Children England responds to the Lords Select Committee report on charities

We welcome this thoughtful, thorough report on the charity sector, which demonstrates a clear appreciation of charities’ profound role in supporting a healthy, cohesive society. Whilst the Lords Select Committee takes a very positive approach to the sector and foresees a vital and thriving future for charities, it also recognises some key threats to the contribution of small and medium sized charities, including the pernicious impact of large, short-term contracts which are in danger of driving small, specialised charities out of existence.

We’re therefore particularly pleased to read the Committee’s call for local authorities to ‘maintain or revive grants wherever possible’, as the Grants for Good campaign has recommended, and to improve commissioning by issuing contracts that cover charities’ core costs and provide the scope and security that small local charities need to retain staff and plan strategically.

We also hope that the government will urgently and pro-actively support the report’s recommendation for ‘a proper dialogue between charities and new regional administrations at every stage of the devolution process, and voluntary sector representatives should be involved in leadership structures and decision-making where appropriate.’ The children and families voluntary sector is keen to help shape the structures and services that will improve lives in devolved areas, and must be included in devolution negotiations so that the communities with the least power and fewest resources can be heard and better served by new devolved administrations.

As the report notes, recent government policy and legislation has ‘threatened the vital advocacy role of charities’. The right and responsibility of the voluntary sector to campaign with and on behalf of our beneficiaries is intrinsic to a fair society but has suffered serious erosion in recent years. Children England wholeheartedly supports the proposal that ‘any new regulation or guidance should clearly recognise that advocacy is an important and legitimate part of their role and be set out in clear and unambiguous language’ and that ‘Government reviews its approach to engagement with the charity sector before policy announcements are made, with a view to ensuring that charities feel better informed about legal changes which may affect them and have a greater opportunity to provide input on new policies’.

Finally, Children England appreciates the attention paid by the report to the importance of strategic, sustained support for the third sector from its infrastructure organisations. With so many having closed under financial pressure, it’s essential that those of us remaining to champion the charity sector do so bravely, strategically and collaboratively.

Children England's own submission to the consultation by the Lords Select Committee on Charities is online.