Page last updated at 10:36 GMT, Wednesday, 3 November 2010
Paving the way for volunteer groups in Powys
Carl Cooper
PAVO serves more than 2,000 voluntary groups in Powys

Powys' 3,000 voluntary groups could find out more about how they will be affected by spending cuts this week.

First Minister Carwyn Jones AM will speak at a key event for voluntary groups on Thursday, 4 November.

The Annual Conference of Powys Association of Voluntary Organisations (PAVO) takes place at the Royal Welsh Showground at Llanelwedd.

The National Council for Voluntary Organisations fears charities will be seen as soft targets for cuts.

But Carl Cooper, PAVO's chief executive, wants to use the event to persuade decision makers the sector makes a crucial contribution to efficiency and innovation in Wales.

If local authorities want to be innovative and find new ways to provide services for less money they would be daft not to use the voluntary sector
Carl Cooper

"The Big Society is not a Welsh policy, but the conference will investigate the extent which the Welsh Assembly Government (WAG) will look to the third sector to compensate in those service areas that will inevitably suffer significant reduction," he said.

WAG publishes its draft budget on 17 November 2010 and will set out how resources will be distributed.

This will include the financial settlement to local authorities, which finance many voluntary groups in each county.

"We want to show that voluntary groups in Powys provide added economic value," said Mr Cooper, who leads a staff of more than 50 people, working in Llandrindod Wells, Brecon and Newtown, serving more than 3,000 voluntary groups.

Mr Cooper said he was heartened by a project financed by Powys Local Health Board and launched in April 2010 which provides a volunteer befriending service that allows people to be independent and stay at home rather than be admitted to hospital, as well as allowing people to leave hospital when they are ready.

Budget squeeze

"In the first three months, 45 people who used the befriending service were prevented from going into hospital which saved the health board at least £220,000," he said.

"Also, 40 people were discharged from hospital on time, preventing costly deferred transfers of care.

"This means we are talking of many hundreds of thousands of pounds of saving because of voluntary sector services."

But how will voluntary groups be equipped to take on more responsibility, given that public funds will be cut as part of the budget squeeze?

Community transport group in Powys
Voluntary groups in Powys help provide community transport

Mr Cooper said: "If local authorities want to be innovative and find new ways to provide services for less money it would be counter-productive not to use the voluntary sector.

"For every pound spent in the sector, we deliver multiple pounds worth of service."

And how will the voluntary sector face extra demand from people left unemployed or affected by welfare cuts?

"The cuts in benefits will inevitably result in greater need and increased vulnerability in our communities," said Mr Cooper.

"As the public sector prepares to withdraw and reduce services, I trust that the third sector will be resourced to provide the cost effective and ingenious services to support citizens at the point of need."

Speaking about his visit to the PAVO event, First Minister, Carwyn Jones AM said: "With less money to spend, it is vital that we work together to prioritise resources and overcome the challenges that lie ahead."

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