What you told us – the big issues for the sector ahead of the next General Election

Katie Howe was part of NCVO’s Parliamentary and Media Team and has now left NCVO. Her posts have been archived here for reference.

The 2015 Project was a major consultation to find out what our members’ priorities are when thinking ahead to the general election in May 2015. Since June 2013 we have visited members, held policy workshops, hosted guest blogs, written discussion papers and hosted an online questionnaire – all designed to find out your views and ideas for the future.

Here’s our round-up document of what you told us in the consultation. We outline the types of issues highlighted, case studies from some of our members and more information about our election work.

This has helped us get a real feel for your priorities ahead of the next General Election. But first things first, we’d like to say a big thank you to all of you who responded – your input will really help NCVO put together a manifesto that reflects our members’ views.

We posed our questions around four themes – economic and social justice, public services, volunteering and social action and support for charities. Here’s what you said on these themes:

1. Economy and jobs – affect us all

You’ve told us that unemployment is a significant concern, particularly in relation to younger people, and this is something that you feel charities can help to address. Underemployment, zero hour contracts and low wages are problem areas for many of you too.

Double whammy – Lots of our members have highlighted difficult situations where they have seen increased demand for services at the same time as squeezed incomes and reduced funding. And the negative media narrative around welfare has been cited by some of you as leading to increased stigmatisation of the most vulnerable.

2. Public services – stand to deliver

More of you are delivering services on behalf of the state. You have told us about increasing concerns that local authorities are focussing on cheap rather than quality services – so the need to promote social value is clear.

The practical challenges involved in the processes and design of public service contracting has been highlighted as being particularly burdensome for small organisations. In some cases this has meant that charities aren’t able to engage with public service delivery as much as they would like in order to help the people they work for. Other members have told us they are not looking to deliver public services, but that their work complements public services and can be affected indirectly by cuts.

3. Volunteering and social action – less is more

One of the clearest messages from the volunteering community is that there is little appetite for new government initiatives on volunteering. More support for the volunteering that already takes place would be far more widely appreciated.

A lack of understanding of what volunteering really looks like is something many of you are concerned about too. And you said that a new challenge is for businesses and charities to build better relationships and to work together for real mutual benefit, rather than for just quick wins.

4. Support for charities – not everything can be sold

The big issue for you here was that your relationships with local authorities and other regional and local bodies have changed rapidly over the last few years, and that many organisations are continuing to adapt to this shift.

You’ve sent us a clear message that not all services can be funded through individual donations or can be sold – and that more recognition – and grant funding – for this from funders as well as local and national governments would be helpful.

What’s next?

We’re now developing workable policy solutions to help address the issues you’ve highlighted, so watch this space for our manifesto for the voluntary sector. And in case you missed it, here’s the full report on what our members told us throughout the process.

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