Wales

Rhondda Cynon Taf disabled charity forced to cut jobs

Staff and users of People First
Image caption Future funding fears has led to redundancies at the learning disabled charity People First

A learning disabled charity says it has been forced to make staff redundant because of uncertainty over future funding.

People First in Rhondda Cynon Taf has been running for 20 years.

Wales Council for Voluntary Action (WCVA) told BBC Radio Wales' Eye On Wales other bodies faced similar issues and questioned the Big Society policy.

But Wales Office minister David Jones said the Big Society idea was already "thriving" in Wales.

The WCVA had questioned the prime minister's concept and said the sector needed investment, not just volunteers.

People First said it had had to make three people redundant and a further seven people were serving their redundancy notice.

The organisation usually receives funding from the local authority and the assembly government.

But with uncertainty over their funding from April onwards due to public spending cuts, the charity's operational manager Dawn Price told Eye On Wales that it was an upsetting time.

Computer courses

"We just don't know what's going to happen. We've not been told either way if we have funding from the local authority next year," she said.

"We have had to give out redundancy notices as time is running out."

"We support almost 300 people - we run courses in computers, teamwork and communication.

"We help these people have a voice to shape local services. Who will do that if we have to close?"

The assembly government has said it will renew the charity's funding but at a reduced amount.

But as People First do not know how much they will receive, when it will start, and how they will replace the missing amount, they say this news will not help stave off the redundancy process.

People First is not the only charity facing job losses and closure, according to the WCVA.

Phil Jarrold, WCVA's deputy chief executive said: "500 jobs have already been lost due to potential or actual funding loss and there are as many jobs at risk this year.

"We also know that half of these organisations face a drop in funding over the next year."

'Rolling it out'

The news comes after the launch of Prime Minister David Cameron's Big Society idea with its emphasis on encouraging people to volunteer or set up social enterprises.

But Dawn Price said: "Without funding we can't carry on. How can we take part in the Big Society if there's no money to run things?"

Wales Office Minister David Jones said there was huge enthusiasm for the Big Society in Wales.

"I've been speaking to UK Government ministers and Welsh Assembly Government ministers to look at the best ways of rolling it out in Wales," he said.

"I have visited a number of projects that fit in with the Big Society agenda. I've been to a number of projects where local people have come together to save services without government intervention.

"We want to see the government empowering programmes like that right across the country, Wales included."

Mr Jones told the Welsh Conservative conference in Cardiff on Saturday that the Big Society idea was already "thriving" in Wales.

He highlighted an emergency mobile phone network called Good Neighbours which had been set up to help the elderly in Dinas Cross in Pembrokeshire.

Mr Jones also praised the community of Llanarmon-yn-Iâl, Denbighshire, which had come together to save the village pub, The Raven.

Communities First

However, the Welsh Assembly Government have also questioned the Big Society in Wales.

A spokesperson said:"The principles behind Big Society are not new. Many of its components are already in place here in Wales, for example the Communities First programme and GwirVol."

Communities First helps disadvantaged communities across Wales and was introduced in 2002 and GwirVol youth volunteering scheme launched almost two years ago.

The assembly spokesperson continued: "There has always been a very real sense of community in Wales and our approach to public services includes designing services around the citizen.

"The public sector and the third sector [charity, voluntary and non-profit organisations] in Wales currently work very closely together to deliver services and we must maintain a strong emphasis on developing skills and capacity in our communities.

"The Welsh Assembly Government will continue to put communities, not bureaucracies at the heart of service delivery."

Eye On Wales broadcasts Sunday, 6 March, BBC Radio Wales at 1300 GMT.

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