Summer 2016 A to Z – Part One

I have been very negligent in providing my monthly policy updates, and it’s hardly been a quiet Summer. So here is a ‘Policy A to Z’ that anyone can dip into, depending on which letter you prefer.

A is for Apprenticeship Levy

April 2017 remains the planned date for implementing the apprenticeship levy, despite calls for this to be delayed.

Over the Summer, government published guidance on how the levy will work.

This includes details about the conditions employers need to meet in order to be providers of their own training, so charities will want to take a look if this is something they are considering.

B is for the Big Lottery Fund’s new Policy Directions

At the start of the Summer, government published new draft policy directions for the Big Lottery Fund.

The directions specify the matters to be taken into account in determining to whom, for which purposes, and the conditions subject to which BLF distributes money.

NCVO’s response to the consultation raises a number of concerns, related to the potential watering down of the so called ‘additionality principle’ and to the lack of sufficient clarity. Read Michael’s post for more details about what we have said.

C is for the Common Reporting Standard

In August HMRC published new guidance on how UK charities may be affected by Automatic Exchange of Information agreements between the UK and other countries aimed at combatting offshore tax-evasion.

This is relevant to charities whose main income is from investing in financial assets, since under the new regime they have a number of due diligence and reporting obligations.

To find out more, see ACF’s blog post about what the new rules mean.

D is for the Discretionary Disqualification Power

The new discretionary power to disqualify, one of a suite of new powers introduced under the Charities (Protection and Social Investment) Act 2016, is due to come into force on 1 October 2016.

The Charity Commission has consulted on its draft guidance on its approach to the new power.

The purpose of the guidance was to provide details on the circumstances in which the power would be used, the process which would be followed and the safeguards which would be built into the process.

However, NCVO’s response (and many others) raises a number of concerns about the breadth and vagueness of the guidance. In our view, the new power continues to be too widely drawn and leaves too much room for subjective decision-making, based for example on views of an individual’s ‘unsuitability’ or what the public might think.

E is for European Funding

One of the immediate concerns following the result of the EU Referendum was the future of projects supported by EU funding, particularly the European Social Fund.

Despite announcements aimed at providing reassurance about the funding of projects while the UK remains in the EU, a number of questions remain unanswered, for example:

  • What happens after 2020?
  • What about those who haven’t been issued letters of offer before November?
  • What criteria will Treasury put in place for assessing whether to guarantee funding for specific structural and investment fund projects that might be signed after the Autumn Statement?

F is for the Fundraising Preference Service

The FPS working group has submitted its recommendations on how the FPS should be set up and operated to the Fundraising Regulator.

Key elements of the proposed FPS are:

  • It should apply on the basis of the type of fundraising undertaken (direct marketing) and the level of expenditure on such activity, as a reasonable indicator of the volume of activity.
  • It should have its own definition of what constitutes a ‘fundraising communication’, based on communications where the core purpose is to raise funds.
  • It should not apply to communications where the core purpose is not fundraising.
  • It should be based on individual entities rather than households.
  • It should focus on core channels of communication such as: telephony, mail, texting and email.
  • It should provide a signposting function to existing preference services such as the TPS and MPS.
  • It should allow registration by a third party of vulnerable individuals only where that third party has the necessary Power of Attorney or equivalent.
  • It should not prevent registrants to give fresh consent to being contacted at any point after FPS registration by engaging with charities and other fundraising organisations, which will therefore be able to get in touch for fundraising purposes.
  • It should provide a registration that is time-capped to two years.

The Fundraising Regulator is consulting on the detailed proposals for implementation until 30 September.

G is for the Gift Aid Small Donations Scheme

Summer saw the close of the HMRC consultation on the scheme, the publication of the government’s response, and only last week, the launch of the Small Charitable Donations Bill.

With Parliamentary time on giving being so rare, we feel there’s a lot more that the Bill could do to improve access to the scheme, particularly around the matching requirement.

NCVO will be working with others in the sector to ensure the most is made from this opportunity to help smaller organisations access this support.

H is for the House of Lords Select Committee on Charities

The House of Lords Select Committee on Charities  has been gathering evidence as part of its inquiry into issues related to sustaining the charity sector, and the challenges of charity governance.

NCVO has appeared in front of the Committee to provide oral evidence, to discuss issues such as:

  • Pressures and challenges faced by charities;
  • How funding profiles are likely to change in the future;
  • The role of the Government and the Charity Commission;
  • How charities are accountable to their donors and to the public; and
  • Governance and trusteeship issues.

We have also made a written submission to its call for written evidence (Parliamentary rules prevent us from publishing this but it will be on the Committee’s website shortly).

I is for the Information Commissioner

Elizabeth Denham has been appointed as the new Information Commissioner.

No doubt she will be a key figure with which charities will want to establish a relationship, given how important the ICO’s regulation has become for charities.

A fun fact: her previous role was Commissioner at the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner for British Columbia, where I understand charities enjoy a number of exemptions from privacy regulation.

J is for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s report on solving poverty

As part of its project ‘Solve UK Poverty’, JRF has published ‘We can solve poverty in the UK’.

The report sets out recommendations for solving poverty aimed mainly at government and business, but the important role of charities is also recognised.

For a commentary of the report, see my former colleague Charlotte’s post.

K is for knitting

There continues to be a concern that charities are still being told to ‘stick to their knitting’. Over the Summer, we have seen this message in the Charity Commission’s revised guidance for trustees on litigation.

The guidance provides a useful insight into what the Commission expects of trustees when their charity is about to bring or defend a legal claim. But it also goes further, placing greater emphasis on the risks of undertaking legal action – with the effect of sending a very discouraging and prescriptive message to trustees.

I have commented on the guidance in more detail.

Much more positive messages are fortunately coming from others such as the House of Lords, which recently held an interesting debate about charity lobbying and praised the valuable role it can play.

L is for the Levy by the Fundraising Regulator

The Fundraising Regulator has consulted on and set out its arrangements for the levy it will charge charities for registration.

Following the consultation, the levy will operate as follows:

  • It will apply to organisations reporting annual fundraising expenditure of £100,000 or more to generate donations from the public.
  • The charges will be set on a sliding scale, from £150 at the lower end (charities spending between £100,000 and £149,999) to £15,000 at the top end (charities spending more than £50m).
  • There is a flat rate of £1,000 for exempt charities such as higher education institutions and universities.

For more details see the Fundraising Regulator’s response paper to the consultation.

M is for more

Go to part two of this blog!



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Elizabeth was head of policy and public services at NCVO until 2020.

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