By Kristiana Wrixon, head of policy at ACEVO.
A narrated version of this blog is available at the bottom of the page
With something as significant as the Queen’s Speech there will be a lot of opinions to try and digest. For example, the CBI said: “The Queen’s Speech provides the building blocks for a decade of transformation and inclusive economic growth.” While Torsten Bell, CEO of the Resolution Foundation tweeted “Hard not to conclude that’s a fairly thin Queen’s speech.”
Last Tuesday’s Queen’s Speech saw 30 Bills announced covering policy areas ranging from legislating for net zero to the rules on procurement. Within that, organisations of all types and purpose were looking for signs that could mean positive things to come for the people, places, businesses, and communities they work with.
With respect to charity infrastructure, by which I mean the framework in which the legal entity of ‘charity’ operates, there was a welcome and positive announcement with the inclusion of the Charities Bill. The Charities Bill is intended to reduce the complexity and bureaucracy faced by charities making it easier for them to deliver their charitable work. The Bill will be focused on the recommendations made in the Law Commission’s 2017 report on Technical Issues in Charity Law, which itself stemmed from review of the Charities Act by Lord Hodgson published in 2012.
In addition, ACEVO welcomes the Dormant Assets Bill. This Bill will expand the Dormant Assets Scheme into insurance and pensions and enable the scheme to ‘respond more flexibly to changing social and environmental needs’. This should unlock an additional £880m for social and environmental initiatives, although it will take some years before this money is released.
But I recognise that ACEVO members operate in climate of complexity and while the framework of charity is one very important area because it can make delivering social good easier to do, there is also a much broader social, economic and health climate to consider.
Navigating this kind of complexity is something leaders will be well used to and as your member body we want to be mindful of this too. We know that many members are concerned that the Police, Crime and Sentencing Bill will cause harm to the people they work with, often those communities already most marginalised and penalised by the law, as well as making campaigning more challenging. This is something we will continue to work on together with partner organisations.
Additionally, a number of our health and social care members responding to the Queen’s Speech have talked about the omission of a concrete plan of action on achieving health and social care reforms. Mind said it was a “missed opportunity” to set out the government’s plans to level up inequality and meet demand for mental health support. The Social Care Institute for Excellence said it was “hugely disappointing that a social care bill had not been put forward as a matter of urgency” and the NHS Confederation said: “Social care reform is desperately required, and we need a timetable for reform now… this must be coupled with significant long-term investment.”
After years of underinvestment in social care, and 15 months in which charity volunteers, staff and leaders have been responding to unparalleled demand, I recognise that many people are emotionally and physically burnt out. The flicker of light promised yesterday on social care may have created optimism for some, but for others that progress may feel too small and too far away to relieve the pressure felt now. The ACEVO team will continue to be here to provide the emotional and practical support you need in the months and years ahead.
The Queen’s Speech also included an Environment Bill that would put ‘the environment at the centre of policy making’ with a framework of legally binding environmental targets. We know that many members inside and out of the environment sector are committed to undertaking work to improve sustainability within their organisation and this is something that we can work with you to achieve through the resources and actions generated by our climate emergency member working group.
As with any series of major policy announcements yesterday there is the good, the bad and the missing. ACEVO will engage enthusiastically with the government on policies that will create a more enabling regulatory and policy environment for charities, we will be a critical friend on those that do not, and we will support members to tackle the systemic issues, like climate justice, that are impacting organisations of all forms.
For many charity leaders, we recognise that at the moment the road ahead looks bumpy and the destination still uncertain, but we will be here to navigate with you.