Monday, August 2

Voluntary Service Abroad to Leave 14 Countries Following Aid Budget Cut | Society

The Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) charity is preparing to shut down operations in 14 countries as a result of government cuts to the foreign aid budget.

The VSO, which receives half of its funding directly from the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), says it will be forced to withdraw from schemes around the world and lay off 200 people unless the government intervenes. .

Established in 1958, the VSO works to promote volunteerism to fight poverty and global inequality. Volunteers from the UK made up nearly 1,250 of the roughly 4,000 participants last year, and the organization counts former Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and London Mayor Sadiq Khan among its alumni.

Funding for its Volunteering for Development program comes to an end in fifteen days, jeopardizing a program that accounts for nearly a third of the charity’s work. If the grant is not renewed, the UK government “would effectively shut down all its support for international volunteer action within a month,” the charity said.

It follows the February closure of the International Citizen Service, which was run by VSO in partnership with other organizations, which offered volunteer placements abroad for young people ages 18-35, including many from disadvantaged backgrounds. The program ended due to funding uncertainty in February.

Unless the government steps in to support the grant, the VSO will also suspend its Covid-19 response initiative in 18 countries, cutting off support to 4.5 million people.

The organization’s shutdown comes amid plans for large-scale cuts in foreign aid funding, and the government decided to cut it by at least 50%.

Cuts proposed in a short space of time have been described as catastrophic by Sarah Champion, the Labor chairwoman of parliament’s select committee on international development. She said: “There is no doubt that lives will be lost as a result and our global position as humanitarians will be destroyed.”

The plans, which have drawn outrage from the opposition, have yet to be finalized, but Downing Street has recently indicated that the spending cut may not be put to a vote in the Commons.

Last week, when asked if the aid budget cut of 0.7% of GDP, as established in law under the International Development Act of 2015, would be subject to a vote of the Commons or a new one. law, Boris Johnson’s spokesman declined to provide confirmation. path.

The cuts were announced by Chancellor Rishi Sunak in last year’s spending review in response to the economic costs of the coronavirus crisis.

A government spokesman said: “The seismic impact of the pandemic on the UK economy has forced us to make difficult but necessary decisions, including temporarily reducing the total amount we spend on aid. We are still working on what this means for individual programs and no decisions have been made yet. “

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