The five minute policy manager – June 2014

This month will be remembered by NCVO for the escape of hundreds of voluntary sector leaders from a fire at our annual conference (Stuart: ‘real firefighters sprayed actual things with actual water’). But meanwhile, what has been going on in the voluntary sector policy world?

New EU funding for the voluntary sector

Thanks to the lovely folk at the Big Lottery Fund, the Minister for Civil Society and many other across Whitehall and beyond, we are nearing agreement that will see £260m+ of new EU funding become available to the voluntary sector from next year. It will be matched and delivered by the Big Lottery Fund and have a broad focus on promoting ‘social inclusion’. See our press release for more info.

Welfare matters

NatCen’s latest British Social Attitudes survey includes some insightful analysis of the public’s attitudes towards welfare provision. Especially for charities that work and campaign on poverty issues, this is well worth a read.

Living Wage report

The Living Wage Commission’s final report has been published this week. It makes a compelling moral and business case for the Living Wage. If all employers paid it, the taxpayer would also save billions each year on tax credits. NCVO has highlighted the issue of public service contracts driving down wages in the sector in our manifesto (PDF, 1.6MB) and asked politicians to address this issue at the next election.

Underemployment in the voluntary sector?

For anyone interested in workforce issues, see our latest analysis from my colleague Joe Heywood. He asks whether rising workforce figures are another sign of economic recovery or if the voluntary sector has been experiencing the same ‘productivity puzzle’ as the rest of the economy.

Public trust in charities

Once the smoked cleared at our annual conference, we heard from Bobby Duffy of Ipsos Mori about their latest research, which shows public trust in charities remains high. Similarly, Dr Beth Breeze, an expert on philanthropy, cautioned charities against over-reaction to public critique. She described it as a case of ‘you’re so vain, you probably think this data’s about you’, when it’s often about respondents’ deeply held personal views, which may well have nothing to do with recent news about a charity or charities. Nonetheless, all panellists agreed there was no cause for complacency and that charities should take pro-active steps to become more transparent and open.

Charity Commission consultation on annual return

While we’re encouraging charities to be more open, we’re not convinced of the merits of the latest proposals from the Charity Commission, which include a requirement for charities to declare their spending on campaigning and their income from public service contracts. For one thing, this would require charities to adopt different accounting approaches for different parts of their work. And distilling all the different elements of campaigning costs into a single, meaningful number would be difficult. Let us know your thoughts though – we’ll be preparing our response over the next few weeks.

Funding review

We’ve launched a major new review of funding, in partnership with NAVCA, IoF, CFG and the Small Charities Coalition. The review will provide an update to our 2010 Funding Commission’s work, and examine the income, expenditure, assets and liabilities of the sector. The aim will be to identify best practice and recommendations for the sector, funders and the government to improve financial sustainability in the sector.

Making the most of the Small Donations Scheme

Earlier this year, it was confirmed that the Treasury’s Gift Aid Small Donations Scheme is significantly underspent. We’re asking charities to complete a very short survey about whether they’ve attempted to make a claim under this new scheme, and if not, why. We’ll use your feedback to make suggestions to HMRC about how to improve and simplify the Scheme.

Ethical standards for public service providers

The Committee on Standards in Public Life has recommended that all providers of public services uphold ‘Seven Principles of Public Life’: selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty, leadership. In their report, they highlight recent scandals involving major outsourcing companies and consider how more stringent contract requirements, training and guidance could help to improve practice. We understand the Government is currently considering the Committee’s proposal.

Labour consults the voluntary sector

Lisa Nandy, shadow charities minister, has launched a consultation about Labour’s policies towards the voluntary sector. It focuses on seven areas, including volunteering, charity campaigning, and procurement. NCVO will submit a response based on our manifesto, but we would encourage members to respond directly if there are relevant issues for your organisation.

IPPR launched its Condition of Britain report

Influential centre-left thinktank IPPR has published a major new report focussed on themes of social renewal and reforming the state. It sets out policy recommendations for improving health and social care, the welfare system, support for older and younger people, work programmes and local decision making.

Launched by Ed Miliband, the report is being talked about as a blueprint for reform following the 2015 election, but the recommendations will also be of wider interest to organisations working in these different fields.

Finally, on a personal note…

I will also remember this month as my last few weeks before going on maternity leave. Thanks to everyone for inspiration and support over the last couple of years. My brilliant NCVO colleagues will be continuing the five minute policy manager posts while I’m away.

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Charlotte Ravenscroft was NCVO’s head of policy and public services. Charlotte’s wrote about funding, public service delivery, and strengthening the evidence base for voluntary action. She has also worked at The National Lottery Community Fund and the Department for Education.

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