Orkney Islands Council has today agreed to establish a £300k fund to provide emergency support to Orkney’s Third Sector as they face considerable financial pressures and surges in demand for their services as a direct result of the coronavirus pandemic.
The emergency funding was agreed unanimously at today’s Full Council meeting and will be drawn from the Council’s own Coronavirus Response Fund established in April 2020 to in response to the Covid-19 crisis.
The Council will now work closely with Voluntary Action Orkney to develop eligibility criteria for the emergency fund.
Today’s decision follows a request to the Council from Voluntary Action Orkney on behalf of Orkney’s Third Sector for emergency funding to support COVID-19 response and recovery.
A report before Councillors noted the significant upturn in demand across Orkney’s Third Sector as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic, successive lockdowns and the financial and social hardships it has brought for the community.
Members also heard there was significant downturn in the availability of funding for some of Orkney’s key Third Sector organisations, due to increased competition and demand for funds nationally, and delays from funding bodies - with direct implications for the future viability of services provided to vulnerable individuals and families in Orkney.
Members agreed that Voluntary Action Orkney be appointed to administer the fund, as an organisation representing the third sector locally with insight into the challenges currently facing agencies. Third sector organisations will be able to apply for up £30,000, with an option for them re-apply later in the current financial year depending on their circumstances at the time and the remaining funds available.
Speaking after the meeting, Convener Harvey Johnston said: “Orkney’s third sector and voluntary organisations are the lifeblood of Orkney and provide our community with early, timely, tailored interventions and support without which we would all be very much the poorer. Never has it been more crucial to ensure they can continue their vital work as local people grapple with the ongoing effects of the pandemic and the long road to recovery.
“The support offered today reflects how much this Council values and depends upon the work of our third sector partners – there are likely many areas of the country where this emergency funding does not exist, and our hope is that this will provide our local agencies with the resources and certainty they need to continue vital services while the national funding situation is such a state of flux.”
Gail Anderson, Chief Executive of Voluntary Action Orkney, said: “We’re pleased and grateful for today’s decision by Orkney Islands Council to provide this practical financial support to the third sector in Orkney at this time when it’s needed most.
“We are indeed very fortunate to have the local authority's understanding of the importance of the sector and the need to work together to provide the support our community needs, and we’d thank all involved for the emergency assistance agreed today.”