Sir Stephen Bubb, Chief Executive of charity leaders’ group ACEVO, today released his New Year message warning of a critical year to come for the charity ‘social safety net’.
Sir Stephen pointed to ACEVO’s latest authoritative ‘Social Sector Tracker’ survey, whose 2014 figures showed 89% of charity leaders expecting rising demand for services in 2015 but only 32% being confident this increased demand could be met.
He called the 2015 election debate a ‘critical but uncertain time’ for charities.
Sir Stephen also said Britain is among the most generous countries for giving time and money to charity. He praised the work of Britain’s charity workers, volunteers and givers, and called on politicians to recognise and protect the power of charity as a force for good in the run up to the election.
Introducing his message, Sir Stephen said:
“We begin the new year 2015 in the certain knowledge of at least one election in the next twelve months. It is a critical but uncertain time for charities and social enterprises, and all we know for sure is that demand for our services will increase while funding will continue to be under pressure.
He went on to criticise politicians of all parties for treating charities as ‘an afterthought’:
“The top priority for politicians of all parties should be ensuring the economic and social recovery extends to all of society. Charities are vital to making this happen, by reducing demand for public services and working with the most vulnerable, and they need careful support. Yet too often the sector is viewed as an afterthought, an optional extra. It’s time politicians recognised this.
“Britain continues to be among the most generous countries in the world, as the Charities Aid Foundation ‘World Giving Index’ shows. Our 2.3 million civil society workers are a bedrock of British society, as are the 29% of the population who formally volunteer at least once a month. It’s vital that politicians recognise and do their best to protect this part of society in the run up to the election.”
On charities’ uncertainty about where cuts will fall, Sir Stephen said:
“The General Election debate remains far from satisfactory for our sector. There is clear consensus among the larger political parties for an additional £50 billion of spending cuts over the next parliament. But there is little honesty as to where cuts will fall. Charities that provide the other, social safety net need urgent clarity so that they can prepare to fill the most urgent gaps when state provision is cut.
“Our 2014 ACEVO Social Sector Tracker indicated that 89% of charity leaders expected rising demand for their services in 2015, while only 32% were confident this increased demand could be met. I have seen little in recent months to suggest that this picture has improved.”
On charities’ asks before the General Election, Sir Stephen Said:
“Charities and the third sector will not be passive observers of political debate, however. In the New Year I shall be writing to the leaders of all main political parties to warn them of the third sector’s needs in the election debate. I will send them copies of our ‘Free Society’ manifesto for 2015, and draw attention to three key demands:
– For a 5-point blueprint for a ‘Free Society’ that protects civil society free speech
– For a Charter for Citizen and Community Rights in public services, to boost third sector delivery and ‘put the care back into public services.’
– For a grown-up debate about funding the infrastructure of the third sector, with possbilities to be discussed at a pre-election summit on the third sector. This would debate how to fund the sector as it further relieves the pressure on statutory public services.”
Expanding on the need to safeguard civil society free speech, Sir Stephen said:
“2014 saw Britain’s civil society free speech compared unfavourably with the likes of Uzbekistan and Saudi Arabia. When charities like food banks and homeless shelters are working harder than ever, it is vital that civil society is free to speak truth to power and point out the causes of the problems they seek to address. Politicians and others in power may find these uncomfortable truths, but they should not be silenced.
“Charity leaders need the urgent repeal of the Government’s appalling Lobbying Act, and the introduction into law of safeguards for charity free speech.”
Commenting on ACEVO’s plan for a Charter for Citizen and Community Rights, Sir Stephen said:
“Charity leaders are poised at the forefront of public service reform, to give Britain more responsive, citizen focused services that work with them not to and for them.
“But too often citizens are still left disempowered. My report on the Winterbourne View Care Home Scandal, which I published in November 2014, was adamant that service reform depends on empowering citizens to demand better services closer to their homes and in accordance with their needs.
“Charity leaders call for a Charter for Citizen and Community Rights, that will safeguard rights to choice and voice for public service users in law.”
NOTES TO EDITORS
Britain is the world’s sixth most generous country for charitable giving, according to latest figures from the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF): https://www.cafonline.org/publications/2014-publications/world-giving-index-2014.aspx.
Full details of ACEVO’s 2015 Manifesto are available here: https://www.acevo.org.uk/news/acevo-manifesto-2015
For media comment please contact the ACEVO Press Office: 020 7280 4964 or firstname.lastname@example.org.