Public Policy Round-Up: November 2017

With the year quickly coming to an end, there is no shortage of developments in policy and regulation relevant to charities. As well as various important reports being published, a number of announcements already look to the new year and will mean a lot of important changes for our sector.

Here is a summary of some of the key things I think charities should be aware of.

Civil Society Strategy

The Government has announced its intention to develop a Civil Society Strategy that will coordinate and improve how public sector bodies interact with the charity sector.

According to the announcement made by the minister Karen Bradley, a key focus will be on building new partnerships and better coordination between different branches of government.

The Office for Civil Society will lead the work, starting with the launch of a listening exercise in the New Year.

This will be an important piece of work for us at NCVO, and we plan on feeding into the consultation as much as possible. So if you have any thoughts or specific views, please email me or feel free to comment below.

Autumn Budget

This was a budget that didn’t have much to say about charities, or volunteering. But there are clearly large swathes of the budget that will impact on charities, so read our blog on the key things for charities to know.

Changes to the Annual Return

The Charity Commission’s consultation on the next Annual Return closed on 24 November.

Our response questioned the need for the Commission to ask charities for various types of information, when this is already available through other sources such as the annual report, charity accounts, or held by other bodies.

A detailed summary of our response is available here.

Charity Tax Commission

We have announced the chair and commissioners that will lead our review of charity tax.

The Commission has been tasked with undertaking a thorough review of the existing tax treatment of charities and the principles that underpin it, and to develop recommendations for change if it identifies gaps or inefficiencies.

More information about the Commission and its work will follow shortly, but in the meantime please get in touch with Paul Winyard if you have any questions.

Countdown to GDPR

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has published its Guide to the GDPR.

The Guide replaces the previous overview by expanding a number of sections, including the one on consent.

The ICO has also launched a dedicated telephone service aimed at helping small organisations (including charities) prepare for the new data protection laws.

If you are getting up to speed on what GDPR means for you and your organisation, see also my blog on GDPR and key things for trustees to know, following the workshop I chaired at our Trustee Conference.

Assessment of the Charity Commission

The National Audit Office has published its last report on the work of the Charity Commission.

This follows up on the NAO’s previous reports on the Commission:

It focuses on the progress that the Commission has made, areas that could be improved, and suggestions for the Commission to consider next.

It’s good news for the Commission, since its performance is seen to have improved. However, it’s also clear from this third report that there are still areas that the Commission needs to address. In particular:

  • Funding: the Commission needs to be clearer about its funding needs, and what its proposals about charging will be. It needs to make a more persuasive argument for additional funding: giving a detailed figure of what the total cost of being an effective regulator is, and outlining precisely how the additional money will be used. This is particularly important if it wants to make the case for charging charities.
  • Its relationship with other government departments: in particular with regards to the exchange of information, the Commission needs to get better at sharing and obtaining information with others such as HMRC.
  • Its governance: the board’s approach should be more strategic and less taken up with specific cases. We and others in the sector have been consistently calling for measures to be taken to ensure that the Commission’s governance not only is independent, but is also publicly perceived to be so.

On the same day of the NAO’s report publication, the Commission gave evidence to the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee.

The latest data about why and where people get involved

We have published Getting Involved: how people make a difference.

This report gives an overview of the different ways and activities in which people participate in society, drawing together statistics from a variety of sources.

The key findings are summarised in Lisa’s blog, while Karl has blogged about how we can use the findings to get more people involved.

NCVO response to Full Time Social Action Review

We have responded to the call for evidence announced by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) as part of its full time social action review.

The review is considering what the voluntary sector, industry and, if needed, government can do to support and grow full-time volunteering.

Will’s blog sets out the key issues and explains our views, for example on whether full time volunteers should be given a specific legal status, and what other ways are available to ensure the best possible experience.

Or you can read our full response here.

Changes to Charitable Incorporated Organisations (CIOs)

Secondary legislation that will make it easy for charitable companies and CICs to convert into CIOs if they so wish was approved by Parliament on 23 November.

The Charity Commission has announced a phased timetable based on income bracket, beginning from 1 January 2018, and produced detailed guidance about the legislative changes and the timetable.

Taken on Trust research report

The Charity Commission has published Taken on Trust: its most up to date research into the awareness and effectiveness of trustees.

The results tell us a great deal about who trustees are, how they are recruited, how they are supported and how boards operate. They help us better understand the experience, perspectives and characteristics of individuals who serve as charity trustees.

Read Dan’s blog about the what we, trustees, and the Commission can learn from this report.

Charity Fraud

This year’s Annual Fraud Indicator (AFI) has estimated that charities and charitable trusts have lost £2.3 billion due to fraud.

While this amount pales in comparison to the £140.4 billion in the private sector, and the £40.4 billion in the public sector, it is still a big concern and requires charities to put systems in place to prevent abuse.

The Charity Commission has updated its guidance ‘Protect your charity from fraud’: this sets out some simple steps trustees can take to protect their charities against fraud. It also explains the most common types of fraud experienced by charities, and how to report fraud if it does happen.

European Union (Withdrawal) Bill

The Exiting the EU Select Committee has published a report into the Withdrawal Bill, focused on the provisions for converting EU law into British law.

The report highlights how the process of leaving the EU will be anything but straightforward: an estimated 800 to 1,000 statutory instruments will need to be passed before exit day to ensure continuity as all existing EU legislation is copied across into UK law. This is particularly important for charities to bear in mind in their approach to achieving change, as they will need to think about finding ways that don’t require Parliament’s time, which will be limited.

The Committee’s inquiry has also revealed that there is not a consistent view about how the Bill’s provisions will work in practice, in particular what the scope and status of retained EU law will be.

NCVO Charity Regulation Conference

If you have found this blog and my other round ups helpful, as well as our blogs on governance, volunteering, etc. you may want to join us for the first NCVO Charity Regulation Conference that we are holding on Monday 5 February.

This will be a full day to update you in detail about key issues around charity law, fundraising, Brexit and provide you with the information and tools to deal with what they mean for your organisation. I hope to see you there.

 

 

 

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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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