After the surprise Conservative election victory, the chief executive of the Directory of Social Change says the sector will have to work harder to convince the new government of the vital role of charities
This article first appeared in Third Sector Magazine on 08 May 2015
The perception of many in the voluntary sector is that a Conservative government will not be pro-charity, the training and support charity the Directory of Social Change has warned.
The Conservative Party was this morning set to win a surprise parliamentary majority and form its own government after five years of coalition rule with the Liberal Democrats.
Debra Allcock Tyler, chief executive of the DSC, said the election outcome was unexpected and it was crucial that charities continued to represent the needs of their beneficiaries to both the government and opposition parties.
“Whether it is true or not, the perception of many in our sector is that a Tory government is not pro-charity,” she said. “People are concerned about charities’ right to campaign and speak out, public spending cuts that affect our beneficiaries and whether we have genuine access to policymakers.”
She said that the sector would have to work harder to convince the new government of the vital role of charities in society and that they could not be ignored or silenced.
“We need to persuade them to rethink the excessive focus on social investment and contracting, and look again at the crucial role of grant funding,” she said.
“We also have to argue for continued efforts to support charitable giving, volunteering and social action – and tell the new government clearly what will help do this and what won’t.”
Asheem Singh, director of public policy at the charity chief executives body Acevo, said that now the Conservative Party had a positive mandate from the electorate his organisation wanted to see the government take charities under its wing.
He picked up on comments made by David Cameron, the Prime Minister, at the announcement of his re-election as MP for Witney about the government he hoped to lead reclaiming the mantle of one nation, one United Kingdom.
Singh said the origins of the one-nation idea were not just about union among the UK nations but also about accelerating public service reform and supporting the poorest in society.
He said that in order to reclaim this one-nation idea, the government would need to take charities under its wing and work with them.
“I would like to see this mandate being used to unmuzzle the third sector,” he said. This would also mean the government encouraging charities to speak up on issues affecting them and their beneficiaries, said Singh, and a repeal of the “travesty” that was the lobbying act.
Sir Stuart Etherington, chief executive of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, said his organisation looked forward to working with the new government on the issues that related specifically to charities and volunteering, “including a sensible resolution to the problems brought about by the lobbying act, a shift of gear on our involvement in public services, taking forward the draft protection of charities bill and implementing manifesto proposals for increasing employee volunteering”.
Peter Lewis, chief executive of the Institute of Fundraising, said he wantedthe new government to help charities to fundraise better.
“If the size of the state is going to continue to shrink and the government wants the charity sector to do more, then it really should help charities – especially small charities – to fundraise better,” he said.
“We think the small charities programme announced in George Osborne’s Budget was a really good idea. We’d like to work with them on that and help to make sure it has the right scale to help charities.”
He also called for more work to make Gift Aid easier to claim.