Response to Debate on ‘Trends in donations to charities’: John Robertson MPPosted: January 21, 2013
John Robertson, the Member of Parliament for Glasgow North West, called a Westminster Hall Debate on the 8th January on the nominated topic of ‘Trends in donations to charities’. Here he blogs for the Back Britain’s Charities campaign on the problems with giving as he sees them…
Towards the end of last year, worrying reports from the Charities Aid Foundation and NCVO showed that there has been a 20% drop in donations and that one in six charities are facing closure this year. We need to address this issue seriously and urgently.
We rely heavily on charities to provide vital support for some of Britain’s most vulnerable people. Thousands of volunteers and donors know this – and give both their time and money to support them. But the Government knows this too. In fact, in its ‘Big Society’ plan, charities are the central pillar providing community support. This is why it needs to address this issue before it is too late.
In the Westminster Hall debate on the 8th January I raised a number of possible solutions. I was shocked to learn that £750 million worth of Gift Aid goes unclaimed each year. The ‘Back Britain’s Charities’ campaign says that Gift Aid needs modernising. This is absolutely correct. I called for a central database where ‘Gift Aiders’ could register their details, making it easier for charities to claim it every time.
Both my colleague Jim Sheridan MP and I also called for unclaimed Gift Aid to be given to charities. I have recently tabled a parliamentary question asking that it is put to a tendering process at the end of each financial year. We will see what the answer is, but Chloe Smith, the Cabinet Office Minister, did not seem enthusiastic about the idea. I was disappointed that she chose to make, as she said, “a political point”, rather than address this serious issue.
Payroll giving is also massively underutilised. Only 3% of people donate in this way, and yet it could cost a donor as little as £5 to donate £10. We need an awareness campaign around this system and, like Gift Aid, the system needs to be modernised to make it easier for charities and donors to use.
Donating systems are stuck in the past. Alongside the cumbersome Gift Aid and Payroll giving systems, Apple still does not let people donate directly through Apps. Amazon is also taking away significant donations from charity shops through selling ebooks and digital media, and I think it is about time they give something back to society and create an online charity marketplace for second hand media.
I was dissapointed that the Minister was unable to respond more positively to some of the ideas that I put forward – ideas that have been endorsed by many key representatives from the third sector. Many charities are suffering, and it is the most vulnerable in society who are feeling the effects. I believe that the Government needs to act urgently to make donating to charities easier and to ensure that the charitable sector has a sustainable, vibrant future.