OCF recently commissioned a team from Oxford University’s Student Consultancy to research the scope and impact of local government funding cuts on the charitable sector. OCF plans to use the findings to direct funds towards the areas of greatest need in Oxfordshire.
In the wake of past and ongoing austerity measures, Oxfordshire County Council (OCC) plans to make £292m in budget cuts between 2010 and 2018, mainly by restricting funds to non-statutory public welfare services. OCF asked a team of volunteer students (pictured) from The Student Consultancy (TSC) to investigate the impact this would have on the community sector locally.
TSC is a programme run by Oxford University’s Careers Service to equip students with consulting and teamwork skills by tasking them with helping local businesses, charities and community organisations. Students work in small teams over a term to address a strategic issue or business problem for a client organisation in Oxfordshire.
Using publicly available data from the OCC consultation portals, TSC analysed the impact of cuts to:
- Child social care (£265,000 in 2016/17; £4,344,000 in 2017/18; £400,000 in 2019/20)
- Homelessness (£1,500,000 by 2019/20)
- Adult social care (£1,065,000 in 2018/19; £1,431,000 in 2019/20)
- Subsidised bus route services (£2,600,000 in 2016/17)
Cuts to these welfare sectors add up to a total of £11.6 million by 2020. The focus of the cuts tends to be services that are not the statutory responsibility of the county council, such as preventative and universal child support, HIV day services, homeless provision and support for older people who have had falls.
Child social care
In January 2016, OCC decided to withdraw funding from all 44 children’s centres (for ages 0–5) and all seven Early Intervention Hubs (for ages 5–9, and up to 25) across the county, and replace them with eight Children and Family Centres. By using children’s centre attendance data, TSC have estimated the ratio of attendees to available centres before and after the statutory funding cuts for each district. These values provided guidelines to understand the service demand for the children’s centres before the cuts, and for each of the new Children and Family Centres after the cuts. TSC showed that the greatest increase in demand for children’s social care would be in South Oxfordshire, closely followed by Vale of White Horse and West Oxfordshire.
In November 2016, OCC decided to withdraw all funding from housing-related support services in 2019/20, leaving the district councils and the Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group to provide funding. This will represent a cut of 68% to the overall budget for housing support compared to 2017/18, including homelessness provision. This has led to the decision to decommission Simon House Hostel and Julian Housing, two large homeless shelters in Oxford city, which will see a 96-bed decrease in spaces available in Oxford city, and most likely a marked increase in rough sleeping. For these reasons TSC recommend funding voluntary homeless shelters in Oxford city.
Adult social care
OCC has agreed to make around £2.5m in cuts to adult social care by 2020. It is very likely that all seven Health and Wellbeing Centres (HWCs) and all 15 Learning Disability Daytime Support Service Centres (LDCs) will be replaced with a broader Community Support Service. By using a similar methodology to that used for the children’s centres, TSC showed that the closure of the LDCs would lead to the greatest increase in need within Oxford city and West Oxfordshire. Other proposals involve stopping funding for non-statutory services provided by voluntary and community sector organisations, such as lunch clubs and day care centres for older people or those with dementia. With the largest proportion of older people living alone and the largest number of people with dementia, Vale of White Horse District is expected to be the worst hit by these cuts.
Subsidised bus route services
In February 2016, Oxfordshire County Council approved the withdrawal of subsidies to 118 bus routes across Oxfordshire to save around £2.6m. TSC assumed that fully subsidised routes are very likely to either cease or suffer significant decreases in daily journeys, while partially subsidised routes are more likely to remain and maintain a satisfactory service level. they therefore recommended funding charities offering community bus services primarily in Vale of White Horse, South Oxfordshire and West Oxfordshire covering routes previously covered by fully subsidised services. We also believe funding should be concentrated on areas that are most deprived in terms of access to services (eg GP surgeries) and those with a high proportion of older people and people without access to a car.
OCF is now drawing up a series of recommendations from TSC’s government funding cuts report, which will inform its grant-making strategy in the coming year. We would like to extend our sincere thanks to Federico, Rachel, Kevin, Yifu and Jenny from The Student Consultancy.