One of the borough’s most influential voluntary groups, Doncaster CVS, is set to close after 73 years - unless £150,000 can be found by next March.
Providing behind-the-scenes advice and support to 700 groups and social enterprises across the borough, Doncaster CVS has been the backbone of the town’s community and voluntary sector since its inception in 1943.
Through the community and voluntary sector groups, charities, social enterprises, volunteers and individuals they support, Doncaster CVS, originally Doncaster Council for Voluntary Services, helps some of the town’s most vulnerable and desperate people.
But now, after some 73 years of service, Doncaster CVS is set to close due to a lack of available ‘infrastructure’ funding.
Chief executive Norma Wardman said: “I am extremely sad that it has come to this. The impact will be far-reaching.
“Countless hours of advice, expertise and knowledge will disappear overnight. The community and voluntary sector itself will no longer have an outlet or individuals to turn to for help.
“Over the last seven decades, many different people have been employed by Doncaster CVS to provide an invaluable array of services, professional guidance and simple encouragement to hundreds of thousands of local third sector organisations and individuals to enable them to flourish and prosper.
“This will mean 73 years of hard work and achievement will come to an end.”
Mrs Wardman has cited a drying up of available grant money as a result of the recession from organisations such as the Heritage Lottery Fund as one of the reasons for the imminent closure of Doncaster CVS.
Doncaster CVS is now expected to close in March 2017, unless they are able to raise £150,000 - the amount Mrs Wardman estimates it would cost to keep the organisation afloat for another year.
She added: “There are groups that help people through bereavement, to cope with loneliness or dementia. There are charities that support children with disabilities, mental health issues or those who have been sexually abused.
“There are social enterprises that offer art therapy to people with autism, work with disadvantaged youngsters to teach them car mechanics or take school children on environmental trips. And, finally, there are thousands of people who volunteer, for a variety of reasons, people who give their time to help others and improve their local communities. All of these groups have one thing in common: they are supported and backed by Doncaster CVS.”
In addition, in a recent sample survey conducted by Doncaster CVS three-quarters of the voluntary and community groups they spoke to said they believed their funding would only last for another two to three years - which could strike another devastating blow to the town’s voluntary sector.
Mrs Wardman said: “We have no idea who or where the sector will turn to once we’re gone. We’re not certain what the future will hold for the town’s truly inspiring sector but we’re sure of one thing: it will be an increasingly difficult landscape in which to operate without the solid and proven infrastructure that defines Doncaster CVS.”
In addition to the hundreds of groups in the voluntary and community sector supported by Doncaster CVS, the organisation also assists the town’s GPs through the social prescribing service.
Run by Doncaster CVS and the South Yorkshire Housing Association (SYHA), the service offers GP patients non-medical support for issues from debt and bereavement, to social isolation and redundancy to relevant community groups in a bid to take some of the pressure off the town’s doctors and housing associations.
It has been funded through a partnership approach to commissioning and contracting that includes Doncaster Council’s Adults and Communities and Public Health Directorates (Innovation Fund) and NHS Doncaster Clinical
Commissioning Group (Doncaster CCG).
A spokesman for Doncaster CCG said they would now have to reassess how the service will be maintained following the closure of Doncaster CVS. They added: “We are very sad to hear of the closure of Doncaster CVS. We have a contract with them and have had a long and productive relationship over many years.”
The social prescribing project also forms part of the council’s adult and social care strategy; which places an emphasis on ‘independent living’ and through which residents are encouraged to use social prescribing to access the services they want and need - instead of relying on health or social care professionals.
Coun Chris McGuinness, cabinet member for communities and voluntary sector, said: “It is sad to hear that the Doncaster CVS is closing in March 2017 after providing support to the third sector for more than 70 years.
“This is another example of how funding cuts nationally and a lack of available funding streams are directly affecting services that support people and businesses in Doncaster.”
Chief executive of Age UK Doncaster Vickie Ferres said she thought the closure of Doncaster CVS would impact upon the services provided by Doncaster Council and Doncaster CCG as well as the borough’s voluntary sector.
She said: “It’s like the old song, you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone - I think that will very much be the case with Doncaster CVS.
“They founded us 50 years ago, and we’ve had a strong relationship with them ever since. They provide a focal point for working relationships in the public and voluntary sector, and have a vital role on the adult social care board which help us and the council to work together and understand the new legislation that comes in.
“It’s a massive loss for Doncaster.”
Other projects backed by Doncaster CVS include the Heritage Lottery Fund-backed Twentieth Century Gypsy and Traveller Heritage Project and Talent Match, a project that targets young people furthest from the jobs market to gain the skills they need to get into work.
The dozens of community groups who regularly rent rooms at Doncaster CVS’ headquarters in Trafford Court in the town centre are also set to be impacted by its closure. Doncaster CVS have also helped to recognise some of the town’s most deserving community and voluntary sector heroes through its annual awards ceremony, run in conjunction with the Free Press.
Mrs Wardman says she is currently unsure whether the organisation will be able to host its final Doncaster CVS awards later this year.