Friday, 31 May 2013

Farewell and Welcome

Good to be at the farewell celebration for Peter Wanless at the Commons yesterday. It was Hail and Farewell Wanless Big Lottery and Welcome Wanless ACEVO member and NSPCC Chief.

A most interesting gathering of sector and quangocrats, civil servants of various shapes and sizes and friends of the Wanless. He has been a good CEO. Obviously its not to difficult giving money away as opposed to the grind of finding it, but this is a non-departmental body with all the pointless red tape that involves. It really ought to be freed of all this and set up as a Foundation. How strange that when Francis Maude was conducting his "bonfire" this one seemed to escape. Couldn't be anything to do with the fact It has oodles of money politicians can "earmark" for their hobby horses could it?  But then again its “independent" isn't it.  I was forgetting. Dawn will have a great time there holding off the hordes of supplicants and ministers bearing gifts of their ideas. And sometimes supporting them. Good luck Dawn.

And I look forward to Wanless throwing caution to the wind and speaking out for children; regardless of whether Government likes it or not. Go for it Peter. We will be cheering you along.

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Cuts, cuts and more cuts...

It's all very well the Chancellor talking about his triumph in getting Departments to implement 10% more cuts but what of the consequences? 

Massive cuts to social safety nets have led to "destitution, hardship and hunger on a large scale" in Britain, with more than half a million people now forced to rely on food banks for sustenance. This is the warning from key poverty charities in a report published recently.

Welfare changes and mistakes by Jobcentre Plus staff are causing delays in benefits and errors or sanctions, which push vulnerable people into precarious situations. All this is known by those working in charities but Government seems impervious to the growing problem. So well done Church Action on Poverty and Oxfam. These charities want an urgent parliamentary inquiry.

They are right to call for this.

And the story is backed by a particularly nasty report in the Times yesterday of a woman who had major transplant surgery and was dying but following a 20 minute review by our friends ATOS and a decision by DWP she was deemed fit for work! She received the news via her husband in her hospital bed just hours before she died. This disgraceful story is bad enough but it is one of many. When will DWP review their contract with ATOS and the way they handle these decisions. The statement from DWP about this case was a classic “problem? What problem?" one. It's simply not good enough. I do hope that in the light of these growing case studies that Mark Hoban MP, the DWP Minister in charge will take a grip and review the contract. Of course we all want disabled people to be in work where this is sensible and helpful but stories like the above are a clear indication that things are going badly wrong.

Overall, we know that public spending needs to be constrained. The problem is that if we carry on trying to provide services in the same old way but with less money we will fail to provide the public services people deserve. The shame is that the public service reform agenda- “Open Public Services" has been stalled. We need it revived and given a kick start. Our charity and social enterprise sector could deliver public services more effectively and in a way that delivers real choice for citizens and communities. So cuts should be the spur to reform. So often they are not.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013


Well, that was a really rather pleasant Bank Holiday. And it marked the Open Garden day in Charlbury. The National Gardens Scheme is a rather splendid charity that organises people with great gardens to open them up to the public for a day a year. Founded in 1927 it raises funds for a range of charities like ACEVO members Marie Curie, Macmillan, Help the Hospices, the NT and Alzheimer’s. Over the last 10 years £22m has been raised. This year over 3,800 gardens will open. So a good cause indeed. And the 2 Charlbury gardens are a marvel. My friends Andrew and Briony Lawson own Gothic House and have a real plantsman's garden and the Priory have a great 7 acres laid to formal gardens and trees and scrubland that run down to the River Evenlode.

See for yourself here. 

Friday, 24 May 2013

Degrees of charity; social finance is best?

As I was burrowing my way through learned texts, I came across the Jewish "8 degrees of charity". This is drawn from the Mishneh Torah of 1178.

It rates the importance of charitable actions ranging from the most selfish - charity given ostentatiously so people can see how wonderful you are to no8, what is seen as the top most important charitable action. This is:

“Helping a needy person become self supporting by a gift, loan or entering into partnership with or promoting work for him or her".

What a great thought from the 12th century backing our 21st century notions of social finance.

The G8 meeting in June is having social finance as one of the themes of the meeting. And later in July a group of social finance experts from and practitioners from across the Globe will be debating the issue.

Called the “Policy Innovation in Impact Investing 2013 Conference” it will mark the 3rd annual meeting of the Impact Investing Policy Collaborative. It comes at an exciting time in the development of the global impact investing field. As many governments around the world look for ways to leverage private capital for public good, this is supposed to be an opportunity to share best practices and approaches to innovation in policy making.

The UK has much to offer to this discussion having spearheaded many of the world’s firsts in the field, such as the Social Investment Business, Big Society Capital and social impact bonds, reforms on outcome-based commissioning and the Social Value Act.

During the conference the IIPC is aiming to develop and formally launch a set of foundational principles for policy design in impact investing. It will be known as "The London Principles", no less!

These principles will provide a touchstone for policymakers across the world to bolster impact investing, offering entry points into a large body of global research and practice.

Policy Innovation for Impact Investing will be July 10/11th. I shall be there. Look out for my Blogs!

And finally, a nice shot of the wisteria in Church St, Charlbury!

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Kindling fires in the Bodleian?

It’s like being a student again! I turned up at the Bodleian Library in Oxford on Monday brandishing a somewhat moth eaten Library card, “well, we've not seen one of those for some time", was the amused response. “I’m afraid we have gone digital now". Well, my card was dated 1972 and not used since well back. Still, they issued me with a new plastic thing and I didn't need to take my oath again (which I did in 1972) promising not to “bring into the Library or kindle therein any fire or flame".

The Bodleian was founded in 1602 and is housed in the most magnificent buildings. I'm sitting in the Old Bodleian looking out over to the Radcliffe Camera, built by Wren and one of the Library reading rooms. I wanted to get a seat in there but it was jam packed with proper students hastily trying to cram 3 years work into a few weeks before they submit to their examiners.

Still, I had a splendid view of same from my seat- as you can see

I'm having a reading week in Oxford as part of my Great Project; the history of charity. I went through the Bod's catalogue- over 900 entries come up under “history of charity" but most are histories of individual charities or esoteric sermons and discourses. There isn't really anything that purports to provide a broad sweep of our history since the first still extant charity was established in 598 AD (Kings School, Canterbury). It’s clearly an under researched subject; crying out for a Chair of Charity Studies methinks. That's a broad hint btw. Some philanthropist (or Apple/ Starbucks now they don't bother paying much tax) ought to fund it. I could be available; I have my own gown.

The Radcliffe Camera

The Old Bodleian

What is particularly fascinating is the change that occurred over the Tudor period, following the Reformation, from essentially a religious base for charity actions to a secular form of charity and charity trusts. And as the centuries developed, the rise of the campaigning voluntary organisation emerges; particularly in opposition to slavery at the end of the 18th century and then the great charity movements of the early 19th century against child and animal abuse and prison reform for example.

So we see the move from purely service provision as effectively the arm of the State's welfare provisions to new forms of campaigning and advocacy charity and to third sector bodies that both deliver services and campaign for change. One thing is clear; there is precious little material on this aspect of the work of charities so I need more help.

But I don't want you to think I'm totally immured inside the ancient Oxford walls. I emerge to opine on the Work Programme, health and the like. 
Stephen Bubb