Voluntary Service Overseas set to wind down operations after Government funding dries up

Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) is set to wind down operations after Government funding dries up amid cuts to the foreign aid budget, it has been reported.

The VSO is a not-for-profit international development organisation which enables people from across the UK, including many for disadvantaged backgrounds, to work on grassroots projects abroad.

The charity relies on the Foreign and Commonwealth Development Office (FCDO) for more than half of its £42million budget, but the Government is yet to commit to funding it beyond the end of March.

It would be left relying on private donations and cash from other countries and could result in the organisation withdrawing from 14 countries and making 200 people redundant, according to The Sunday Times.

The VSO halted its international citizens service last month, leading to many volunteers who were due to go out on placements this summer being disappointed.

If funding assurances are not received by the end of the month, the VSO will have to stop its Covid-19 programmes in 18 countries, affecting 4.5million people.

The charity will have to support fewer volunteers from the UK, meaning the numbers would fall from 1,200 to 50 a year. 

VSO officials have said they have been unable to secure a meeting with senior representatives from the Government since October.

The Foreign Aid budget was by Rishi Sunak slashed last year to just 0.5 per cent of GDP.

Chief executive of VSO Philip Goodwin told The Sunday Times: “This is a major British institution that is known throughout the world and benefits the UK hugely, but unless we receive government funding it will no longer be a British institution.

“We will survive but we will be a radically different organisation. We currently work in 23 countries; we will cut 14 of those country programmes and we will lay off around 200 people globally — a lot of those will be in the UK.”

A Government spokesman said: “The seismic impact of the pandemic on the UK economy has forced us to take tough but necessary decisions, including temporarily reducing the overall amount we spend on aid.

“We are still working through what this means for individual programmes and decisions have not yet been made.”