Public policy round-up: September 2018

I often hear colleagues talk about how September gives them a feeling of ‘going back to school’ and getting things done. It looks very much like the new term is in full swing, if the amount of reports published, and surveys and consultations launched this month is anything to go by.

Here are some of the key policy and regulatory developments that I think will be of interest to charities.

Serious incident reporting

I spoke at a panel session during Bates Wells and Braithwaite’s Annual Tea Party on the current serious incident reporting regime, and whether it should be placed on a statutory footing. Also on the panel were Rosamund McCarthy (BWB) and Michelle Russell from the Charity Commission.

It was a very helpful debate that gave the Commission the opportunity to clarify some important questions about its approach to SIR, including:

  • the reporting of a serious incident by trustees is seen as good risk management, with trustees ‘getting a grip’ on a problem
  • a high number of SIRs is not an indication of a problematic charity, on the contrary the Commission recognises that good reporting mechanisms will lead to higher numbers.

The Commission did seem to agree that there is need for more clarity. In the meantime I would recommend reading this summary in Civil Society Media.

Electoral Commission survey of non-party campaigners

The Electoral Commission is asking for feedback on its non-party Campaigners Guidance by way of a short survey.

The survey is a short five-minute questionnaire which covers the following questions:

  • In general, how easy do you find it to understand the guidance for non-party campaigners and apply it to your campaigns?
  • Are there any specific areas or topics of the guidance that you find harder to understand? How could these areas of the guidance be improved?
  • How useful do you find the current format, structure and presentation of the guidance?

The Electoral Commission’s deadline for responses is today 28 September 2018.

This is a great opportunity to provide feedback on the guidance that the Electoral Commission have published, which we have often found to be unclear on the more complex points of regulation of non-party campaigning. So please do find time to take part in the survey.

Guidance on safeguarding for trustees

Bates Wells Braithwaite and BOND have published a two-page guide to safeguarding for all trustees, not just those whose charities work with children or vulnerable adults: Safeguarding – A summary for Trustees.

Guidance on employment references

The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) has published new guidance to help employers and employees know the rules around employment references.

The new employment references guidance clarifies what employers can and can’t say in a reference, and what information can be provided.

Consultation on the Fundraising Code

The Fundraising Regulator has launched its consultation how to make the Code of Fundraising Practice more accessible.

The changes proposed include:

  • using plain English as much as possible
  • adding a glossary of terms
  • a new introduction
  • incorporating the fundraising rulebooks.

The consultation will close on Friday 16 November 2018, and you can respond online or by email.

You can also catch up on this webinar with the Fundraising Regulator, where we talk through the key changes that are being consulted on and why they are being proposed.

Charity Commission

Accounts monitoring

The Commission has published its latest reports in its Accounts Monitoring Review programme:

According to the Commission, the findings show that too many charities are still not meeting their basic responsibilities when it comes to making key information available to the public. Although there has been some improvement and the number of trustees that recognise the value of public benefit reporting has increased, there is more work to be done.

Guidance on setting up a charity

The Commission has published a new piece of guidance about checking that setting up a new charity is the best option in the circumstances.

The guidance is now complemented by a helpful flowchart on the steps to take when setting up a charity.

Society lotteries consultation

We submitted our response to the consultation on society lotteries reform, which closed on 7 September.

You can read our full response in my blog The great society lotteries debate: it goes on.

ICO ‘regulatory sandbox’

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is asking for initial views on its plans to create a ‘regulatory sandbox’.

The ICO sandbox will be a safe space where organisations are supported to develop innovative products and services using personal data in innovative ways. They won’t be exempt from complying with data protection law, but they will have the opportunity to engage with the ICO, asking for advice on mitigating risks and data protection by design, while ensuring that appropriate protections and safeguards are in place.

This call for evidence is the first stage of the consultation process, and focuses on the feasibility, scope and demand for a sandbox. You can respond by filling in this online survey.

Reports worth a read

Final report by the IPPR commission on economic justice

For the past two years the IPPR commission on economic justice has been carrying out an enquiry into the UK economy. The commission was tasked with examining the challenges facing the UK economy in the wake of Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, and to make recommendations for its reform.

Its final report Prosperity and Justice: A plan for the new economy presents a 10-part plan for economic reform to achieve prosperity and justice.

Report on growing place-based giving

Place-Based Giving Schemes: Funding, engaging and creating stronger communities was commissioned by the Office for Civil Society as part of its work to encourage charitable giving and philanthropy.

The research is intended to help paint a clearer picture of the broad range of place-based giving schemes in England. It will also serve as a means of sharing learning between organisations, and with those looking to establish similar schemes.

Brexit: six months to go

The Institute for Government has published Brexit: six months to go. This paper looks at the progress made in delivering Brexit since the EU referendum over two years ago and what to expect in the six months ahead. It covers the negotiation process, legislation and implementation.

‘A quiet crisis’ – Local Government spending on disadvantage

Lloyds Bank Foundation have published A quiet crisis, a report with new research undertaken by New Policy Institute, which looks at local government spending on disadvantage across England since 2011/12.

Some key findings:

  • Total local government spending on services supporting people facing disadvantage has fallen by 2% (compared to an 8% drop in total spending) but this masks great variation between services, and sits alongside rising demand we’ve been seeing for some time
  • There has been a big shift from preventive spend to crisis spend (with all the inevitable consequences on people and long-term budgets)
  • Almost all of the reductions in spend on disadvantage have been in the most deprived local authorities which tend to have the highest demand for services.

The report concludes that without change, councils and people most at risk face a bleak future as those local authorities with the least ability to generate their own income are set to fall further behind. It calls for an urgent debate to look at how local authorities can be funded to provide the services that are needed.

CFG ‘Cost Benefit analysis of no deal Brexit’

Charity Tax Group has summarised some of the Government’s technical papers setting out guidance in the event of a no-deal Brexit. The summary covers:

  • VAT for businesses
  • state aid
  • trading with the EU
  • government’s guarantee for EU funded programmes
  • Horizon 2020
  • delivering humanitarian aid programmes.

The report Cost Benefit analysis of no deal Brexit for charities then concludes that no-deal Brexit poses an ‘unacceptable risk’ to the voluntary sector and its beneficiaries.


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

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