A charity dating back hundreds of years is stepping in to “fill a void” in Bath and North East Somerset Council’s finances.
Despite losing a significant sum from its rental income due to the lockdown, St John’s Foundation is helping to keep services running that change the lives of vulnerable children.
The charity has committed to ensure “that every child under 12 is supported to grow into a healthy, happy and educated member of our community”.
Councillor Kevin Guy, the council’s cabinet member for children’s services, told a scrutiny panel meeting last week: “Covid-19 has had a massive impact on our finances so we’ve had to tighten our belts a bit with regard to certain services, but this administration has promised not to withdraw any preventative services.
“We’ve been working hard with partner organisations including the St John’s Foundation to ensure our frontline services and particularly our preventative services are maintained and, crucially, improved for our most vulnerable children.
“St John’s Foundation has agreed to fill that funding gap. We will be negotiating how they step in to fill that void.
“We will probably look to improve the services with St John’s Foundation.”
Mr Guy said in a statement the council had reviewed the services provided to children and young people and the council funding was set to be reduced for some of them.
He added: “We are working to find some innovative solutions with partners and St John’s Foundation has agreed in principle to use its resources to benefit vulnerable children in line with its existing funding strategy and in a way which will mitigate the reductions the council is having to make.”
Like the council, St John’s Foundation is a major landlord in Bath, so the lockdown has hit its income from rental and commercial properties.
Despite this impact, a spokesperson for the charity said: “The knock-on effect of the pandemic has been devastating; we are simply one of many organisations in Bath and North East Somerset that have been collaborating with the council and looking at how we might best respond to help with the situation it finds itself in.
“We are offering support to those areas, not part of the council’s statutory services, that we had already identified as being closely aligned to the aims of our Foundation Fund ‘where every child under 12 is supported to grow into a healthy, happy and educated member of our community’.
“This support has been formalised with relevant providers and forms part of St John’s wider work within BaNES to support its recently-launched Foundation Fund.
“This funding will seek to enhance the local service offering for children and young people, and help to offset any impact on services that have directly resulted from Covid-19.”
David Hobdey, the charity’s chief executive, said: “St John’s is pleased to be able to work with the council and to support these vital services which help change the lives of vulnerable children.”
Stephen Sumner, Local Democracy Reporter