Charity policy round-up: September 2019

For many, September feels a bit like the start of a new year, perhaps a remainder of school days. And this past month certainly has seemed that way, with a number of new reports launched and guidance published to prepare for the months ahead. Here is what I hope is a helpful overview of the key developments for charities to know about.

Good news for campaigners

The Electoral Commission has published new guidance for charities about campaigning in the lead up to elections and referendums.

Charities have said that a lack of clarity around the rules has contributed to them feeling silenced during election periods. NCVO, BOND and ACEVO have been working with the Electoral Commission on new guidance since 2018, to address these issues and improve the guidance.

To find out more about the changes and what the new guidance says, read this blog about why the Lobbying Act shouldn’t stop you from campaigning.

In addition to this, Bates Wells have published a series of free resources for charities and other campaigning organisations. These materials include guidance notes, example board resolutions, risk matrices and other practical tools. All of these are now live on the Bates Wells website.

There is also a blog from Helen Stephenson, chief executive of the Charity Commission, on campaigning.

As well as reminding charities about their responsibilities when campaigning, the blog contains some interesting statements. In particular:

  • ‘Opinion on the key issues around the UK’s departure from the EU does not divide along party lines’ could be interpreted as the Commission recognising that taking a position on Brexit won’t be considered party political.
  • ‘In times of heightened political volatility, complaints to the regulator may be a tool used by all sides to challenge those of a different view. We will follow up on all issues of regulatory concern, but our conclusions are guided by the public interest and the law regardless of the source of complaints.’ seems to be an attempt to reassure about how the Commission will deal with vexatious complaints.

Preparing for Brexit

NCVO has published guidance to help charities prepare for a no-deal Brexit.

Regardless of what happens over the next few weeks, it is vital that charities are thinking about the implications of any Brexit scenario, including no-deal, and putting measures in place that are flexible and resilient.

To accompany the guidance, we hosted a webinar jointly with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and the Home Office, discussing ways in which civil society organisations can prepare for a no-deal exit. If you missed it, you can catch up on the webinar here.

We are also following up with more detailed information about the key issues identified, starting with this blog on how EU nationals and those engaged in the voluntary sector can prepare.

The UK in a Changing Europe has also published a useful report looking at the issues, impacts and implications of a no-deal Brexit.

Government outsourcing – what has worked and what needs reform?

A new report by the Institute of Government has analysed which services have been outsourced successfully and which need reform.

This is a particularly helpful contribution to the current debate around outsourcing vs insourcing, recently reinvigorated by Labour’s policy of bringing public services back into government hands by default.

Spending round 2019

Earlier this month the chancellor delivered a fast-tracked one-year ‘spending round’, with the eagerly awaited full multi-year ‘spending review’ postponed until next year.

For a detailed overview of the announcements that are most relevant to charities, read Paul’s blog.

Charity advertising

The Advertising Standards Authority has published Four top tips for charity advertising – the tips are drawn from recent complaints about charity advertisements.

The advice is well worth a read to ensure charity adverts are as effective as possible, while not overstepping the mark by being misleading or causing unjustified distress.

Family and volunteering

Our research team is looking to better understand the links between family and volunteering, with a view to supporting organisations that want to develop opportunities for families to volunteer together.

The first step has been to carry out a review of the existing evidence – a summary of which is published here.

You can also find out more about the project and the initial findings in this blog.

Recommended reports to read

Left Behind? Understanding communities on the edge

A new report by Local Trust and Oxford Consultants for Social Inclusion suggests that places to meet, connectivity – both physical and digital – and an active, engaged community are vital to secure better social and economic outcomes for people living in deprived neighbourhoods.

People in places which lack these features have higher rates of unemployment and child poverty, and their health is also worse than those living in other deprived areas. And the evidence is that they are falling further behind.

The report argues that this adds up to these areas being some of the most left behind in the country.

In a new report Divided Britain?, the Policy Institute and Engage Britain look at whether the country really is as polarised as many people think.

Overall the evidence suggests that the UK is seeing a fragmentation of political support, alongside so-called ‘affective polarisation’ related to people’s Brexit identities – and these identities are superseding weakening party-political ones.

NCVO/Bates Wells Trustee Conference

Join NCVO and Bates Wells on 4 November as we explore what good governance looks like for modern charities. We’ll give you practical tips and guidance to help you develop in your role as a trustee and support your organisation’s governance. You can still book your place here.


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

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