Women Onto Work charity blames austerity for closure

The team at WOW celebrate their �600,000 Big Lottery funding in 2013. 'Picture: Neil Hanna
The team at WOW celebrate their �600,000 Big Lottery funding in 2013. 'Picture: Neil Hanna
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A CHARITY which has been helping women in Edinburgh into work for the past 25 years is being forced to close because of a lack of funding.

Women Onto Work (Wow) offers support to unemployed lone mothers and women ­living with health problems, giving them a personal coach to ­develop the skills, knowledge and confidence they need to get a job.

The charity claims a success rate of almost 90 per cent in helping women progress towards employment.

But now its funding has dried up and it will close at the end of next month.

Funding previously came from the Big Lottery, the city council and Scottish 
Government, among others. Five staff are expected to lose their jobs.

The 50 clients the charity is currently working with will be transferred to other projects, but Wow said the closure would leave a hole in ­future provision. Wow chair Bonnie Clarke said: “It is an ­utter tragedy – really, really sad. It’s testimony to the austere times we live in. I think it’s a real loss to our city.”

She said the trusts and foundations which funded work in the sector were “extremely over-subscribed”. Three recent applications the board had been confident would be successful were turned down.

Ms Clarke said other projects had rallied round to support Wow’s existing clients, but she warned that in the longer term vulnerable women hoping to get into work would find it more difficult to get the necessary support tailored to their needs.

She said: “Wow is the only gender specific employability service in Scotland offering support to women facing multiple barriers to employment.”

She claimed the economic benefit from their work far outweighed the cost of providing the support. “Every £1 of investment is worth at least £3-£5 in terms of social and economic impact from people coming off benefits and being helped into work.

“The team delivers an excellent and, unfortunately, increasingly needed service. I want to thank them personally for their passion, expertise and focus in delivering a route-map that has supported nearly 3000 women make their journey back into work and back into their communities.”

One former employee claimed the main reason Wow was being forced to close was that the council’s arm’s-length company, Capital City Partnership (CCP), had effectively set up its own project duplicating the charity’s work and secured funding from the Big Lottery’s Making It Work programme.

Jim Rafferty, chief executive of CCP, denied the claim and insisted Wow had been involved in the lottery funding bid which his organisation had led, although Wow did not receive any of the funding.

“We are sad to see them ­closing,” he said.

A council spokeswoman said: “Both the council and Capital City Partnership have worked with and supported Wow for many years and we are sorry to hear that they are to close. The council supported the consortium for Making it Work, which included Wow as one of the partners.”

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com