One of the worst aspects of the “death by a thousand cuts” Budget is the cut to the Community Organisations Grants Scheme (COGS).
COGS is the mainstay of thousands of community organisations around the nation. The decision to make larger grants to a smaller number of organisations amounts to a cut for many others. It is easy to understand the rationale for increasing amounts to vital groups but that shouldn’t mean smaller groups get less. There is a bigger picture to consider.
Right now, innumerable groups are struggling because of the recession and extra pressure on their services and activities. The few big philanthropic funders have reduced their reach because they are also stretched. Some funders have closed down altogether, and some are targeting particular groups with three year large grants.
The sector has long called for increased funding and there year funding, but in this context, lotteries grants and COGS have a vital role to play as the core reliable funding for many smaller groups. COGS in particular has been the mainstay of the administration and some wages funding for groups of volunteers who may have just one paid coordinator. These groups – working in the areas of disability, health, mental health, children and family support – need small COGS grants to survive.
The accountability requirements for funding create huge pressures on these groups and take up a great deal of staff time. Unhealthy competition for scarce funds also bedevils the community and voluntary sector.
The Greens successfully bid for increases to COGS funding in 2008, and the last thing we want is a narrowing of the access to it.
Cutting access to COGS will be a disaster for many groups. In an era when foodbanks are running out of food and many families are stressed by unemployment or under employment, we are need the community sector to back up our most vulnerable people. Where will the groups get their core funding from now?