Summer 2016 A to Z – Part Two

Here are letters M to Z of my summer 2016 policy round-up. For letters A to M please see part one.

M is for Michael Ashcroft polls

Following the result of the EU referendum, there have been a number of studies aimed at understanding who voted what, and why. But the most interesting and insightful remains the extensive polling carried out by Lord Michael Ashcroft.

These results explain the results looking at a range of factors, including age, employment status, education, and what reasons lay behind voters’ decision.

N is for Northern Ireland

The Charity Commission for Northern Ireland has published its first ever report into public trust and confidence in charities.

The research looks at the public’s attitude to charities, including what influences trust levels and views on charity regulation. And the results showed that the public’s confidence in the work of charities remains high, with almost 80% of respondents reporting a medium to high level of trust in charities.

This is in contrast with the negative findings published earlier this summer by the Charity Commission, which showed a drop in public trust from 6.7 out of 10 in 2014 to 5.7 this year.

O is for official warning power

The Charity Commission has consulted on draft guidance for its new power to issue official warnings.

This power was another change introduced by the Charities (Protection and Social Investment) Act. Since it is a new weapon in the commission’s armoury, guidance is fundamental to understand when it will be used and how.

NCVO’s and ACF’s response however has found that the draft guidance does not provide sufficient detail and raises a number of concerns about: the lack of safeguards, the default position of publishing official warnings, the degree of discretion for the commission in when and how it could issue a warning, and the consequences of an official warning.

P is for private schools and public benefit

In her first major domestic policy speech as Prime Minister, Theresa May has said that elite private schools will only be able to maintain charitable status if they set up or sponsor government-run sister schools.

She also announced that smaller private schools would have to send teachers to take lessons in state schools or be required to accept quotas of pupils who would otherwise be unable to afford private school fees.

The Department for Education is now running a consultation ‘Schools that work for everyone’ until 12 December.

Q is for quality standards

Quality standards are becoming increasingly important, given the external pressure on charities to show that they are managed efficiently, that they provide quality services, and are making a difference.

Again, the Charity Commission’s research in public trust and confidence has shown us some important findings:

  • The report says that one of the five key drivers of trust in charities is whether or not they make a positive difference to the cause they are working for.
  • Conversely, the second most important reason for not trusting charities is not being able to see their outcome.

NCVO is therefore building on the resources available to charities wishing to demonstrate their impact. See Sally’s blog post for more information.

R is for review

Don’t worry, not another fundraising review. This is about the Charity Commission, which has said it will review the law on the advancement of health as a charitable purpose, following the threat of a judicial review over its approach to homeopathy charities.

The review will need to address concerns that some health charities are not providing a public benefit, because they promote medical treatments that are not medically proven to work.

S is for the new social investment power

The social investment power introduced by the Charities (Protection and Social Investment) Act 2016 came into force on 31 July 2016.

The power confirms charities’ ability to make social investments. According to the Act, ‘social investment’ means investing resources with a view to both directly furthering the charity’s purposes and achieving a financial return for the charity.

The Charity Commission has published guidance for trustees on the new social investment power, with further details on how trustees should meet their duties. This new interim guidance supplements the commission’s existing guidance Charities and investment matters (CC14).

T is for trustees

Trustees and their responsibilities continue to be under the spotlight. Ensuring good governance will be the key challenge for the sector in the years to come.

That is why the current review of the Code of Good Governance is so important. The code was last reviewed in 2010 and a lot has happened since then, so changes need to be made to reflect what good practice looks like in the current environment.

There will be opportunities to feed into this process through a consultation that will be announced shortly, so watch this space.

U is for unambiguous consent

The concept of unambiguous consent is the cornerstone of the report on how to rebuild charities’ relationship with donors, published last week by NCVO.

The report sets out a number of good practice recommendations on how charities should communicate with their donors for fundraising purposes, including how they manage and use donors’ personal data.

You can ready more about this work and why NCVO set it up in my blog post.

V is for volunteers in public services

There has been much discussion of the role of volunteers in public service provision and in particular whether it can and should be increased.

We think that volunteers can be part of a new generation of user-led, co-produced public services, where the quality of the service is enhanced by the involvement of volunteers. But further work is needed across sectors to develop our understanding of the ingredients required to make this happen.

A few weeks ago a new strategy for Citizens in Policing was approved: it sets out a clear direction for the development of volunteering and how it can be supported so that volunteers can make a difference to creating safe, more resilient, empowered communities. We can learn from this about what needs to be in place for impactful, quality volunteering that can enhance public services across other sectors.

Read Kristen’s blog post about what successful involvement of volunteers in policing looks like.

W is for William Shawcross

The chair of the Charity Commission, William Shawcross, is due to be joined by three new board members, following a Cabinet Office advertisement at the start of the summer. The appointments will fill vacancies left by the departures of Peter Clarke and Claire Dove, and should be announced over the next couple of weeks.

X is for Brexit

Following the EU referendum result NCVO produced a briefing on the implications for the voluntary sector, as well as holding a series of events including:

We are also recruiting an EU external relations officer to take forward this important piece of work.

Y is for young people in volunteering

Over recent years there have been a number of initiatives to get more young people involved in volunteering. The latest is the announcement that the government and the Big Lottery Fund have set up two new funds to create new opportunities for young people to take part in social action, including volunteering:

We are now expecting the National Citizen Service bill, which will place the volunteering programme for young people on a ‘permanent statutory footing’. NCVO will be working on the bill through its parliamentary stage, to ensure that the NCS will be as effective as possible, and build on existing networks and the expertise of organisations.

Z is for zero hour contracts

A row over the use of zero-hour contracts has reignited the debate over the increase in the number of workers on zero-hour contracts.

Earlier this year, the Office for National Statistics said the number of workers on zero-hours contracts had increased by more than 100,000 over the previous 12 months to exceed 800,000 for the first time. The Resolution Foundation has also highlighted concerns that the insecure arrangements have become a permanent feature of working life for thousands of people.

NCVO’s position is that zero-hour contracts are not a problem in themselves, and can allow both employers and employees valuable freedom. The crucial aspect is how they are administered: all employers should be striving to nurture mutual trust and understanding with those who work for them.


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

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