Charity policy round-up: January 2020

January always feels like one of the longest months, and this year has been no different – a feeling that is only reinforced when looking back at everything has happened in just this first month.

We started by signing up to an open letter from leaders across civil society calling for a ‘decade of reconnection‘. Halfway through the month we published the second of our focused Time Well Spent reports on the volunteer experience, exploring volunteering in the public sector. And we have ended on a high with the launch of NCVO’s The Road Ahead 2020 report – with a list from me of 20 things for charities to think about in 2020.

And that’s just from NCVO – here below is my selection of other policy news.

Speculation about changes to DCMS

NCVO, alongside other sector bodies, has written to government ministers setting out thoughts on what should happen to the Office for Civil Society should its current home – the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) – be dismantled in the widely anticipated Whitehall shakedown. While its place in DCMS over the past four years has worked well, we wanted to reflect on the changes such as civil society strategy, how these can be maximised and to think through how civil society can help to meet public policy priorities.

New digital tool for reporting safeguarding incidents

DCMS has launched a new digital tool to help charities handling safeguarding incidents and allegations. The tool provides a step by step guide to help charities correctly manage an incident, identify the right people to contact if needed and access helpful resources and advice.

Commission seeking views on responsible investment by charities

The Charity Commission is seeking views from charity trustees, charity investment managers, employees or other interested parties on the subject of responsible investment by charities. The Commission would like to know what trustees think are barriers to more widespread responsible investment, and what could support them to invest to reflect their charities’ purpose and values.

Views should be sent to the Commission by 31 March 2020.

Government response to Cairncross Review

Following publication of the Cairncross Review the government has examined the options in this area. Its response is that the current Charities Act system accommodates appropriate options for public interest news, but further work is required to help organisations understand their options regarding charitable status. Therefore the government has worked with the Charity Commission which has published advice on when undertaking or funding public interest journalism can be charitable.

Creating partnerships for success – the voluntary sector and health transformation

NCVO has published new guidance on the key ingredients that create success in partnership working between the voluntary sector and public bodies. This is based on our work following the progress of integrated care systems in building better involvement of the sector in their areas. However, the advice is applicable across other areas of public service delivery. The guidance contains useful case studies and information on how to overcome some of the typical challenges in working within complex systems.

New Fundraising Regulator guidance

The Fundraising Regulator has published new guidance to help charities comply with the fundraising reporting requirements in the Charities Act 2016. This comes after the regulator’s finding that only 40% of charities included an adequate fundraising statement to meet the requirements in the Act.

The analysis also found that more can be done to demonstrate how charities use standards in the Code of Fundraising Practice to guide their work.

Direct marketing code open for consultation

The Information Commissioner is consulting on a draft direct marketing code of practice.

Processing personal data for direct marketing purposes is carried out by the vast majority of organisations, including charities. So the practical guidance and good practice set out in the code are very important for charities.

The consultation is open until 4 March 2020.

Society lotteries reform

The Gambling Commission is consulting on licensing conditions and guidance for society lotteries. This is mostly a knock-on from the government’s decision last year to raise the per draw limit of lottery proceeds and the maximum individual prize for large and small society lotteries.

But the consultation is also looking at measures to enable lottery consumers to make better informed decisions about whether to gamble, which is a welcome step towards greater transparency.

The consultation ends on 12 March 2020.

Edelman Trust Barometer 2020

Edelman Intelligence, a global insight and analytics consultancy, has published the 2020 Trust Barometer, its 20th annual trust and credibility survey.

The survey reveals that despite a strong global economy and near full employment, none of the four societal institutions that the study measures – government, business, NGOs and media – are trusted.

The report includes some other interesting findings for charities to reflect on.

  • Distrust is being driven by a growing sense of inequity and unfairness in the system. The perception is that institutions increasingly serve the interests of the few over everyone.
  • Trust is linked to doing what is right. People today grant their trust based on two distinct attributes: competence and ethical behaviour. NGOs lead on ethical behaviour over government and business, but don’t rank highly in competence.
  • The most consistently low score, including for NGOs, is on partnership, with all institutions not seen as a good partner to the others.

Where are England’s charities?

NPC has published a new paper Where are England’s charities? showing the geographical distribution of charities and funders in different parts of England and Wales. It suggests that there is considerable inequality, with charities and funding being least prevalent in some of the most deprived areas of the country.

The paper proposes a number of recommendations for government, charities and funders, including:

  • government targeting its funding on social infrastructure in more deprived areas
  • funders offering more longer-term funding in deprived areas, and ensuring they make their funding data available on platforms like 360Giving to help them better target future funding
  • larger charities supporting smaller organisations in left behind areas by sharing resources and expertise with existing organisations or working with communities to support the formation of new groups.

In case you missed it

Towards the end of last year (and therefore not included in my December 2019 Charity policy round-up) the Charity Commission published new guidance on serious incident reporting when a partner is involved.

The guidance does not represent a change in existing reporting requirements: it is simply designed to help charities that work with partner organisations apply existing guidance (although it is questionable whether it achieves to provide any further clarity).

The Commission also published its report into Marie Stopes International, which the regulator examined after concerns were raised about the amount and structure of the CEO’s remuneration package.

The report highlights the need for detailed minutes and documentation to be kept, especially of significant decisions. The factors taken into account need to be clearly set out, as well as the final decision.

Since last year, the Commission has been requiring charities to report exactly how much their highest paid staff member receives. This data will be used to publish a study of pay in charities.


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

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