Policy and practice Reports and research The state of the sector As an infrastructure body for the children's voluntary sector, Children England regularly reviews the trends being experienced by children's organisations, and the conditions they're operating in. From our submission to the House of Lords Select Committee on Charities, October 2016: Some charities are founded as expressions of love, compassion or religious faith, to offer kindness, bear witness, to show unconditional humanity in adversity. Some charities are created by professionals or service users who see a failure or a gap in existing services and practice, and have a better idea of how to meet people’s needs. Some charities are born of a belief in the importance active citizenship, self-help and mutual empowerment in their neighbourhoods and communities. Yet other charities are created as a heartfelt response to experiencing tragedy, grief, anger or injustice. The rich diversity of the charity and voluntary sector organisations in this country is simply staggering. But whatever their unique history, current form and particular function, every charitable organisation started with a person or small group of people who had the vision and commitment to make something new or different happen that wasn’t happening before. Each person had a sense of mission, and that mission became a charitable one, shared and spread by others who became the trustees, donors and supporters helping the charity to achieve that mission, to make change happen. Our sector’s fundamental essence and role in civil society is to be ‘changemakers’ – from the ‘micro’ level of having a positive effect in people’s personal lives, right up to the ‘macro’ level of changing society, politics and the planet. Pressures on charities to fill larger gaps in statutory provision and meet a higher volume and threshold of need in beneficiaries means their role in providing public services is more vital than ever. Many community services, such as libraries or health centres, are provided by charitable organisations without members of the public understanding that it’s a charity running the service – such is the reliance of the state on voluntary action. Funding and commissioning conditions have also changed the role of many charities, subjecting them to stricter agreements that limit their ability to advocate on behalf of beneficiaries and involving only a select few, generally larger, charities as strategic partners to government departments with a direct channel for sharing intelligence from the communities they work in. Combined with the effect of the Lobbying Act, the (currently paused) plan for an ‘anti-advocacy’ clause in government grant agreements and increasingly narrow guidance from the Charity Commission on what charities can speak out on, this environment is having a quietening effect on charities who would otherwise use their understanding of beneficiaries to influence policy development or campaign on issues affecting children. Read our full submission to the House of Lords Select Committee on Charities. For our most recent published research into the conditions for the children and families voluntary sector, read Perfect Storms.