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CAF Policy Team

A champion for charities

Charities Aid Foundation

Briefing: Conservative and Unionist Party Manifesto 2019

25 November 2019

Over the weekend, the Conservatives published their manifesto which has some warm words towards charities – typified by a prominent photo of a candidate who is labelled as a “charity worker”. There is also a list of those the Conservatives say they stand for, which includes “those who give their time to help others – the charities, community groups and volunteers who already do so much to make our country a better place”.

conservative manifesto 2019Solutions without small print

Ultimately, the policy most explicitly relating to charities is a commitment to use procurement to “continue to support charities which have helped to transform our public services”. That is positive although more detail is needed to show politicians fully understand the challenges charities face in public sector procurement. Similarly, many will welcome the Conservatives’ ambition to “support community housing by helping people who want to build their own homes find plots of land and access the Help to Buy scheme” – although it’s another area where charities will want to look at how the details play out.

As we have seen with the other party manifestos, there are also many policies that will inevitably involve civil society even if the manifestoes don’t spell out their role. For example, the Conservatives include references to “partnerships to tackle deforestation”, establishing a new fund to protect the oceans and creating a marine preservation programme. Although these important causes will benefit from increased Government funding, much of the actual impact is likely to be delivered by charities on the ground.

Furthermore, there are a number of manifesto topics that reflect the hard work of charity campaigners in recent years. These include:

  • Treating mental health “with the same urgency” as physical health concerns.
  • Abolishing the so-called “tampon tax”
  • Publishing a National Strategy for Disabled People

More broadly, the party’s commitment to listen to communities that felt “left behind by the last few decades…and want to have more control” offers an opportunity to organisations that work with the most marginalised members of our society. In addition, pledges that are framed around “productivity and wages” (like investing in “infrastructure, science and research”) will have further side benefits for specific charities and cause areas.

Encouraging signs for the future

Looking ahead, there are encouraging signs for the sort of place-based giving campaigns which CAF have advocated, with a commitment to a white paper on devolution in England as well as funding for regenerating towns, new civic infrastructure, community ownerships of local assets and events to support cultural identity. Place-based giving encourages partnerships that make local philanthropy more strategic and help build civic pride, so would complement these policies.

Another commitment that will be of increasing importance, is the pledge to use a new UK Shared Prosperity Fund to unite the country by “tackling inequality and deprivation” and replacing EU funding with something “better targeted” at UK need, which at least matches the size of pre-existing funds in each of the four nations. We believe that the UK SPF represents an opportunity to create something enduring with a significant impact across the country so we are keen for the Government to ensure that charities are part of the decision-making around it.

Longer-term, we hope that the Government is willing to explore how some of these policies impact on civil society and the valuable contribution that we can make. For example, the pledge to “embrace new technologies” and use them to “crack down on online crimes” could be supported by charities influencing emerging technologies at the development stage, rather than being left to mitigate the unintended consequences later on.

Global Britain and human rights

The Conservatives pledge to spend 0.7% of GNI on “development” and increase self sufficiency amongst countries receiving it. They also want to build on existing efforts to end “preventable deaths of mothers, new-born babies and children by 2030” and lead efforts against Ebola and malaria.

Meanwhile, the manifesto also takes a robust view of Britain’s place in the world with a desire to exploit cultural institutions (like the BBC and British Council) in order to expand national influence and “project our values”. This is matched by a welcome pledge to champion human rights, like “freedom of expression and tolerance”, both at home and abroad. Our Groundwork for Growing Giving campaign highlights the importance of civil society in projecting our values, particularly in reaching the world’s poorest and holding government’s to account.

Finally, the manifesto has extensive detail on immigration and reforms to rules, processes and priorities. It will be important to see whether civil society is able to work with proposed new “bespoke” visa schemes for migrants that fill employment shortages, build new companies or develop future innovations. Charities should not be excluded from immigration planning.