Thursday, 9 October 2008

Icelandic chill and Jacqui warmth

Bad news from some members today . We hear from 5 charities that they have had investments in Icelandic banks which are now lost . These total over 30million. One major national charity has lost £12ml and another £4.5ml which amounts to 21% of their total reserve . This is serious news . I send off an urgent letter to the Chancellor , as does the Charity Finance Director's Group , asking for charities to be compensated for these losses.

But this is only the " tip of the iceberg " as my policy guy in felicitously puts it . There will be others who have lost out. And in the meantime demand for charity services rises . Just one example from a member who phones me today ; his trust have a scheme of providing financial help to people . In the last 4 months he has seen a 400% ( yes , that is 400% ) rise in applications over the same period last year . They cannot cope with supporting people at that level . And this is before the real recessionary problems hit .

So today I make a strong plea to the Home Secretary for the Government to step in . i outline our proposed package ; £500 ml in emergency support to organisations , a rapid reform of gift aid so we get all the unclaimed tax breaks the Treasury are sitting on , guarantees of deposits lost and a voice on the national economic council .

She understands the problems we face , I tell her on the way up to the lunch in the RBS lifts that we have members who have lost large sums in the Icelandic crash . She says she will ensure this is passed on . Although she did arrive with a large handbag I'm afraid it did not contain the money I want . But she is on side. We have 30 chief executives present .

Jacqui is a really impressive politician . She is very much on message with our mission as third sector and out desire to work to cut crime . We talk about how best to tackle extremism by working in communities and with radicalised youth . We talk about how we must tackle the root causes of gang culture , and how that requires intensive work by third sector bodies who need to gain the trust of alienated youth . Its a good session .

What is particularly impressive is the passion and conviction of my members and the professionalism of their approach . Not one whinge . It was all entirely positive in wanting to work with Government to sort major social problems. What can be so depressing with some third sector meetings with Ministers is that people come with their whinges and demands and fail to engage at the level needed . A professional approach always wins . That is what acevo stands for . It's what works. And Jaqcui will go away thinking this is a bunch of people who can deliver . Its a positive image. I know from Ministers that they hate it when all they ever get is people dumping their problems and moaning about how useless Government is , when what they would like is to hear how we can work together on solutions.

That is what we need to do in the current recession . So I get back to the office and me and our policy team get down to planning how we can support members best through the crisis.One aspect of this is to stir up the media and get them reporting on the problems w face and how the sector can be used to support the victims of this deepening recession . The Times and The Guardian are interested. And I give the wonderful Today programme a full brieifing on the problems we face. This is not about media for media's sake , but about how we grab the attention of politicians - they all listen to Today and read the press. At least the national news tonight picked up on the charity losses , even if the main focus on local authorities , who are much better placed to cope!

Tomorrow I am going to brief people at the World Economic Forum in Geneva ; this is a global problem for the third sector too .

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