six winners plus two special commendations were announced recently (Weds July 4) at an awards ceremony hosted by Iain Duncan Smith, the Work and Pensions Secretary, who founded the CSJ, at the London offices of J P Morgan.

Christian Guy, Managing Director of the CSJ, described the results of the survey as “disappointing” for a Government that has put charities at the heart of its Big Society agenda.

Mr Guy continued: “Although progress has been made, the Government must do more to convince charities that it is supportive of the valuable work they do in communities. Support is all the more necessary during a time of austerity, when budget cuts could enable the most disenfranchised people in society to slip through the cracks.”

Charities were supposed to be major beneficiaries of the Government’s localism agenda, with voluntary sector funding largely being transferred from central government to local authorities to bring decision-making closer to communities. However, over half of the respondents to the CSJ’s survey answered that their local authority was handling its new responsibilities poorly.

The CSJ also conducted a survey exclusively in London, asking charities based in the capital to rate the level of ministerial commitment, local authority performance and whether or not Britain is still a ‘broken’ society. The London survey mirrored the national results.

In addition, over two-thirds of national survey respondents had not been contacted by their local authority over how the voluntary and public sector can work together more efficiently during a time of economic crisis.

Mr Guy added: “If the Government is serious about charities fulfilling greater responsibilities within society then communication from authorities would be a good starting point.”

The survey also asked national respondents to identify which types of charities have been worst hit by funding cuts, to which almost three-quarters of respondents answered youth services. Mental health was the second biggest victim, being mentioned by one third of national respondents and 46 per cent of London charities.

Mr Guy commented: “Less than a year since riots devastated parts of London and other major cities, that 72 per cent of charities believe the young are disproportionately affected by funding cuts is a particularly troublesome finding.

“Charities do much untold work with young people. If they are unable to do so because of scarcer resources, Britain’s social problems could be exacerbated. We cannot risk creating a ticking time bomb of youth disenfranchisement – the costs are too high.”

The national survey also found that the majority of charities have suffered cuts in their funding.

One in five charities has had its funding from national government cut by up to 25 per cent; 13 per cent have had cuts of up to 50 per cent; nearly one in ten has suffered a cut of up to 75 per cent; 6 per cent are down by more than 75 per cent; and 7 per cent have lost all their central funding.

Council funding has been slashed even more sharply. About a third of charities have had cuts of up to 25 per cent; 14 per cent up to 50 per cent; and 15 per cent between 50 and 100 per cent.

Mr Guy added: “The CSJ’s findings from the national and London surveys are a stark warning to the Government that more time, effort and resources must be dedicated to charities. It is essential that those who voluntarily give up their time to help others feel that the Government are engaged with their cause.”

“Only then can the pessimism about the state of Britain amongst charities be reversed.”

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