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Charities Aid Foundation


18 May 2017

Like waiting for a bus, after the Labour Party’s election manifesto launch on Tuesday, and the Liberal Democrat’s yesterday, Theresa May and the Conservative Party have launched their prospectus for government today. Here’s our take on what charities need to know.

The first conclusion – and it is one that replicates our thoughts on the Labour Party’s manifesto – is that there is no cohesive vision for the future of the charity sector. Indeed, we’ve seen almost zero discussion about the importance of giving and volunteering so far from any political party, whilst mentions of charities have been on the fringes. Given the contribution that charities make across the country and the opportunities for them to work in collaboration with government, this election so far feels like a missed opportunity for the sector. All political parities need to do more to offer a vision for the role that charities can play in modern Britain, and the next government must commit to working in collaboration with charities to help tackle the challenges that the country faces.

Gone, too, is the language – or at least the branding – of the ‘shared society,’ the political vision that the Prime Minister set out in a speech to the Charity Commission earlier in the year. There is also no place for the Conservative Party’s commitment to giving some employees the ability to take up to three days paid leave a year to be used for volunteering, one of their core pledges for the sector at the last general election.

That said, Theresa May has made much of her commitment to addressing ‘burning injustices’ across the country, with examples including mental health, domestic violence and homelessness. The Conservative Party’s manifesto does see a role for charities or charitable investment in these key areas, albeit perhaps not as sizeable as they would like. It is also important that charities working in these areas are encouraged to advocate for the changes that their beneficiaries need, as well as providing the services that they depend on. A number of proposed bills such as a Mental Health Bill or the Domestic Violence and Abuse Bill announced today would, if elected, pose significant opportunities for charity campaigners, and we need to make sure that the future Government encourages their involvement.

In addition, the manifesto proposes involving civil society organisations in helping to provide support to asylum seekers, and to tackle extremism and building stronger communities. Whilst charities will be keen to work with government to unite communities, it is important that they are not asked to take on responsibilities that would weaken the trust that they depend on from local communities.

One area where the Conservative Party’s manifesto offers a clear opportunity for charities is in the field of international relations. Noting that “we have the greatest soft power of any nation,” the manifesto uses culture as an example of the way that the UK can disseminate and instil the kind of values that we hold dear. This mantra is equally applicable to charities, particularly those who operate overseas and have developed trust and positive relationships across years of providing support to local people, relationships that could help the UK to secure our position in the world. CAF reiterates our call for the next government to put charities at the heart of their soft power strategy.

The Conservative Party also joins the cross-party consensus on retaining the UK’s commitment to spending 0.7% of GNI on international development. However, it is noteworthy that the manifesto warns that if this is no longer seen to be the best use of money, a Conservative government would be open to redefining what constitutes development spending.

Elsewhere, the manifesto calls for charities to work with government and other sectors to develop a digital charter in order to ensure that online users have their rights protected, and there is also a call for businesses to do more to respond to the interests of both their employees and the wider community. This could be of growing importance, given the increased attention that  consumers are beginning to pay to the corporate social responsibility programmes of businesses.

We’ve now seen most of the manifestos, but we’re not done yet. Stay tuned, as we bring you the highlights from UKIP and the SNP’s offerings in the next few days.

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