The five-minute policy manager – June 2015

The last month has been almost completely dominated by the events following the tragic death of Olive Cooke and the sector’s response to the public dissatisfaction with some fundraising tactics.

In particular, there has been pressure on the three main bodies (the FRSB, the IoF and the PFRA) after they were given a ‘window of opportunity’ to prove that fundraising self-regulation can work by the Minister for Civil Society, Rob Wilson (see here for his speech at the Public Fundraising Regulatory Association).

There have been a number of announcements about changes to the self-regulatory regime for fundraising, most importantly the Institute of Fundraising will recruit three independent lay members to join the standards committee which sets the Code of Fundraising Practice. The lay members will join the (yet to be recruited) independent chair of the committee.

NCVO will also be contributing to improving the current regime, by producing new guidance for trustees and chief executives on managing and governing fundraising within their charities. This work will be carried out in partnership with the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations (ACEVO), the Institute of Fundraising, and Charity Finance Group.  It will have input from the Charity Commission and is intended to complement the Charity Commission’s guidance, CC20 – Charities and fundraising.

But while everyone’s focus has been understandably on tackling these issues, much more has been happening. Here are some of the priorities that NCVO’s policy team have been working on.

Charities Bill

Peers have started debating the draft Charities (Protection and Social Investment) Bill, and it is expected the Bill will get through the House of Lords in time for parliament’s summer recess. Although the Bill has already been subject to pre-legislative scrutiny, a number of amendments are being tabled, including on:

  • Disposal of charity assets, so that charities may not, and may not be compelled to, use or dispose of their assets in a way which is inconsistent with their charitable purposes.
  • Regulation of fundraising, requiring all fundraising charities to be members of the Fundraising Standards Board and abide by their Code of Fundraising Practice.
  • Power to make representations, expressly recognising that a charity may undertake political campaigning or political activity in the context of supporting the delivery of its charitable purposes.

See NCVO’s latest briefing on the Bill.

Charity Commission research into trust and confidence

The Commission has published the results of a survey about trust and confidence in it. In its covering press release, the Commission says the results show the public and charities overwhelmingly support new powers for the Charity Commission to regulate charities. The survey also asked the question of funding for charity regulation, showing a difference of opinion between charities and the public. As highlighted in our paper on the independence of the Charity Commission, our view is that any question around charging goes hand in hand with the governance of the Commission. In particular, we would expect that if charges were to be introduced, this would follow a review of the chair’s appointment process, with greater parliamentary involvement and less scope for political patronage.

The Commission has also published its new strategic plan, which sets out our priorities for the three years to 2018. The plan identifies four strategic aims:

  • protecting charities from abuse or mismanagement;
  • enabling trustees to run their charities effectively;
  • encouraging greater transparency and accountability in charities;
  • operating as an efficient, expert regulator with sustainable funding.

Local Sustainability Fund

The Cabinet Office has launched a £20 million Local Sustainability Fund that will provide grants to increase the sustainability of around 250 organisations. The funding will be available to medium-sized voluntary organisations that deliver vital support to vulnerable and disadvantaged people.

Business Rates response

Alongside the Charity Finance Group, the Institute of Fundraising and the Charity Tax Group we have made five recommendations to improve the fairness and consistency in the current rates relief regime. These include removing the 20 per cent discretionary rate relief and creating 100 per cent mandatory rate relief for all charities. See our full response here.

Almanac

At the beginning of June we launched the 14th edition of the UK Civil Society Almanac, showing that charity sector income and expenditure continued to flatline in 2012/13. For an overview of the findings see Dave’s blog or the Almanac’s dedicated website.

NAO report on Payment by Results

The National Audit Office (NAO) has published a report on the government’s use of payments by results (PbR). The NAO report looks at a number of areas where PbR is now used, including welfare to work, family support, offender rehabilitation, and international aid. The findings are highly critical, highlighting that the PbR mechanism carries costs and risks that government has often underestimated.

For more detail about the report, and about what is happening in public services policy see Nick’s June round up.

What next?

Summer Budget

We are gearing up for the summer budget on Wednesday 8 July, which is likely to include some important announcements for charities, especially in welfare provision. As usual we will be blogging and tweeting live on the day, using #volsecbudget, so don’t forget to follow @karlwilding @ncvoMichael @nj_davies and of course me @ncvoliz.

Funding Review

We will shortly be publishing our report following the Funding Review carried out in partnership with other sector umbrella bodies. By bringing together evidence and experiences from across the voluntary sector with regards to income, expenditure and assets the Review identifies the changes that have taken place since 2008 in the sector’s financial landscape, and makes recommendations for how organisations and government can address future challenges.

 

 

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Elizabeth Chamberlain Elizabeth is head of policy and public services at NCVO. She has been part of the policy team since 2008, as the expert on charity law and regulation. Her policy interests also include charity campaigning, the sector’s independence, transparency, and accountability.

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