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Charities Aid Foundation


8 May 2017

Since the Prime Minister called the general election, political parties will undoubtedly have begun scrambling around for ideas to put in front of the electorate. Given the short timetable, and the fact that the political landscape remains dominated by Brexit, this looks likely to be an election that is characterised by broad-brush messaging and mood music rather than the devil of policy detail; however, that must not prevent charities from putting forward their ideas about how to build a better, stronger country.

With just two years having passed since the last election, it’s likely that we’ll see the re-emergence of some policies in manifestos that will be more ‘refresh’ than ‘revolution.’ If that proves to be the case, the cross-party consensus around encouraging youth social action, involving charities and voluntary groups in delivering public services, and spending 0.7% of GNI on international aid looks likely to remain. However, political changes since 2015 across all political parties means that there is much up for debate.

And that is a debate that charities must play a part in – we cannot rest on our laurels and allow this election to pass us by. Whilst the Prime Minister’s claim that this is the most important election in her lifetime may be hyperbolic (witness the speeches of every party leader at every election…), the dual constitutional challenges posed by Brexit and devolution will have a transformational effect on the country’s future – charities need to have their say and be part of the solution.

Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) has consistently championed the role that charities can – and should – play in building a stronger Britain. At this election we reiterate these messages, and urge political parties to use their manifestos to set out clear plans for harnessing the potential of the voluntary sector. Particular weight must be given to:

  • Giving charities a voice on the Brexit process, with government working in tandem with charities to develop a strategy that does not deliver a negative outcome for either charities or the people that they serve
  • Protecting and enhancing the principle of charity advocacy, to ensure that those on the margins of society have a voice, and to empower charities to build a better society for those that they represent
  • Putting charities at the heart of communities, using their local knowledge and expertise to deliver for people across the country, especially in areas receiving new powers through devolution processes
  • Using charities to enhance the UK’s global standing through the concept of soft power, including by using our expertise and generosity to help develop civil society across the world

Taken collectively, these broad principles would help to address some of the biggest challenges that the country faces. A constructive relationship with charities on these terms would help maximise the contribution that Britain’s charities are able to make. We urge politicians of all parties to act upon these principles and put forward a positive vision for the relationship between government and charities, and what that can deliver.

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