April may have been dominated by the news that we had five days of nice weather, but:
- in any other country having temperatures around 20C is not a headline, it’s normal
- there have been much more interesting things happening in policy (although I would say that of course).
Anyway here is an overview of some of the key developments that I hope will be of interest.
NCVO Annual Conference
Our Annual Conference took place on 16 April, and as always it was a day for everyone attending to network and hear from some great speakers.
For those of you who couldn’t join us, or if you liked it so much that you want to see it again, you can catch up on:
- Stuart Etherington’s State of the Sector speech
- the first major speech by Baroness Stowell as chair of the Charity Commission
- the slides on the key trends and policy challenges for charities from the breakout session I did with Karl and all the workshop slides.
House of Lords committee on citizenship and civic engagement
The House of Lords committee on citizenship and civic engagement has published its final report The ties that bind: Citizenship and civic engagement in the 21st century.
The report highlights the areas in which the UK is currently successful in promoting a positive ‘civic journey’ and making a series of recommendations for how it might improve.
The key recommendations are obviously focused on the theme of citizenship and include:
- The government must re-prioritise citizenship as a subject taught in schools, creating a statutory entitlement to citizenship education from primary to the end of secondary education, and set a target which will allow every secondary school to have at least one trained teacher.
- The unemployed should be encouraged to volunteer by having their social security status clarified, and more must be done to recognise and reward outstanding contributions made by volunteering.
- The voter registration process must be improved, in particular by adopting the scheme which allows voter registration to take place at the same time as registration at universities, further education colleges and, ultimately, perhaps schools.
But there are also a number of recommendations that are directly relevant and of interest to the voluntary sector. For example:
- The section on integration recognises there is a role for civil society organisations, and recommends local authorities prioritise funding of arts, sports, civil society orgs that work across communities. There’s a recommendation around focusing on areas with low social capital, including funding local voluntary organisations. There’s also a recommendation on government seeking views of communities feeling disregarded when they consult.
- The report notes the concern over lack of diversity in trusteeship, and has a recommendation to create a voluntary code of conduct to increase diversity among trustees (although don’t forget that the new Charity Governance Code already has a section on diversity).
- A number of recommendations are aimed at ensuring that the National Citizens Service (NCS) is part of creating a lifelong habit of social action. So NCS should work with government, the voluntary sector, and schools to ensure there are opportunities to do this. The committee also argues that NCS should be expected to build partnerships with the voluntary sector, and work with other similar organisations to establish benchmarks for effectiveness. There are also a number of recommendations around ensuring citizenship is part of the scheme.
- Unsurprisingly, there is a recommendation to government that it should implement the changes set out in Lord Hodgson’s review of the non-party campaigning rules in the Lobbying Act.
Various recommendations are intended to make it easier for people to volunteer, such as:
- improving knowledge of Job Centre staff on volunteering
- the creation of an Access to Volunteering scheme
- sending information about volunteering to those reaching pensionable age.
Charity Commission safeguarding taskforce
The establishment of a safeguarding taskforce was among the suite of measures announced earlier this year by the Charity Commission in response to the revelations about safeguarding failures.
The stated role of this taskforce is:
- to deal with the increased volume of safeguarding serious incident reports
- to undertake proactive work to ensure prompt and full reporting of serious safeguarding incidents, and give advice to charities reporting safeguarding incidents on appropriate actions
- to undertake a ‘deep dive’ of existing serious incident reporting records to ensure any gaps in full and frank disclosure are identified and undertake any necessary follow up actions.
This month, the Commission provided an update on the work of the taskforce showing the considerably higher numbers of reports that it is dealing with, in addition to reviewing historical cases.
However, Civil Society Media reports that several witnesses have given evidence to the international development committee in parliament that the Charity Commission does not have the resources to regulate safeguarding issues in the international aid sector.
Charity trustees welcome pack
The Charity Commission has announced a new welcome pack for charity trustees which focuses on the main duties of the role.
It provides essential information to help trustees understand governance basics, financial filing requirements and how the Charity Commission can offer support. It also suggests practical steps that can be taken to carry out trustee duties effectively.
The pack will be emailed to all new trustees who register their email address with the Commission.
Women and equalities select committee inquiry
The women and equalities select committee has been carrying out an inquiry into sexual harassment in the workplace.
The initial focus of the inquiry is on sexual harassment and employment law, looking at questions such as:
- how widespread sexual harassment in the workplace is, and whether this has increased or decreased over time
- who experiences sexual harassment in the workplace, who perpetrates it and what the impact is on different groups
- actions that the government and employers should be taking to change workplace culture to prevent sexual harassment.
However, in light of recent events, the committee has taken an interest into sexual harassment within charities and is therefore likely to call representatives of our sector to give oral evidence.
The future of the National Lottery
The House of Commons committee on public accounts has published a report on The future of the National Lottery.
The report raises concerns about a fall in Lottery income for good causes and the impact this could have on the future spending commitments of lottery distributors.