Sir Stephen Bubb

Sir Stephen Bubb

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

What isn't George telling us?

So now we have it. The Comprehensive Spending Review.

What concerns us more than what we were told today is what we weren't. The Chancellor brushed over cuts to budgets, focusing on restrictions on Whitehall budgets, which will fall by £1.9 billion. But there are cuts to come, that is beyond doubt. We saw the start of this with £22 billion of cuts announced across the Department of Health, despite increased spending on the NHS. The Department of Transport will see it’s budget fall by 37%, as capital expenditure rises by 50%. DEFRA's budget falls by 15%, as £2 billion more is spent on flood defenses. An already bare government is further retreating as all but the most essential funding is cut. After a Comprehensive Spending Review, we still know less than we would like.

Big Lottery Fund
There have been some suggestions recently that the Big Lottery Fund would see its funding cut by £320 million. ACEVO was robust in its response; working with the NCVO we were clear that such a blow would be disastrous for charities across England. We are encouraged to see that the Chancellor has heeded our advice, and protected the Big Lottery Fund, and the work it does. Further than this, we welcome the news that the revenue from the 'Tampon Tax' will be directed to charities which work in women's health and services.

A Glimmer?
There are positive signs within this statement. We welcome an increase in spending on mental health of £600 million. The NHS will welcome a £6 billion cash boost. But, we’ll be ever monitoring the effect of budgetary cuts to social care and local community services. We said this after the Summer Budget and as the 'care crisis' remains unabated - the social care precept announced today will not be nearly enough to sustain the sector - we must  continue to speak up.

Public Services Constitution
I'm clear that better public services does not need to mean more Government spending. A key recommendation of our recently published report "Remaking the State" (launched at our great annual conference last week!) calls for a Public Services Constitution to enshrine in law the right of people to receive the services they deserve. Our report sets out a way to marry fiscal prudence with the better delivery of public services.

We know third sector organisations deliver cost effective services that are community focused. What would be a disaster in social care is if councils spend the amount they have been given themselves - rather than through empowering the third sector to deliver.

Overall, what thought has been given to the consequences of these major cuts on charities and the millions they serve? There was no evidence of that in this statement. Charities provide the essential cohesion that our society needs, particularly now. They are the glue that holds communities together. It’s our civil society that is so admired around the world and which makes Britain great.

And in particular, charities are a safety net which make a crucial difference to people’s lives. That is why any cuts made that affect charities' ability to deliver services are so damaging. There is no doubt these cuts will undermine charities.

Monday, 16 November 2015

Monteverdi, Paris and health problems

In London this weekend.  My sister Lucy, a member of the Royal Choral Society, singing in the glorious Monteverdi vespers in Southwark Cathedral.  My nephew Julian, who is currently working in Paris was there - having spent the weekend back in London; much to his relief no doubt, but inevitably casts a gloom. Mass at All Saints, Margaret St on Sunday obviously focused thoughts on the Paris massacres. A thoughtful sermon made the point that we should think past the rather obvious politicians responses - villains and heroes - and reflect on what this means for our place in wider society and our communities. 

We have to avoid the stereotypes that portray Muslim communities as a threat and indeed work with community leaders in those communities to tackle alienation and build a cohesive society; particular working with younger Muslims. That's why I believe ACEVO's work with the Muslim Charity Forum is so important and why we will redouble our efforts to work with Muslim charities.

What a strange world the Treasury inhabits. Up to their necks in the spending review and you might expect a rather more radical look at spending.  I saw a headline in the Standard which screamed "if Osborne wants to control spending he must cut the NHS". Dramatic! But hides a truth.

So we heard last week that we have had the highest ever figures for people stuck in hospital beds despite being fit for discharge but care is not in place and that we will face a winter crisis in A+E. We know that the third sector can play a central role in keeping frail elderly people out of A+E and getting them home early. Yet is anyone on the phone from the Treasury or DH asking us to do that? Obviously not!

And social care in councils is on the verge of collapse. There is a direct link between care breakdowns, charity cutbacks and demands on the NHS.

Time for a major shift of resources out of hospitals and into community support, social care and prevention.

And don't even get me onto the stupid decision not to introduce a sugar tax....

Monday, 9 November 2015

Guy Fawkes and lifting the veil at the Charity commission

Had a rather fun day on Guy Fawkes- which marks my 63rd birthday, some would say appropriately. A great lunch with the family at the restaurant that is run by the charity "Clinks" in Brixton Prison.  Its a social enterprise that provides much needed training for people in prison so they have a good chance of work on release.  We need more such initiatives if we are to break the revolving door in prison - where half the people who have been released are back inside in a year. The lack of good rehabilitation programmes inside and outside prison is shameful.  The so called rehabilitation revolution has not provided the opportunity for charities and social enterprises, we expected; but Michael Gove's interest in reform inside prisons shows much promise.

I was fascinated by a recent report in Third Sector Magazine by Andy Ricketts - commenting on the recent CAGE/JRCT case.  Its worth reproducing in full as it casts an interesting light on the internal workings at the Commission and the role of non executives v executives.

By Andy Ricketts

"The Charity Commission has declined to comment on emails reportedly sent by William Shawcross, its chair, in which he warned that charities supporting the advocacy group Cage were "funding a front for jihadist terrorists".

The Guardian newspaper has reported that emails from the regulator, filed with the High Court as part of the judicial review case brought by Cage against the commission yesterday, show that Shawcross and other commission board members were keen to prevent Cage from receiving further charitable funding. The emails included a section that called the advocacy group "a largely odious organisation".

The regulator acted earlier this year when Cage, which is not a charity, attracted widespread media attention because one of its staff members said at a press conference that Mohammed Emwazi, allegedly also known as the Islamic State executioner "Jihadi John", had been a "beautiful young man" who was radicalised because of the attention of the UK security services.

The led to the Charity Commission contacting the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust and the Roddick Foundation, which had both provided funding to Cage, to ask that they provide assurances they would never fund it again. The JRCT subsequently said that it agreed to the request after what it described as "intense regulatory pressure".

Emails from Shawcross and other commission board members were disclosed during preparation of the judicial review case, brought by Cage with the JRCT as an interested party, into the regulator’s actions in respect of Cage.  

The Guardian reported that the emails, which were referenced during the hearing yesterday but not read out in court, showed the extent to which Shawcross was keen to prevent Cage from receiving further charitable funding.

The newspaper said that an email from Shawcross told board members "charities surely cannot fund bodies that are acting against the national interest… Surely we can say that any charity supporting Cage has clearly not done due diligence and has put its own reputation and that of the sector at risk?"

Other board members – Peter Clarke, former head of the Metropolitan Police’s anti-terror branch, Orlando Fraser and Gwythian Prins – also expressed frustration that the commission was unable to take action against charities that had funded Cage, the paper said.

The paper reported that Clarke asked Michelle Russell, now director of investigations, monitoring and enforcement at the commission: "Is it legitimate for a donating trust (JRCT) to pick and choose in this way? It seems very strange to me that a charity could seek to justify donations to a largely odious organisation by saying that one small part of its work might be claimed to be charitable."

Shawcross told Russell that charities were "funding a front for jihadist terrorists", The Guardian said. According to the newspaper's report, in one email, dated 27 February, Shawcross said he had "spent the last 24 hours in Washington with senior US government counter-terrorism officials" and that "one senior analyst thought it was astonishing that Cage was not long ago exposed for what it is – a jihadist front".

According to The Guardian, Shawcross said: "We must be robust and, where possible, be seen to be robust, to protect the reputation of the sector as well as ourselves."

The newspaper reported that in March Theresa Villiers, the Northern Ireland secretary, wrote to Shawcross saying: "It is wholly unacceptable for charities supported by the taxpayer (through the generous tax treatment afforded to all charities) to be funding an extremist group like this one."

The Guardian said Shawcross replied that "both the Roddick Foundation and The Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust have ceased funding Cage and will not be doing so in the future".

The judicial review case yesterday ended with Cage withdrawing its case after the three parties agreed a joint statement.

"The Charity Commission does not seek to fetter charities' exercise of discretion whether to fund the charitable activities of Cage for all time, regardless of future changing circumstances," it said.

A spokeswoman for the commission declined to comment on the report or to release or confirm the existence of the emails.

In a statement, Cage said that the commission "should remain impartial and not be driven by the prevailing political aims of a few ideologues in government or sections of the media".

It said: "With the government's announcements of new proposals for counter-extremism, we believe that we are in danger of moving toward an era of 21st century McCarthyism, in which politically motivated witch hunts could be used to persecute innocent people in the guise of counter-terrorism.

"We ask all those in civil society who are committed to fairness and equality to support the work of Cage and safeguard the rule of law for all." 

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Lancashire, Oxfordshire and making life better

This time of year is particularly gorgeous in Charlbury.  The walk across the fields and through the Wychwood forest to my favourite pub; The Plough at Finstock, is at its best in the autumn's changing colours.  And the Hound loves playing with fallen leaves too.  Sunday was All Saints Day and the little Norman church in Shorthampton was celebrating its feast of title.  It takes an hour to walk over the fields to this now deserted village but the walk along the Evenlode valley in the early morning sun was a good reminder of how beautiful our English countryside is.  And then a quiet and peaceful Mass in this small but lovely old church.

Oxfordshire is the most rural of southern counties as I was reminded by Richard Quallington, who is the interim CEO of ACRE - Action for Communities in Rural England. 

Richard is currently reviewing their structure and purpose - as so many bodies are doing against the gloomy economic background of permanent austerity.  Yet we know that umbrella bodies like ACRE perform a vital function.  If we forget capacity and infrastructure we know what happens; Kids Company being in the news again shows this.

And back to the countryside I was up in Lancashire on Monday to visit Stanley Grange, a community for people with learning disabilities, which is now owned by the families of the residents there.  The great charity Future Directions CIC is now running the services on their behalf.  Its a rather lovely place and I can well see why the families of those who live there were so keen to ensure a strong future for the community there. They gave me a visit to see the homes and community facilities and then a splendid tea in the community hall which has magnificent views out over the countryside towards Preston.

And, sweetly, as this is the week of my 63rd birthday, they had baked me a birthday cake. Complete with candles ( though not 63 of them). And I even got a nice chorus of "happy birthday". I was most touched. Very kind of the staff team and residents to organise that.

And how appropriate after the announcements on Friday about plans for the closure of institutions and the scaling up of community facilities.  There is a particular challenge in Lancashire with the closure of Calderstones, the biggest of the NHS hospitals for people with learning disabilities.  The need for careful planning, consultation, involvement of all those people and families involved, as well as the increase in effective community provision will be crucial.  But I know there are some superb charities and community organisations like Future Directions, the National Autistic Society, United Response, Mencap and Dimensions to name but a few who are there to rise to this challenge.  Let's ensure they get the tools and resources to build that better future for people with learning disabilities. 

Friday, 30 October 2015

Getting the Message Across

Today, we see NHS England announce a tangible commitment to close inappropriate hospital settings for those with learning disabilities. This is a long overdue milestone – initially, we were promised that this would have been realized by June 2014. Over the next 3 years, we should see these institutions which have been campaigning against closed down, and those within them being transferred to more appropriate community care.

This is a victory for all those – both individual campaigners and charities – who have been campaigning against the inappropriate treatment of these vulnerable individuals.

Physical restraint, over-medication and seclusion are shocking ways to treat our fellow citizens and I'm determined we must do better. That is why I welcome today’s closure programme. That's why I welcome the plan to scale up community provision. In my view it’s a step-change. High time some will say, but I'm confident it is now going to happen.

And a clear indication of the will to change comes with the announcement of the closure of the biggest of the NHS learning disability hospitals, Calderstones, and the plans to provide modern and professional care in the community.

This will take time because we must ensure proper discussion and consultation with people and families; making sure what is provided meets the best possible care for people who have been for so long so badly let down by the system.

I am not content to simply rely on proposals and what I have seen myself to find out what’s happening on the ground. Collecting the views of those on the front line is crucial to making sure we get these changes right. This is why I’m launching a major fact-finding mission. You can find out more about this here (To make sure all voices are heard, an easy-read version of this can be found here).

To prevent a repeat of the failures which we’ve seen, I'm also calling on the government to bring forward new legislation to enshrine rights to challenge for people with learning disabilities. This has been promised. But it needs to go hand in hand with closures and reprovision so that people with learning disabilities feel confident of their power to effect change.

But we are seeing progress. After years of inertia, it looks like something is finally being done. This is the time for change.

As if this week wasn’t busy enough, the NAO also released their report into Kids Company yesterday. They found that current Cabinet Office leadership did not observe proper oversight and leadership of the Kids Company. Neither they nor the Office for Civil Society seemed to have any appetite to engage with Kids Company's lack of reserves, governance and chronic cash flow difficulties.

Asheem Singh, my Director of Policy, was on BBC Breakfast yesterday, emphasizing that this is something that needs to change. Leadership and governance are crucial to making sure that charities are successful – something that the government would do well to recognize.

It is right that government works with charities to reach the most vulnerable in our society – this is one of the things that charities do best. But they need to remember to look after the bottom line. The good work of charities is done on the front line, but built on the back office. Kids Company forgot this, and we have seen the consequences.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

A Cohesive Society?

I was at the Conservative Party Conference and listened to Theresa May this morning. She was right to talk of the importance of a cohesive society. Which is why it is all the more inexplicable that Conservative Party Conference organisers banned the event ‘Faith and British Values: The Muslim Charity Question’.

And banned it at the eleventh hour and without notification to either the hosts ACEVO or the sponsors the Muslim Charity Forum.

The event was rearranged outside the Conservative Party zone of control. At that event, at the Friends Meeting House outside the Tory perimeter, I said that you can't prescribe a cohesive society by government legislation. A cohesive society is built by citizens and communities. So working with the leadership of Muslim charities, with faith groups in general and with charities is vital in tackling extremism and alienation.

Muslim charities, together with the rest of our charity sector must be on the inside, central to developing a strategy to tackle extremism. The message sent by the Party’s decision to ban ‘Faith and British Values’ was simply counterproductive.

And it is already clear that many in the Conservative party are upset and perplexed by this decision. At our rearranged event I was pleased that the Chair of the Conservative Forum was both present and spoke. Whoever in the conference organisation made this regrettable decision, it must not be allowed to cloud or impair efforts by our sector and community leaders to work for a more cohesive society.

It was great to see so many people coming to our event at short notice. It was gratifying to have the support of faith leaders, and especially the Quakers who made their meeting house available to an event designed to promote the contribution of the Muslim constituency within the charitable and wider community.

ACEVO has developed a strong working relationship with the Muslim Charity Forum and we will continue to give them strong support in promoting what they do and developing their leadership and governance.

The massive Twitter traffic controversy over the banning of this event has shown the sector unites in dismay at the way in which we were treated. Muslim charities are part of the solution to cohesion, not part of the problem. We will be looking at meeting with Theresa May to discuss how we can develop this. If you think that it is us in the sector alone who feel strongly about this please read what Daily Mail columnist Peter Oborne has to say in his article for Middle East Eye.

Friday, 18 September 2015

Women in Charity

One of the great advantages of a leaders’ network like ACEVO is the opportunity to network with other CEOs. That’s why ACEVO has always had such strong events and conference programmes. And we have always been aware of the need to ensure a strong regional presence and a programme that recognises diversity.

I’m rather proud of the fact that ACEVO has run a Women CEOs Summit for a number of years now. I don’t know of any other umbrella that has something similar to offer. We know that gender equality is rather a long way off and there are too few women CEOs in top national charity jobs (according to ACEVO’s most recent Pay Survey, only 25% of charities with a turnover of £15m or more have a female CEO).

This year’s Summit, kindly sponsored by RBS, has a rather stellar line up and a mega booking for it. It features a line-up ranging from Stella Creasy MP to chiefs at the Department for Education, Women’s Aid and Girlguiding UK. The Summit has been so popular that we are now fully booked and are running a waiting list!

The speakers will consider how women leaders should respond to a challenging climate for women and women’s services. They will also be talking about how women leaders can find a leadership style which works for them and how we can inspire the next generation of young women leaders. ACEVO’s policy and projects officer Lauren Kelly has been of huge help organising this year’s summit so I thought I’d include a few words from her with her take. She writes:

“This year’s Summit comes at a time of significant challenges and opportunities for women in the UK. Austerity has hit women particularly hard. Women have been disproportionately affected by staffing cuts in central government, local authorities, and the NHS as they make up the majority of public sector workforce.

Meanwhile, the combined force of tax credit cuts, reductions in housing benefit, and the three-year inflation freeze in child benefit month has weakened their safety net. According to the Fawcett Society, £22bn of the £26bn saved from welfare reform since 2010 has come from women’s pockets. As women still tend to be the primary carers for children and for frail older people, cuts to services hit them harder than men.

There has been slow progress in other key areas of inequality such as violence against women and under-representation in Westminster and other seats of power. Leaders of young people’s services tell me they are deeply concerned about the increasing pressure on young women to look a certain way and sexual inequality amongst young people.

The UK has seen a flourishing of equality activism, which some are labelling the ‘fourth wave’ of British feminism. Women – and many men – have taken to the streets to protest against sexist policies with respect to female representation, sexual violence, housing, immigration, news coverage, and even bank notes, amongst other things.

The result has been cross-political acknowledgement that number of women in government and in top positions across private, public, and third sectors is unacceptable and more women willing to speak up against casual sexism. To build upon this momentum, we need only to keep pushing and to harness the current public and media interest in women’s issues. I hope that attendees at this year’s ACEVO Women CEOs Summit will come away inspired to raise their voices.”