Backing Britain’s Charities in Parliament

Blog post by Steve Clapperton, Campaigns Manager at CAF

Following the significant media coverage of the Back Britain’s Charities campaign earlier in the week, the joint CAF (Charities Aid Foundation) and NCVO (National Council for Voluntary Organisations) campaign made it to Parliament on Wednesday 12th December, with statistics and briefings used by the campaign forming the basis of much of the day’s debate in the House of Lords.

The UK Giving 2012 report, a key part of the Back Britain’s Charities campaign, found itself the subject of Parliamentary scrutiny, as Baroness Pitkeathley used House of Lords question time to press the Government on their support for the charitable sector, and urged the Government to take action to encourage giving.

Baroness Pitkeathley raised statistics from CAF’s survey of senior charity workers published this weekend, and argued that the threat facing charities raised questions about the Government’s vision for the voluntary sector. In response for the Government, Lord Wallace of Saltaire told the House that he had looked at the research in “some detail,” and that he found the contents to be “worrying.”

Baroness Barker then asked the Government to reform Gift Aidone of the 5 asks of the Back Britain’s Charities campaign – pointing out that a universal declaration of gift aid would make online giving much more beneficial to charities than it is now. Lord Wallace of Saltaire, speaking for the Government, told the House that “I strongly agree with the noble Baroness.”

Both responses from the Government show that they are aware of the research underpinning the campaign, and that decision makers at the highest level are aware of the pressures on them to act to support charities.

That wasn’t the end of the campaign’s Parliamentary activity for the day. A later debate in the House of Lords on the role of the voluntary sector in providing public services was dominated by references to the data published on Sunday, showing that the media coverage received over the weekend hit home with Parliamentarians.

In the chamber former Chief Secretary to the Treasury Lord Boateng highlighted the problems facing charities as detailed in the 2012 UK Giving Report, telling Peers that the financial situation many charities find themselves in “undoubtedly reflects the period of austerity and the challenging economic times in which we live.” Lord Boateng went on to directly reference the senior charity workers survey, using the figures to draw attention to the turbulent economic climate facing the third sector.

As the campaign has demonstrated, many charities are being hit with a triple whammy; donations are down, central and local government are making cuts, and the demand for the services charities provide is increasing. This dilemma was eloquently explained by Lord Adebowale, who told the chamber that “not-for-profit organisations are having to think long and hard about how they can remain sustainable […] while maintaining the quality of services and support that they can provide to the people that need it.”

It is clear from the tone and content of the debates that there is a growing awareness of the challenges facing charities, and that many Members of the House of Lords are determined to support the third sector.

We need to capitalise on this momentum to ensure that the threat facing charities remains at the forefront of political debate in the New Year – and we need your help.

Sign up to the campaign here, and find out what you can do to Back Britain’s Charities.

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