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Exclusive: Charities hit by job losses as cuts bite

Three leading charities have announced swingeing job losses, as the scale of the impact of central and local government cutbacks on Scotland’s voluntary sector begins to become clear.

Today the Scottish Refugee Council will confirm that 44 of its 59 workers have been told they are at risk of redundancy as it seeks to shed 28% of its staff as a result of cuts to contracts it has with the UK Border Agency.

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The umbrella group Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations informed employees on Friday that it is to make 23 of its 132 staff redundant. Its chief executive said the plight of the sector cast doubt on previous Government commitments.

Last week staff at Apex Scotland, a charity which works with ex-offenders, wrote to its employees (around 60 people) to warn them that between one-third and a half of their jobs were to go, as a direct result of Coalition cuts to Government employment programmes.

Meanwhile, Citizens Advice Scotland is thought to be planning to announce a redundancy programme next week, after its sister organisation in England announced savage cuts.

The numbers affected in individual charities may be small compared with those threatened at some local authorities, but the proportion of staff affected will send a chill through the voluntary sector, reinforcing fears that charities are set to face the brunt of the cuts as central government axes funding and local authorities attempt to preserve and protect in-house services.

Charity representatives said the news raised questions about government policies at both Holyrood and Westminster. The Coalition Government at Westminster has cited the work of charities as key to the “Big Society” while the Scottish Government has increasingly talked about working in partnership with the third sector to reshape service provision in Scotland.

About 45,000 voluntary organisations across Scotland employ more than 130,000 professionally paid staff. If cuts on the scale being considered by these charities were applied across the sector, tens of thousands of jobs could be lost, one insider warned.

He said: “If you look at the size of the sector and the scale of these cuts, it is potentially a lot of people. Charities are an easy target, and it allows Government and councils to say ‘we’re not making people redundant’.”

SCVO is the national body for Scotland’s charities. Martin Sime, SCVO chief executive, said they were in the same position as many of their members.

“In these tough times making difficult decisions is something our members and the third sector as a whole are facing on a daily and weekly basis,” he said.

“The irony is that this comes at a time when all political parties are united in agreement that the third sector should play a greater and more central role in re-shaping Scotland’s future. Unfortunately, the sector’s capacity to deliver on this opportunity is being dangerously eroded by the disproportionate cuts we face in comparison to other sectors.”

The job losses come against a background of charities facing further pressure from councils to make efficiency savings under existing contracts. However, Annie Gunner Logan, of Coalition of Care and Support Providers in Scotland, said that in many cases such savings had already been taken as far as they could.

“Research commissioned by the Voluntary Sector Social Services Workforce unit show that nearly 60% of providers in our sector have implemented a pay freeze in the last three years; more than 80% have been unable to match the cost-of-living increases awarded by councils to their own staff during the same period.”

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