Charity policy round-up: December 2019

After a year of political uncertainty, we are ending 2019 knowing that Brexit will definitely happen. Indeed, we now have more certainty on Brexit than ever before.

And following the Queen’s speech we also know what the priorities of the new government will be. Read what’s in it and what it means for charities.

But Brexit is a long-term process, not a one-off event. It will involve the transformation of large swathes of the UK business environment, from spending programmes to trade policy, and from immigration to tax.

There remains a considerable amount of uncertainty around what these new post-Brexit arrangements will look like.

So as we prepare for the year ahead, I want to take the opportunity to reflect on some of the bigger charity policy developments of the last year.

A year in charity policy

We started the year by publishing the Charity Ethical Principles, aimed at supporting charities, their governing bodies, and those who work and volunteer in and with them in recognising and resolving ethical issues and conflicts and make charities a safer place.

In March we launched the Rebalancing the Relationship project, to explore how large and small voluntary organisations, bidding to deliver services, can work better with and alongside one another.

In the Summer we published the final report and recommendations of the Charity Tax Commission chaired by Sir Nicholas Montagu.

At the end of the Summer we launched the new Safeguarding gateway on NCVO Knowhow, as a result of phase one of the safeguarding training fund.

We also responded to the consultation on proposed changes to the law protecting people from sexual harassment in the workplace, including whether volunteers should be given the same Equality Act protections against sexual harassment that employees have, with the same recourse to employment tribunals. You can read our response here.

The Electoral Commission published revised guidance on the non-party campaigning rules in the Lobbying Act. NCVO, working with BOND and ACEVO, played a key role in improving the guidance.

In the run up to the general election, we published NCVO’s manifesto for the next government: A bigger role in building our future – our vision for charities and volunteering.

If you enjoyed this, my colleague Dan has done the same for a year in charity governance.


Earlier this month NCVO and CAF organised a debate with representatives from the Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat, Green and Brexit parties to discuss the issues affecting charities and voluntary organisations, and answer questions about their parties’ policies.

The biggest themes of the evening were Brexit, funding, the National Citizens’ Service, charity campaigning and the sector’s relationship with government.

You can read a write up of the debate in this article by Civil Society, or watch the recording here.

Also many of the people attending were tweeting using the hashtag #CharityHustings if you want to see the comments on social media.

Charity Commission supplementary guidance on Serious Incident Reporting

The Charity Commission has published supplementary guidance for reporting serious incidents when it involves a partner.

The guidance starts from the following three positions to help trustees decide when to report.

  • The incident involves the charity’s funds, brand, people or an activity that it funds or is responsible for
  • The incident does not involve the charity’s funds, brand or people but could have a significant impact on the charity
  • The incident does not involve the charity’s funds, brand or people and has little or no impact on the charity

Charity Bank UK social sector health check report

Charity Bank has published its inaugural UK social sector health check report.

This is based on the polling of 182 social sector leaders, and finds that:

  • 85% of charities expect demand for their services to grow over the next two years
  • 86% are concerned about future grant funding
  • 82% don’t think they’ll be able to sustain donations over that period.

NHS trusts ruled to not be charities

A recent High Court ruling has stated that that NHS trusts and foundation trusts may not be treated as charities, making them ineligible for business rates relief. The judge in particular concluded that a foundation trust is not established for charitable purposes only and therefore it is not a charity for the purposes of business rates relief. Private hospitals registered as charities can apply to receive an 80 per cent rebate, but the NHS has to pay business rates on its properties.

You can read full ruling here. It includes a detailed analysis of  of public benefit which may be relevant for charity registrations.

The Fundraising Regulator’s role in building trust

At the Fundraising Regulator’s annual accountability event, the chair Lord Harris reflected on the theme of trust and what the role of the Fundraising Regulator is in maintaining and building the public’s trust in charities.

He summarised his comments in a blog post which I recommend reading. It’s a valuable contribution to the debate about how regulation can contribute to maintaining and strengthening public trust.

Exploring the links between family and volunteering

Over the past few months, NCVO has been undertaking a research project examining the links between family and volunteering, in collaboration with the University of Birmingham and the University of Salford. You can read some of the key emerging findings from the project in this blog post

You can find out more about the overall project by reading NCVO head of research, Véronique Jochum’s blog post published back in July.

NCVO strategy

With a new chief executive now in place, we are preparing a new long-term strategy to be adopted in 2020. To help us inform and develop this new strategy, we want to hear your views.

NCVO Annual Conference

It’s the NCVO Annual Conference on Monday 20 April 2020. Join us for a chance to share ideas and network with leaders from across the sector. Hear from Karl Wilding at his first NCVO Annual Conference since becoming CEO and take the opportunity to ask him your questions. Get guidance and tools in our expert-led breakout sessions on a range of topics including how to navigate a shifting political environment. Find out more and book.






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

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