NCVO’s general election message: charities and volunteering make Britain great

Charities and volunteering make Britain great

The British people are incredibly generous. We have a proud tradition of helping others, giving time and money, sharing skills and coming up with new ways to solve problems. Whether it’s helping to look after a local park, providing advice on mental health or helping out with sports for children, we come together through charities and community groups. Together, we work on the issues we care about and pursue the interests we enjoy.

At NCVO, we think people getting involved and helping others are among our country’s biggest assets. Put simply, we think that charities and volunteering make Britain great.

In the coming weeks, people across our country will be talking about their vision of what a good society looks like, what a more social economy looks like, and what post-Brexit Britain looks like. Our message to candidates from all political parties is that this is a good time to think about how we can support and encourage the people and charities who want to help in their communities.

Our manifesto

And we have some ideas for how everyone in government, business or the voluntary sector can do this. They’re supported by realistic, worked-out proposals that can be implemented: for those interested in the detail, here. So, in the coming weeks we’ll be talking about the following five goals:

1. Make it easier and more rewarding for people to volunteer

People everywhere want to give their time and talents to their community. We want to seed people’s interest in and ability to volunteer, setting them on a path of contributing to their communities, by:

  • Getting more employers to allow time off work for volunteering, including time off for charity trustees.
  • Providing a support fund to address barriers to volunteering for people with disabilities.
  • Doing more to recognise the difference that volunteers make
  • Strengthening volunteer development and management

2. Support local communities for a generation to come

We’d like to create a legacy for small and local charities for a generation to come. This could be done by investing the money from dormant bank accounts in two ways:

  • Create income-generating endowment funds.
  • Put more assets in community ownership.

3. Make it easier for charities and volunteers to support our public services

Public services are better when charities and volunteers are involved. We would like to build on this by:

  • Asking services such as the NHS to set targets for the development of volunteering, to increase volunteer numbers, involve volunteers in a wider range of roles, and improve the experience and impact of volunteers.
  • Asking our senior public service leaders to become volunteering champions.
  • Further reforms to how government buys and provides public services. Public bodies should use grant funding instead of large contracts, and spend public money in a way that takes account of the wider social value of a contract.

4. Make it easier for people to build their skills and get a good job

Voluntary organisations help build the skilled workforce that our country will need in the future, teaching new skills and networking people to opportunities. Charities and volunteering could do more if we:

  • Replace European Union programmes that help people get back to work or start a social enterprise with new, lighter-touch, flexible programmes. These should focus on local people making decisions about what is needed.
  • Make it easier for unemployed people looking for work to volunteer, by getting rid of red tape and confusion about the rules.

5. Give everybody a stake in post-Brexit Britain

Getting people more involved in their communities is an important way of giving them a say in their future. Charities can help by giving people the confidence and a route to speak up for themselves. Charities’ role in providing a voice and informing public debate is valued by the British people and makes our democracy one of the strongest in the world.

  • We can get more people involved if when parliament legislates to replace EU laws and regulations through the Great Repeal Bill, there is proper chance for changes to be debated and scrutinised, informed by the expertise of charities and the communities they work with.

People from the EU have enriched our culture, society and economy. Along with their families, they work and volunteer in our public services, including for charities. We think it right that they should continue to have a stake in the future of country.

  • The right to stay of people from elsewhere in Europe must be resolved without delay.

The time and talents of people from overseas will continue to be an important resource for our communities and public services. This will range from the scientists needed by medical research charities to the care assistants needed by social care charities.

  • We ask that simple and effective visa requirements, or a waiver programme, are in place to enable this.

Read the full manifesto here

We don’t have all the answers…

We’re not pretending that what we are proposing are the answers to all the problems or issues in our country right now. And we know that some of our ideas aren’t for everyone. But what we do hope is that these points will start and sustain a conversation about how people can do more in their communities. And conversations about how a wide range of organisations that exist to benefit the public – charities, community groups, co-ops, social enterprises – can make a bigger difference.

And that’s a reminder that it’s also a good time to engage with charities on the issues that they and their communities care about. We at NCVO strongly believe that charities and community groups know stuff:  they’re experts in their field. And no, we don’t think the public have had enough of them. So we’ll be encouraging all candidates to listen to what charities have to say, whether that’s about an issue or a place, because in the search for answers about the future of our country, and of our world, they just might be able to help.

NCVO is part of a wider group – the Social Economy Alliance – and between us we will be putting the case forward for a more civil society and a more social economy. So while our focus has been charities and volunteering, more broadly we will making the argument that there are different ways of doing good, of creating wealth, of building communities. And that we have some of the answers.

….but if we do, we need to tell people.

The last thing we wanted to say was that we want you all to speak up about the issues you care about. There’s been a lot of discussion about how difficult it is for charities to speak up or campaign. But there’s an awful lot of advice and support out there to help you do this safely, without risking your reputation or falling foul of the rules. There are lots of great examples of charities large and small already doing it: look at Citizens Advice, CPAG, Gingerbread and Reclaim. And as NCVO’s Stuart Etherington recently said in his address to the sector, now is the time for us to be bold.

And that takes us back to the beginning. The message from NCVO that we will repeat throughout this election and in the future is that charities and volunteering make Britain great.

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Karl Wilding Karl Wilding served as NCVO's chief executive from September 2019 to February 2021.

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