Public Policy round-up: May 2017

In the month running up to the election, our work has focused on two things:

  • Developing our manifesto for the next government
  • Ensuring charities understand their right to campaign

 

NCVO’s general election manifesto

We published our manifesto at the start of the month: Charities and volunteering make Britain great.

Our key asks are summarised in Karl’s blog post and are:

NCVO is also a member of the Social Economy Alliance, and we have signed up to the SEA Manifesto for an Inclusive Economy (pdf, 763KB).

Campaigning during election time

There continues to be much concern within charities about what they can and can’t do following the call of a general election. Most of these concerns are unfounded, and stem from a misunderstanding of the non-party campaigning rules (mostly referred to as the Lobbying Act). This has not been helped by a number of articles in the press that fuel the (wrong) notion that the Lobbying Act prevents charities from campaigning.

Our message to members and to charities is that the most important thing is for them to campaign in compliance with charity law (CC9 guidance (pdf, 959KB) and supplementary ‘Charities and Elections’ guidance (pdf, 606KB)). The Lobbying Act is unlikely to affect the majority of charities.

 

Post-Brexit immigration policy

A recent Institute for Government report on immigration has said that the current system for registering EU citizens isn’t fit for purpose, and that a new immigration system by April 2019 is unfeasible – not just for government, but also employers and providers of public services.

This report came out just before the European Commission published its final position papers on Article 50 negotiations. In line with our manifesto ask it says that EU nationals currently living in the UK, and UK nationals currently living in the EU, should continue to be afforded the same rights.

Charity Commission Accounts monitoring report

The Charity Commission has published its findings from its accounts review conducted on accounts filed by charities in the Commission’s ongoing class inquiry into those charities that fail to file accounts properly in 2 consecutive years (so-called ‘double defaulters’).

The accounts review looked at accounts filed by 27 charities, and found that the majority of the accounts submitted were of good and acceptable quality, and those who used the Commission’s accounts templates were more likely to have good quality accounts.

However, the review also highlighted that not all trustees understand the external scrutiny requirements so the Commission has published wider learning for trustees and auditors (pdf, 186KB).

Charity registrations

In a recent Charity Commission blog to mark the first anniversary of the new online application for registration as a charity, the Commission sets out its plans to improve the service on the basis of user feedback. Some of the changes that are being considered include:

  • Producing bespoke question sets for different types of charity
  • Simplifying the tax section
  • Replacing hand-written signatures with ‘electronic signatures’ on the Trustee Eligibility Declaration.

In other Charity Commission news, the Commission has announced that within the next two months it will be launching two new digital services, to apply to change a charity’s name and to apply to amend a charity’s objects.

ICSA Report on Cultural Markers in Charities

A new ICSA report on Cultural Markers in Charities (pdf, 314KB) identifies 13 ‘red flags’ ie behaviours and practices that may indicate a poor organisational culture that does not match the stated values of the charity.

The purpose of identifying these red flags, which include factors like strong personalities in leadership roles and undue influence from funders, is that they can act as an early warning system for charities. The report is based on discussions at a round-table event held by the ICSA last year, in which we were involved.

Preparing for the GDPR

With less than a year to go before the General Data Protection Regulation starts to apply (exactly on 25 May 2018), it’s important for charities to prepare and ensure their data protection practices are compliant.

There is no need to panic, as the GDPR does not fundamentally change existing data protection principles. But it does strengthen them and it will require some changes, and these are not limited to fundraising.

To get started, BWB have published 10 practical tips for charities.

The Institute of Fundraising has launched a new guide GDPR: the essentials for fundraising organisations.

On 12 July we are also holding an event on data protection reform, explaining the GDPR and what it means for the voluntary sector.

 

 

 

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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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