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Government publishes response to Stronger Charities for a Stronger Society report

Melanie May | 21 December 2017 | News

DCMS has published its response to the House of Lords Committee on Charities’ report, Stronger Charities for a Stronger Society.
In her foreword, Minister for Sport & Civil Society Tracey Crouch said she welcomed the report, published in March, and wanted to ‘not only present a positive response but in doing so send a strong positive message about government’s vision for its work with and for civil society.’ She also references the Civil Society Strategy and the Government’s plans to use it to work together with charities ‘to bring about a step change in the potential of civil society in tackling some of the most important and difficult social challenges’.
In the 20-page document, DCMS sets out each of the report’s 43 recommendations and its response to them. It agrees broadly with most of the points made around governance and support for charities, including smaller charities, and states that they will feed into the new Civil Society Strategy. This strategy is referred to throughout the document, which also makes reference in its responses to the new grants standard, as well as to a number of other regulations and initiatives already in place.
However, in response to the Committee’s call for a consultation on a statutory duty for employers to give people time off to be a trustee, it said that while it would continue to encourage employers to support employees who have charity trustee roles, there were currently no plans to consult on the matter.
In response to the report’s recommendations on helping smaller charities in particular to deliver public services and its calls for the Government to consider grant funding, as well as the impact of Payment by Results contracts on charities, the Government answered that ‘payment by results contracts and social impact bonds can support innovative solutions to address some of the biggest social issues of our time.’
It also said that the appointment of a new Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise Sector Crown Representative is expected in due course, and a big part of their role would be addressing barriers and technical issues for charities.
In addition, DCMS said in the document that it was committed to the Compact, which guarantees charities fair funding and the right to speak out on behalf of their beneficiaries, stating that central Government continues to follow its principles with the Civil Society Strategy an important opportunity to consider how partnerships between sectors and local communities could be improved to build a stronger and fairer society for all.
Industry feedback on DCMS’s response expressed disappointment however that little new action was promised and that few of the report’s recommendations received clear answers.
Dan Corry, Chief Executive of NPC, commented on the response, saying:

“Warm words are not enough to support the charity sector to deliver the impact so desperately needed. Given the lack of action in this response, it is a mystery as to why it has taken more than half a year.
“It is strange to see so much weight placed on the new grants standard, which many in the sector have complained is not being followed with the Tampon Tax.
“The sector was excited when Tracey Crouch became charities minister. Now we need to see what she can deliver. The pressure is really on the new Civil Society strategy. Charities can’t afford another missed opportunity.”

Andrew O’Brien, Director of Policy and Engagement, Charity Finance Group also commented. He said:


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“It is good that the Government has responded to the report, but it is disappointing that so many of the recommendations aimed at government did not receive clear answers. For example, the House of Lords Committee made strong points on the need for the government to do more to ensure full costs of delivering services are covered so that charities can be sustainable, but the government has seemingly avoided the issue. Putting pressure on other government agencies to do more on core costs is one of the biggest single things that the Office for Civil Society could do.
“A lot of decisions are also deferred to the Civil Society Strategy, so it is appears that this strategy will now carry a significant amount of the hopes and fears in the sector. We will all need to engage with it closely and ensure that the recommendations in the report are not lost.”

The full response document is available to be read and downloaded.