23 December 2016
Last Friday was Local Charities Day, a day on which Rob Wilson MP, Minister for Civil Society, declared: “I want us all to shout from the rooftops about small, local charities: their energy, commitment, expertise and the benefits they bring to their communities”.
And local charities are definitely something worth shouting about! They enrich the communities of which they are a part, whether this be through support services, bringing groups of interested people together or supporting local causes.
Barnet Mencap is a local charity that does just that, providing advice, information and support for people with learning disabilities, autism or Asperger’s and their carers in the London Borough of Barnet.
Barnet Mencap offers such a large range of services to the local community, from helping service users to become independent in their own homes, to offering drop-in sessions and short and long breaks, to supporting people through Gateway Project, which focuses on enabling service users to gain new skills and experiences, make new friends and get active.
But Barnet Mencap, like many other local charities, is aware that what it can do above and beyond these services is seriously limited by the amount of funding it receives.
Funding woes threaten to drown out the shouting
A constant dialogue amongst local charities is the need for reliable sources of funding, perpetually threatened by funding cuts and uncertainty of government policy. Whilst small charities represent 97% of the charitable sector in the UK, they only account for approximately 20% of its income.
Just last year the late Brian Rix, then president of Royal Mencap, and more than 100 charities wrote a letter to the Guardian entitled ‘The basic rights of people with a learning disability are threatened by welfare cuts’. The letter warned that the fight for self-determination and inclusion of those with learning disabilities, stretching back over 60 years, was being threatened by huge cuts to social security, combined with reductions in local government funding.
Brian Rix described the role played by carers of those with learning difficulties as ‘vital’ to families and their contribution to society as ‘immense.’
Recently Barnet Mencap held its annual Christmas Carol Service, in September we were part of Happy Healthy Fun Day and earlier in the year had a short film shortlisted in the National CutFilms Awards. Events and achievements like this show how Barnet Mencap, like so many other small charities, adds to community life in the borough.
Local Charities Day is a day which encouraged people to donate to their local causes. And what better way than through Remember A Charity and charitable giving in your Will. Barnet Mencap, who has been involved with Remember A Charity for a number of years now, recently received a large and unexpected donation thanks to a very generous Will.
It was an exciting day for the board of trustees when, instead of talking of further funding cuts and upcoming bids, we could instead talk of the exciting new opportunities this money would provide.
So, following Local Charities Day, we should all take Rob Wilson’s advice and shout about the amazing work of local charities. But we should also consider the future viability of these organisations and the opportunity and inspiration provided to local charities through donations and charitable giving. And when it comes to this I would say, it’s your shout!
To find out more leaving a charitable gift in a Will click here.
Find a local charity in your area.
Ellen Maybery, trustee at Barnet Mencap