Woman with children, Rohingya_camps Bangladesh
VSO/Abir Abdullah

Update on UK Government funding for VSO

13 July 2021

MPs have voted against reinstating the commitment to spend 0.7% of Gross National Income (GNI) on overseas aid and development. This equals a real term reduction of £4 billion of aid. The loss of funding available means essential health, nutrition and educational programmes will be threatened and may cost lives. VSO urges the government to prioritise the needs of the world’s poorest people, and to show that Britain remains a player on the world stage.

If you would like to donate to help us to continue to do our work, please do so. Your support could help us continue reaching some of the world’s most marginalised communities. Thank you.


In April 2021 the UK Foreign Secretary laid out the financial allocations for UK development assistance to the UK Parliament, explicitly mentioning VSO in his statement.

The good news is that the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) has committed to providing VSO with £9 million for our Volunteering for Development work in 2021/22.

Although this represents a 45% reduction in our Volunteering for Development (VfD) grant, compared to the final year of the original VfD grant, we are at the same time, very conscious of the scale of the cuts and their impact for development organisations across the sector.

Taken together with the decision to close the UK government’s International Citizen Service (ICS) programme, the cuts to these two programmes represent an 80% reduction in UK government funding to VSO. The context for these cuts is a dramatic reduction in UK development assistance provided through civil society organisations. We are hearing, for example, of other organisations whose programmes are being cut in their entirety. We believe the government is wrong to cut aid spending at this time, and we will continue to campaign for the reinstatement of the 0.7% target for aid spending.

VSO believes the decision for continued funding is a reflection of the enormous value of VSO’s work to improve the lives of the poorest, most vulnerable and excluded people – and the incredible show of solidarity from our supporters, volunteers, and the public over the past few months.

Hundreds of people contacted their local MP, putting pressure on Ministers to recognise the significant impact of the Volunteering for Development funding and VSO’s work. Many more also showed their support in other ways, such as writing to local and national newspapers or sharing our messages with family and friends or on social media.

The result was significant media coverage and mention of VSO in Parliament by the Prime Minister, who expressed his strong support for VSO. Two weeks ago the FCDO mentioned VSO specifically in its written statement outlining the future of UK overseas aid. The FCDO have also written to us recognising the importance of volunteers as a powerful and practical way to tackle poverty and inequality and appreciating the value of the strategic relationship with VSO.

VSO has been a strategic partner of the UK government for the past sixty years, working together to improve the lives of the poorest, most vulnerable and excluded people. This last year, we have reached around 9 million people through our work globally. The new level of FCDO funding means that we will not be able to maintain this level of support. However, we will – as we always do – continue to adapt to best serve the needs of poor, marginalised and excluded people around the world with the resources we have. We look forward to working with the FCDO on our shared priorities, particularly around climate change, girls’ education and promoting open societies, delivering on these development outcomes through VSO volunteers.

We would like to thank everyone who has shown such incredible support for our work over the past months. It has been deeply appreciated and, for all our volunteers and staff, it has been fantastic to know that you care about the work that makes such a difference to millions of families and communities around the world.

Read more

Vivian mother in rural Kenya
VSO/Obscura Media

Life on the brink

For Vivian, the Covid-19 pandemic was a frightening time. Affording three meals a day for herself and her children was hard with no income. Thanks to VSO supporters Vivian was provided a lifeline, with a new small business grant.

Sam with community members of Susan's Bay slum in Freetown
VSO/Larry Ronnie Tucker

Volunteers respond to devastating fire in Sierra Leone slum

In 2021 a devastating fire broke out in Susan’s Bay slum in Freetown, Sierra Leone, leaving 7,000 people homeless. Read how volunteer Samuel jumped in to action.

Men planting mangroves on a beach in the Philippines
©Pakigdait Inc

The power of regrowth

Climate change, typhoons and poor fishing practices were threatening the way of life of a coastal community in the Philippines. Then volunteers came together to plant mangroves to turn the tide.