In a time of austerity, cuts, inequality and the apocalyptic wake of BREXIT, organisations rely on volunteers now more than ever. This National Volunteer Week, WECIL would like to say thank you to all of our volunteers who support us in any shape or form. The generosity of their time, skills and effort support us with the delivery of vital services and projects.
As a result of reductions nationally, Bristol City Council has cut funding to advice agencies by a total of £160k in 2018, this follows a 12.2% reduction in 2017/18. It is the city’s most venerable citizens that bear the brunt of these unprecedented cuts.
WECIL's Disabled People's Helpline service has suffered such cuts that it is now only managed by one person. The demand for the service is higher than ever and last year the team took over 3000 calls about disability related benefits. The reduced funding has put such strain on the service that has led to longer waiting times, reduced availability for face to face support and in some cases no support at all. Sadly the cuts also put an abrupt end to the precious outreach work with St Mungos clients that WECIL supported last year.
Luckily with the support from three dedicated volunteers, Malcolm, Jan and Rupa the service can continue to run.
‘’I feel the main frustration is that we only have one full time advisor, Mike, and a part time volunteer Jan, who help with completing PIP and DLA forms.
There is a big demand in Bristol for disabled people requiring help with their PIP and DLA applications and Mike can only see a few of them a week which results in a back log and I don’t think there are many organisations in Bristol who provide this service.’’
Malcolm Chappell, Helpline Volunteer (and P/T Project Administrator)
WECIL have not been the only ones to suffer, the entire Bristol advice network consisting of Avon & Bristol Law Centre, North Bristol Advice Centre, WECIL, South Bristol Advice Service, St Paul’s Advice Centre and Talking Money all took a hard hit from the cut, resulting in reduced services, termination of services and in some cases loss of staff.
These key organisations are the ones that provide support that need it most, aiming to close the gap in inequality by providing essential services and support and seeking opportunities for isolated communities. Without them many people in Bristol would have no support at all.
Unfortunately this is not an issue confined to Bristol as Frances Ryan recently wrote:
‘’It’s a state of affairs being replicated up and down the country. You could call it the mass disenfranchisement of citizens, where marginalised groups see their right to housing, healthcare and social security withheld and are then deprived of the means to fight back.’’
Frances Ryan, April 2019
Although the squeeze in funding continues to tighten the grip on many organisations there is a beacon of hope that has in some cases managed to save some of the services from disappearing completely. These are the treasured Volunteers and Trustees that give us their time and expertise to support the delivery of services, projects and organisational goals. Without whom we simply could not exist. So whether you volunteer in your spare time, as part of a work placement or internship or you are a Trustee we want to say thank you for your time, effort and continued dedication to the organisation that we so gratefully receive.
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