Charities forced to fight for funding

photo courtesy of flickr
photo courtesy of flickr

By Laura McLean

Charities providing homeless services in Edinburgh have been forced to close as Edinburgh City Council launches a new ‘robust tendering’ process in which they must compete for funding.

Following London Mayor Boris Johnson’s bid to end homelessness in London by 2012 The City of Edinburgh Council has recommended that Charities in the city should go head to head over funding in an attempt to give the best quality service. With an aim to prevent homelessness north of the border Council leaders have imposed restrictions on certain charity funding.

A spokeswoman for Edinburgh City Council said, ‘The finance committee is awarding contracts in five key areas. First in providing advice and information to people threatened with homelessness, emergency services for people at risk of sleeping rough, help to set up a new home, help to find a house with a good private landlord and housing support services to help people keep their home.

The introduction of these new services will mean a better quality of service for those who come to us for support and advice.’

In order to win a contract each charity must make a plea to the council stating why they can provide the best service in each area. Catriona Beaton who looks after funding at The Bethany Trust Foundation said that any Charity not awarded funding will find it impossible to compete with the services provided by the council.

She said ‘Charities have had to partner up in case they don’t win the bidding war. It means that workers are being pulled over to Bethany from other charities but we can’t give everyone a job. Some people have been made redundant.’

Since being commissioned in January this year the scheme has already forced The Edinburgh Furnture Initiative and Shelter Edinburgh’s Families Project to close.

The Edinburgh Families Project closed this week. It is one of Shelter’s oldest and most successful programmes. In the last 10 years it has worked with 415 homeless families, helping 810 children from those families deal with the trauma of homelessness.

Although families currently using the project will be transferred over to the new council providers, Manager of the Edinburgh project Paula Robertson fears that the valuable service provided by shelter over the last decade is being brushed off.

She said ‘I’m devastated the project is closing, not just for those families we are currently helping, but also for those whom we could have helped in the future. We know that the Shelter Families Project model works and it’s awful for a service that is proven to work to have to close. I’m also sad for all the staff that have given their all to help families through homelessness and I thank them for all their hard work.’

But Edinburgh City Council maintain that it is the council’s responsibility to help Edinburgh’s homeless and by giving more money to the best service provider they can ensure that the best possible care is given.

Councillor Norman Work, Chair of Edinburgh’s Homeless Forum said, ‘People who are homeless or faced with losing their home are usually going through a very difficult time. We need to know that they are getting the best possible care. The Council has undertaken such a rigorous process to make sure we have the services in place to make sure this happens.’

Contracts have been awarded to around 8 charities since January including The Bethany Christian Trust and Edinburgh Cyrenians Trust. The council intends to transfer all charity work to the new scheme by 1st May 2009.