Robinson slates ‘unhelpful’ attitude of charitable trust over voluntary project
Shetland Islands Council should not be expected to support services dropped by the charitable trust, according to the SIC’s political leader.
Gary Robinson’s warning came after councillors decided to continue funding Voluntary Action Shetland’s Peer Education Project.
The education and families committee on Tuesday agreed to put forward £12,000 to help cover this year’s costs of the service.
Members put off making a decision in April to see if the trust and NHS Shetland might also be able to assist.
But head of service Helen Budge said the trust had said it could offer no assistance. NHS Shetland said it supported the cause “in principle”, but was unable to commit in the timeframe given. It hopes to carry out work on its savings plans to see if it has any “uncommitted funding” which it might be able to offer.
Last week the charitable trust announced it planned to cut £1.5 million over the next five years as part of a struggle to curb outgoings and bring spending more in line with what it takes in.
The Peer Education Project works with the council’s schools and youth services to keep young folk informed about issues such as sexual health and drugs awareness. The project was once part of the Shetland Youth Information Service, which closed its doors after the trust withdrew its support.
Mr Robinson, who two months ago proposed knocking on the trust’s and health board’s doors, said he was encouraged that it “did not appear to be a definite ‘no’ from the NHS”.
But he added that while the exercise had shown “willingness” from the health service, it had also demonstrated a “thoroughly unhelpful” attitude of the charitable trust.
He said there was a need to ensure the trust was playing its “full part” in the isles.
“It’s too big and too important to stand at the side and take decisions without consulting with its partners. The council is not in a position to pick up everything the charitable trust wants to drop.”
The meeting heard the trust had responded to an appeal for help, stating it was “currently closed to new funding bids” while it undertook a review of its disbursements.
A trust statement sent on behalf of chairman Bobby Hunter said VAS had been sent one year’s worth of funding in March last year. It had been made clear at the time no more funding would be made available.
“When they took over this service, Voluntary Action Shetland received one year funding to 31st March 2014 in respect of Peer Education. They were advised that Shetland Charitable Trust could only commit to one year funding.
“Given the Shetland Charitable Trust’s current financial position, they are unable to commit to any further expenditure beyond that approved by trustees at their meeting on 19th February 2015 for the year to 31st March 2016.”