Charity policy round-up: August 2020

Government announces independent review of judicial review

The Government has launched an independent review to examine whether there is a need to reform the judicial review process in the UK.

The review will be chaired by Lord Edward Faulks QC, and will consider whether the right balance is being struck between the rights of citizens to challenge executive decisions and the need for effective and efficient government.

Specific questions will address:

  • Whether the terms of the judicial review should be written into law
  • Whether certain executive decisions should be decided on by judges
  • Which grounds and remedies should be available in claims brought against the government
  • Any further procedural reforms to the judicial review, such as timings and the appeal process

Of particular note is the intention of the review to reconsider the rules on standing for judicial review, which could potentially make it harder for campaign groups and charities to bring claims against public bodies.

The full terms of reference of the review are available here.

The panel will report back later this year.

Rise in first-time charity users

Research by the National Emergencies Trust suggests that demand on charities and voluntary organisations is set to continue as the economic impacts of the pandemic come to the fore.

In particular:

  • One in eight people living in the UK – equivalent to seven million people – expect to seek support from a charity or voluntary body in the next 12 months as a direct result of challenges created by the covid-19 pandemic
  • For three in five of these people (61%), it will be the first time they have ever sought charitable support

These findings further highlight the challenges that charities face ahead, as demand for their support is likely to increase while they continue to experience the financial impact of the crisis.

Pro Bono Economics webinar ‘Social Status: putting civil society at the heart of the UK’s recovery’

Pro Bono Economics hosted a webinar with Danny Kruger MP and Lord Gus O’Donnell, with debates about:

  • How volunteers can best be recruited, utilised and rewarded
  • Communities, neighbourhoods and collaboration at a local level
  • The importance of the infrastructure that enables civil society to do its job well
  • And should the prime minister be the minister for civil society?

The full recording can now be watched online here.

NCVO briefing ‘Beyond charities’: looking at wider civil society

NCVO’s latest briefing ‘Beyond Charities’ gives a fuller picture of the size, scope and finances of civil society in the UK.

It builds on the analysis of the charity sector in the UK Civil Society Almanac and looks at civil society as a whole – whereby civil society is viewed as anything that exists in the space between the state and the market, between individually and publicly owned.

This blog summarises the key trends identified.

Supreme court landmark charity law case

In a landmark charity case, the supreme court reaffirmed that members of charitable companies have fiduciary duties and can be controlled by the courts, just like trustees.

This has been described as the most important charity law case in many years. It has clarified many issues relating to members of charitable companies and their duties, as well as resolving frictions found in company law when it comes to charitable companies.

In particular, a welcome statement by the court is that charitable companies are different from other companies and their members do not have a special status standing outside the charity but are part of its administrative machinery.

Leticia Jennings, partner at Bates Wells, who acted in the case, explains what this means for UK charity Big Win Philanthropy and the sector as a whole in this article for civil society.

Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act 2020 guidance

Bates Wells, in partnership with the Chartered Governance Institute (ICSA), has published guidance around the Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act 2020 as it applies to charities, social enterprises and mutuals.

The guidance covers:

There are a number of measures brought in by the Act that could provide some help to charities, social enterprises and mutuals in these very difficult times – but note that the provisions only apply until 30 September.

Charity Governance Code ‘refresh’

The Code steering group has published a summary of responses to the recent consultation on refreshing the Code.

A key finding is that 85% of respondents agreed with the proposal to broaden the diversity principle to address aspects of inclusion and equality.

The refreshed Code will be published later this year, with a more detailed review and update of the Code taking place in 2023.

Charity fundraising resumes – what the public should expect

As some organisations restart their paused fundraising activities, the Fundraising Regulator has published new guidance for the public about fundraising during the pandemic.

The guidance sets out five key things they can expect from fundraisers:

  • Keeping the public, staff and volunteers safe
  • Planning behind the scenes and improving their approach to fundraising
  • Being respectful
  • Being transparent and responsive
  • Using personal protective equipment

Transparency in campaigning – consultation on digital imprints

The government has launched a consultation on a new regime for ‘digital imprints’ – a requirement for digital election material to explicitly show who is promoting it and on whose behalf.

Imprints are already required for printed election material, but the proposals will mean that political parties, campaigners and others must explicitly show who they are when promoting campaign content online.

NCVO will be responding to this consultation, which is open until 4 November.

How to build an ‘asset-based’ approach

NCVO  and the Royal Society of Arts are supporting a piece of work on how charities and community groups are using ‘asset-based’ approaches to build a more sustainable and values-led future in the covid era. This is led by Alex Fox (chief executive of Shared Lives Plus).

Alex is collecting examples of how charities are supporting people and communities to build on their own strengths, skills and assets, to find their own solutions and take control of their own lives, neighbourhoods and services. Please get in touch with Alex if you have examples to share, or can respond to the three questions below:

  • Are there ways in which your organisation or network have moved towards asset-based practices during the pandemic?
  • Has taking an asset-based approach become easier or harder due to the pandemic, and why?
  • Is your organisation starting to embark on longer-term planning after the initial crisis response phase of the pandemic, and if so, are asset-based approaches part of your thinking?
  • You can read more about this work in Alex’s latest blog.

New ACF report on funding practices

The Association of Charitable Foundations (ACF) has published Funding Practices: The Pillars of Stronger Foundation Practice.

This is the final report emerging from ACF’s Stronger Foundations initiative, and sets out how foundations can align funding practices with their mission, consider the impact of funding practices on those who experience them, and seek to achieve a positive impact beyond a financial contribution.




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

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