Policy, Government and the Voluntary Sector

February Policy Update

Here's what's been going on in the world of policy over the past month.

Welcome to the February policy update. It’s been another eventful month in the policy world, with various consultations and parliamentary reshuffles. Here’s a summary of some of the happenings over the past month or so…

The Charity Commission’s response to the Annual Return consultation   

You may remember that in June last year, the Charity Commission consulted on their revised version of the 2023 Annual Return. Well, we recently had a response back, and there’s some good news. DSC made a detailed response and put forward some constructive ideas to make changes to improve the quality of information and reduce the regulatory burden. After all our efforts, some of the issues we, and others, raised were listened to by the Commission, and they have taken on board most of our advice. 

Here’s a summary of the changes the Commission will make:  

  • They won’t introduce 5 of the questions they previously proposed  
  • They will amend the wording for 13 questions  
  • They will create income thresholds for 4 of the new questions to ensure the regulatory burden is proportionate  
  • They will remove 6 questions from 2024 once they’ve found alternative means to collect similar data  

Jay Kennedy, our Director of Policy and Research, has done a full breakdown of their response, you can read it here.  

Social Media Consultation   

This month, the Charity Commission released draft guidance highlighting the key areas trustees should be aware of when making decisions regarding their personal social media accounts and that of their organisation. This guidance has provoked some rather conflicting views, some welcome the need for a more considered social media guidance from the Commission, whilst others believe it is a complete assault on free speech.   

Although it hasn’t received the best response, the bottom line is that it needs a lot of work, and the Commission seems willing to do what it takes to ensure this guidance is useful. So, fill in the form and let them know what needs changing. Considering how the Commission listened to the Annual Return consultation (see above), this is an excellent opportunity to review the current draft and tell them what you think. We’ve written an article on this that pinpoints the key details of the consultation. You can read it here.   

Lucy Frazer appointed Culture Secretary   

In a cabinet reshuffle earlier this month, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak appointed Lucy Frazer as the Secretary of State in the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, replacing Michelle Donelan. Sunak also decided to remove the ‘digital’ from the DCMS, with ‘digital’ now coming under the Department for Science, Innovation, and Technology, headed by Donelan. Stuart Andrew is remaining as the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State of the DCMS, hopefully this reshuffle will provide him with an opportunity to focus more on civil society policy, but we’ll have to wait and see, as it’s likely that the structural changes will involve more staffing disruptions.   

The Law Family Commission on Civil Society’s final report  

Unleashing the power of civil society, chaired by Lord Gus O’Donnell, explores the importance of civil society and how different stakeholders can help to unleash its full potential. A common theme throughout is the need for a more joined-up approach between the public, private and social sectors, which, according to the report, will improve the UK’s growth and prosperity.  

The core point it raises is that with real strategic investment and consideration from funders and the government, civil society can play an even bigger role in improving the lives of UK citizens. The report is generating debate in the sector, many believe that this report fails to recognise the current initiatives and organisations already working hard on these particular issues.  

Here’s a few highlights from the 27 recommendations this report sets out:  

  • The report identifies a gap between charities and policymakers, it suggests that a ‘Chevening’ annual event should be set up to help connect important voices with those who make the decision.  
  • Funders must shift away from short-term and restrictive funding toward support for core costs and investment in people, processes and organisational development.  
  • To enhance the productivity of the sector, the report suggests the Treasury should invest £380m in unclaimed Gift Aid into the sector.  

You can read the full report here.  

Labour’s 2023 National Policy Forum (NPF) consultation  

With the next election looming on the horizon – and recent polls suggesting that a Labour Government in 2025 is highly likely – Labour has opened a consultation asking organisations to tell them what they think the party’s priorities should be in the coming years. Six key areas guide the consultation:  

  • Delivering growth  
  • The everyday economy  
  • Empowered communities  
  • Prevention, early intervention and better public services for all  
  • Supporting families  
  • Labour’s progressive trade policy  

Please note that they are not taking submissions from individuals, only from people acting on behalf of constituency or branch Labour parties, affiliated organisations and third-party organisations (including charities and other civil society groups). The consultation is open until 17 March 2023. Learn more and have your say here.  

There’s also an opportunity to speak directly with Labour’s frontbenchers during a series of online roundtables they will host throughout the consultation process. Learn more about this here.