Charity policy round-up: October 2019

It feels a bit strange to be looking back at what has happened in the past month, when clearly all the focus is on the run up to the general election on 12 December.

We have already published a blog about what the general election means for charities, as well as reminding them about the charity law and electoral law rules they need to follow.

But I hope that being aware of the key policy and regulatory developments will help you plan ahead, and will be important regardless of what happens over the next few weeks.

Safeguarding resources

Following a very busy six months as we delivered phase 1 of the Safeguarding Training Fund, we have launched a new safeguarding gateway on NCVO Knowhow.

This brings together all the key guidance and resources on safeguarding that we’ve produced, as well as signposting to all the resources of our partners, including: the NSPCC, the Ann Craft Trust, UK Youth, Protect, Children England (to name a few).

You can read more about the resources and about this work in my blog about #SafeguardingAsOne.

The Charity Commission has updated its the guidance on safeguarding and protecting people for charities and trustees. The Commission has also written about the changes that have been made and the process followed.

Changes to sexual harassment in the workplace law and what they would mean for volunteers

During the summer, the Government Equalities Office launched a consultation on proposed changes to the law in relation to sexual harassment in the workplace. One of the proposals was to give volunteers the same Equality Act protections against sexual harassment that employees have, with the same recourse to employment tribunals.

This clearly would have implications for charities that involve volunteers, so it was important for us to respond and ensure our members’ views were fed into the consultation.

Read our response and why we reached it.

Progress on the civil society strategy

To mark the one year anniversary of the civil society strategy, the minister for civil society recently held a series of regional roundtables to reflect on progress and discuss how this agenda can be taken forward.

#OurCivilSociety captures the reflections from these roundtables and on the progress of the strategy.

Charity Commission annual public meeting

The Charity Commission held its annual public meeting in Bristol on 3 October, at which its chair Baroness Stowell said that ‘charities no longer have the public’s benefit of the doubt’ and ‘charities collectively are not delivering their full potential as sources of belonging and cohesion’.

Such statements have been met by some challenge, raising concerns about their lack of evidence and their sweeping generalisations.

You can also read the full speech by Tina Stowell here.

Understanding the value of charity

Frontier Economics and the Charity Commission published a paper explaining why a better understanding of the value of charity is needed and why it is particularly important at this time.

The paper argues that the real value of charity lies not just in its economic value or even in what it achieves for its beneficiaries, but also in what it represents in our society, particularly what makes charity special in the eyes of public.

It sets out five components for measuring the social impact of charities, rather than just their economic output:

  • Direct value to the public who receive charitable services
  • Value to members of the public who volunteer for charities
  • The wider value to members of the public who donate to charities, beyond the value of the donation
  • The wider value to employees of charities, beyond salaries
  • The wider benefit to society through the broader role of charities, distinct from specific impacts on individuals.

Equity, Diversity and Inclusion: the pillars of strong foundation practice

As part of its Stronger Foundations project, which aims to identify and help foundations pursue excellent practice, ACF has published Diversity, Equity and Inclusion: The pillars of stronger foundation practice.

The report has been informed by ACF’s diversity, equity and inclusion working group, and sets out ways in which foundations of all shapes, sizes and structure can improve their DEI practices.

How could grant making be smarter?

Research by the University of Bath and Brevio has found that charities are spending £1.1bn a year applying for grants – but almost two thirds of them fail in their bids to receive more cash.

The research rightly acknowledges that the figures do not reflect badly on individual charities, rather they highlight the inefficiency of the whole system.

A number of suggestions are put forward to simplify the system, including for example to standardise grant questions, so there would be one application form to apply to multiple grants.

Changes to probate fees

The Ministry of Justice has announced that there will no longer be an increase to probate fees and that that the current structure will be retained, at least for the time-being.

The plan was to abolish the £215 flat-rate probate fee and replace it with fee bands, which could have seen the largest estates incur charges of up to £6,000.

NCVO had joined other sector bodies such as the Institute of Fundraising and Remember a Charity in raising concerns that the planned fee increases could severely disrupt legacy giving.

Code of Fundraising Practice

The new Code of Fundraising Practice came into effect on 1 October. This blog explains how to navigate the new Code online.

Sexual abuse and exploitation in the aid sector

The Parliamentary International Development Committee has published a follow-up report: sexual exploitation and abuse in the aid sector. The report warns that the sector has been ‘too slow’ to address problems and calls the sector to do more to improve transparency.

The Department for International Development has also published three reports showing some of the progress made since the Safeguarding Summit held this time last year.

Charity Fraud Awareness Week

As part of this year’s Charity Fraud Awareness Week a Charity Fraud Awareness Hub has been launched.

There has also been new research into the fraud and cybercrime risks facing charities, finding that over half (53%) of charities affected by fraud over the past two years knew the perpetrator.

Funding boost to youth services

The government has announced a £12m funding boost to youth projects across the country.

This includes:

  • up to £7m for a youth accelerator fund that will expand existing successful projects
  • a further £5m invested in the #iwill fund to encourage 10 to 20 year olds to take part in social action such as volunteering in their communities, by funding groups delivering these programmes.
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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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