Earlier this week Civil Exchange published the Big Society Audit 2013, investigating how the Government’s flagship idea for civil society has operated in practice. Shortly before the 2010 General Election David Cameron, standing in the shadows of Battersea power station, launched his Big Society plan which, he argued, would give power to people across the nation.
Over the past three years attitudes towards the Big Society have remained mixed, with polling carried out for the Independent in 2011 finding that a quarter of people (27%) had never heard of the Big Society, 41% agreeing that it is merely a cover for spending cuts, and only 17% believing that it will succeed in fostering a culture of volunteering. Half of people asked said that they thought to Big Society to be largely a gimmick.
Civil Exchange’s new Audit splits the Big Society into three distinct parts, and examines the success that the Government has had in putting their rhetoric into practical action.
Looking at the area of community empowerment, the Audit found that there have been significant successes in increasing local control by encouraging communities to take over local assets and services; that there has been an improvement in transparency and an increase in the number of elected officials; and that strong communities remain a positive feature of British life, although one that varies between affluent and disadvantaged areas.
There is, however, no real change in individual influence over local decisions, with only a minority believing that they are actually in a position to shift opinions locally. In addition, recognising traits highlighted by the Back Britain’s Charities campaign, the Audit acknowledge that many voluntary sector organisations are experiencing financial difficulty due to rising demand and falling income.
Turning to social indications, the Audit found that there has been a dramatic fall in giving, echoing the findings of the UK Giving 2012 report, which found a 20% drop in donations to charities. More positively, levels of volunteering have risen, although only to the levels that existed before the financial crisis. There has been an increase in volunteering by young people, an area that the Parliamentary Inquiry on Growing Giving has been looking into in more detail.
Looking at the impact of the Big Society reforms on public services, the picture is bleaker. Cuts to voluntary sector funding have already taken place, with dramatic falls estimated over the next four years that will threaten organisations working to support vulnerable people. This reduction in spending is interesting, particularly in light of research carried out for the Back Britain’s Charities campaign which found that 69% of people believe that their community will suffer if charity funding is reduced.
The report also warned that despite attempts to open up public service contracts to a wider audience, contracts are still large inaccessible to the voluntary sector. There is instead a systematic bias towards the private sector existing in contracting. There are many underlying challenges for voluntary organisations to deal with when competing with large companies for contracts, and CAF’s “Funding Good Outcomes” paper has urged the Government to reflect on how bidding processes can be adapted to ensure that charities and voluntary organisations are able to compete on an equal footing.
The Audit is well worth reading in full, and is an incredibly useful exercise in helping to inform people about what the Big Society means in reality for charities. Whilst there are some positives, charities and voluntary sector organisations are yet to reap the rewards of the rhetoric, and, as the Back Britain’s Charities campaign makes clear, there is still much work that needs to be done to support the thousands of charities across Britain that are struggling. What do you think of the Big Society Audit 2013? Let us know @backingcharity and email@example.com
The release of the World Giving Index 2013 has shown the UK rising up the league table of generosity, now ranked as the sixth most charitable nation in the world - up from eighth last year.
CAF’s World Giving Index, based upon surveys in 135 countries carried out by Gallup ranks, the countries of the world based upon three giving measures: the percentage of people who give money to charity, volunteer their time or help a stranger in a typical month.
The report shows that people in the UK are the most generous in Europe when it comes to giving money, with 76% giving to good causes in a typical month. Volunteering levels in the UK have also risen by three percentage points compared to the previous year with 29% giving in a typical month, and there has been a significant rise in the number of people helping a stranger, increasing from 56% to 65%. Using the combination of all three measures, Ireland is ranked as the most charitable nation in Europe.
Elsewhere, the United States has regained top position as the most generous country on earth, with Canada, Burma and New Zealand tied for second place. Burma has the largest proportion donating money to a charity in a typical month, with Turkmenistan reporting the highest proportion of people giving time and Americans the most likely to help a stranger.
It’s always interesting to see how the UK compares to other countries across the world when it comes to giving, and we’re delighted that once again we retain our place inside the top ten. This is testimony to the generosity of people across the UK, and shows that even during tough economic times people are keen to take whatever action they can to help others.
That the UK has improved in all three measures of giving is an extremely positive development, but it’s crucial that people maintain their support if charities across the country are to be able to continue their work supporting those in need of help. The Back Britain’s Charities campaign has been warning of the threat posed if there is a reduction in the proportion of people participating in giving, and we’ll be continuing to urge people from all walks of life to do what they can to support the causes they care about. Let’s see if we can continue the UK’s upwards trend next year!
Following a recent meeting with representatives from the Back Britain’s Charities campaign, Opposition Chief Whip Rosie Winterton MP has spoken of her concern about the impact that the economic downturn is having on charities in her area, and urged people to do what they can to support charities that are struggling to keep pace with demand for their services.
Whilst the economy has now begun to grow again, many charities are yet to experience the effects of the recovery. Charities are still in need of funds, and the support of donors and volunteers is crucial if they are to continue to help the most vulnerable people in society.
Ms Winterton has been the Member of Parliament for Doncaster Central since 1997, and during Labour’s time in government served as Minister for Work of Pensions and Minister for Local Government, becoming Shadow Leader of the House of Commons following the 2010 election. In September that year she became the Chief Whip, and as a result is responsible for maintaining party discipline.
Speaking after the meeting Ms Winterton, who is the patron of five charities in Doncaster, said:
“It’s worrying that so many charities are struggling to make ends meet, and I’m concerned about the effect that charities being forced to close could have.
“I regularly see the work that they do to support people in Doncaster, often ensuring that people going through difficult times have somewhere to turn.
“Both the recent Children in Need appeal and the response to the Typhoon Haiyan tragedy in the Philippines have shown how generous British people are, and we should be incredibly proud of the strength and scope of our charitable sector, but we need to act now to protect it.
“That means people from all walks of life – businesses, politicians, and members of the public – doing our bit to back Britain’s charities.”
We’re delighted that Ms Winterton has spoken about the need for people to support charities so passionately, and fully endorse her remarks. We understand that people might not be able to give more to charity at the moment. That’s why we’re asking people to give regularly, so that charities are better able to plan their finances and ensure that they are able to carry out their charitable mission.
We’re also asking businesses to maintain their giving to charities, and calling on the Government and charities to look at how giving can be improved so that when people are able to donate their contribution goes further towards the cause of their choice. We are also aware of the impact that spending reductions are having on charities, and calling on all government bodies to ensure that they do not introduce spending cuts which disproportionately affect charities. What do you think could be done to make life that bit easier for charities? Get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Earlier in the year, we reflected upon research that showed two-thirds of charities have seen an increase in demand for their services, a demand that charities are struggling to meet as they deal with a fall in income.
Now research carried out by the London Voluntary Service Council has highlighted that over 80 per cent of charities in the capital have seen demand for their services increase as a result of the economic or policy climate.
This increase in demand is the highest since the survey of London’s charities began in 2009, and marks a significant rise from the figure of 66 per cent last year. The report summarising the research, ‘The Big Squeeze 2013: a fragile state,’ argues that there has been a particular increase in demand for advice and support as a result of the Government’s welfare reforms.
As a result, 93 per cent of charities responding to the survey revealed that they have had to change the way that they operate, with 51 per cent reporting a reduction in their overall funding, down from 60 per cent in the previous report.
In more positive news, the survey did show that there has been a reduction in the number of charities being forced to close a service in the past year, falling from 41 per cent in the previous report to 27 per cent. However that means that over a quarter of charities are being forced to reduce the services that they provide, which will have a real impact on the vulnerable people who turn to charities for support.
Challenges for charities aren’t limited to London, of course, and last week CAF’s Campaigns Manager Steve Clapperton was on BBC Radio Oxford, talking about the economic climate facing charities, and how this is impacting upon their ability to keep pace with rising demand.
We’re particularly keen to hear about the experiences of charities across the country. We’ve already heard some heart-breaking stories of how some charities are struggling, and the impact that this is having, and that’s why we’re so keen that people from all walks of life do what they can to Back Britain’s Charities. If you’d like to share your story please get in touch with us, at email@example.com
A survey carried out in Ireland has shone a light on the difficulties that charities are having as a result of falling donations from the public and reductions in government spending, mirroring the challenges that many British charities are also struggling with.
The survey, carried out by the Irish Independent, found that some staff are taking unpaid leave to keep costs down, and the report in the same newspaper highlights than one charity, Inclusion Ireland, has been forced to make interest only payments on their mortgage.
Further research carried out by charity umbrella group The Wheel discovered that of 230 charities stating they had received a sharp rise in demand for the services that they provide, two-thirds were trying to keep up with this surge in demand whilst coping will falling revenues. Since the beginning of the year, one in three has been forced to cut back or suspend services.
These statistics aren’t that surprising, and indeed reflect some of the findings of CAF’s research last year which discovered how charities in Britain are having to adapt in order to deal with the challenge of doing more with less.
As the British economy returns to growth, we will be watching with interest to see whether there will be a similar improvement in people’s disposal income, and if that will have any impact on charitable giving.
We know from CAF’s report on Britain’s ‘Civic Core’ that a number of people would consider giving more to charity if their personal economic situation improves, and the Back Britain’s Charities campaign will continue working to encourage people from all walks of life to do what they can to support good causes.
We’d be interested to hear how the economic climate has affected you. Has your charity suffered as a result? Are you suffering from falling incomes? Get in touch with us a firstname.lastname@example.org and share your story!
We’ve now returned from conference season and, after spending a weekend resting our feet, are able to reflect on an extremely successful few weeks for the Back Britain’s Charities campaign. Last week we were of course in Manchester, enjoying the surprisingly sunny, dry weather and mingling with politicians and activists from the Conservative Party.
We had numerous visitors to our stand with people keen to find out about our “people power” report, as well as play our interactive game! So popular was our stand that by the end of conference we’d run out of bears to give to our guests!
We received a number of high-profile visitors to our stand, including the likes of Conservative Party Chairman Grant Shapps MP, Jeremy Hunt MP, Secretary of State for Health, and Sir George Young MP, Chief Whip. Whilst none of the MPs who played our game were able to topple Ed Balls, we can confirm that Europe Minister David Lidington set a fast time and took top honours for the blues!
We also held another great fringe in Manchester, where the Minister for Civil Society Nick Hurd MP kindly joined us to offer his thoughts on our conference research, as well as giving the audience his ideas on how to get more people engaged with charities. In addition to CAF’s John Low, Penny Mordaunt MP and Pete Moorey from campaigning group Which? came to share their experiences of both charitable activity and ways that people can be mobilised to get involved with causes.
It’s great that we’ve received such a positive response throughout conference, and we’re delighted we’ve been able to explain to conference goers the challenges that charities are faced with, and what can be done to support charities during difficult times. Now we’re back in London, we’ll continue to make the case for the importance of charities and see how we can learn the lessons from conference season to get more people backing Britain’s charities!
We’re now getting towards the end of conference season, having just returned from Brighton where we’ve spent the week mingling with senior representatives from the Labour Party, as well as their activists who travelled down to the south coast for their annual party gathering.
Once again our conference stand game was the subject of much interest – so much so that we were awarded a prize for the second best stand, which was kindly presented to us by Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls MP.
But Ed’s visit to our stand didn’t stop there. After winning CAF’s conference game last year he was determined to repeat his success, and he stormed past Paul Burstow MP – the quickest MP in Glasgow last week – to sit atop our leaderboard as we head north to Manchester for Conservative Party conference. It’s a safe bet to say many Tory MPs will be keen to beat him, – keep an eye on our leaderboard to see if they are successful! Take a look at our Parliamentary leaderboard on the right…
In addition, our stand was visited by a number of senior figures in the Labour Party such as Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury Rachel Reeves MP, Hilary Benn MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, and Harriet Harman MP, Deputy Leader of the Opposition. We were also joined by party General Secretary Iain McNicol, who was delighted to beat the fast times set by his children!
We also held another fascinating fringe event, with some great ideas on how we can get more people involved in charitable giving. We were delighted to hear from speakers including Shadow Minister for Civil Society Gareth Thomas MP, as well as David Babbs from campaigning organisation 38 Degrees, and another packed room showed us that many people are keen on developing the concept of people power to support good causes.
It’s been a great couple of weeks in Glasgow and Brighton so far, and we’re looking forward to our visit to Manchester and taking our people power messages to politicians and activists from the largest party of government. As well as our stand we have a great panel lined up from our fringe, and we’ll be hearing from the Minister for Civil Society Nick Hurd MP who will be able to tell us what the Government is doing to harness people power for good causes.