Friday 18 June 2010

Emails from Bishops, Regulation and Prisons.

Nice to get an email from the Bishop of London about my Big Society speech;

"Congratulations on such a timely and influential speech which was used by a number of speakers in the Lords yesterday on the Big Society."

What could be more agreeable; being quoted in the Upper House! My thoughts approved by the Established Church! I'm deeply chuffed, especially as Richard Charteris is my favourite Bishop!

Yesterday we published a big report on charity sector regulation.

The report is based on the work of a taskforce of ACEVO members and other experts, chaired by Rupert Evenett, the Chair of BTCV. It comes at a crucial time - the new Government is keen on reducing the burden of regulation, and the Office for Civil Society and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills have just announced that they will conduct a joint review of charity regulation. Our report will feed into that.

The report essentially calls for an overhaul of charity regulation to bring it from the Victorian age into the 21st century, e.g. by making more information available to the public, making more use of professional standards, greater flexibility in regulation, less duplication between different regulators, and promoting a culture shift so that regulation doesn't encourage charities to be so risk averse.

It argues we must be able to have more diverse forms of governance, so Trustees should be paid if the charity has decided there is a good case for it. It will be essential we see a radical new approach in the Charity Commission if people are to set up Free Schools and new social enterprises to deliver services in communities. I was delighted to hear Andrew Hind, the Charity Commission CEO, saying they do need to change and to become more "enabling" at our recent sector summit.

Click here to read it.

As part of ACEVO’s Welfare to Work and Employment Skills Special Interest Group, we are running a joint workshop with CDG at the forthcoming CESI Welfare to Work Convention in early July. This is the major annual welfare to work conference – anyone who is anyone in welfare to work will be there; an excellent chance to network with cross sector peers and policy makers alike! Our workshop is titled “Welfare to Work and the Big Society” and will explore the role the sector can play and the support needed to contribute meaningfully to the Work Programme – the SIG will be taking the key points from this workshop forwards over the coming year. Click here for more details and to book onto the conference, or email Nick Carey ( if you are interested in finding out more about the group.

An interesting reception last night, given by The Lord Chancellor at the Ministry of Justice. It was good to see Nick Herbert MP, one of the new Ministers and on Bubb's List of "My Top 10 Favourite Tories". He really gets the importance of expanding the role of the sector in fighting crime by reducing re-offending. He knows the effectiveness of the work of many charities and social enterprises in ensuring offenders are supported and developed away from a life of crime. He was keen to assure me they will develop our role.

He also asked me whether I was still doing my Blog!! I assured him I was, and that he would appear in it (again!).

I had a long chat with Ken Clarke MP on the role of the sector. He wanted to know my views on Payment by Results, and subsequently I continued this discussion with various officials and Ken's spad. There is a real opportunity in PBR for our sector. The problem, and it is a very real one, is how to capitalise third sector bodies to run services until the time they get paid for their outcomes. No third sector body working in re-offending has the cash flow or reserves to manage PBR. Even the biggest charity working here has reserves of under two months. How can they be expected to run services for one or two years without any payments? It is not going to happen unless the Government think how to provide loans or social impact bonds at a level and quantity that ensure cash flow.

Already many of our members have difficulty in coping when Councils or state bodies don't pay their invoices on time. Cash flow in charities is a real issue. That became clear to us in the Social Investment Business and why we set up a cash flow loan scheme. It was much used.

The Futurebuilders scheme could have been a source of support for this but it is now fully committed and, indeed the Government have decided to take away the loan interest repayments from Futurebuilders and put into grants to support community organisers. A real shame that a source of loans that could have supported organisations to expand their role in re offending has been hobbled.

But overall I expect us to be playing a vastly expanded role in both running prisons and tackling our appalling re offending rates. Good luck to Ken and Nick in pushing this agenda forward.

And finally, let's note that tomorrow marks the birthday of Aung San Suu Kyi, the remarkable and heroic Leader of Burma. Still in prison. Held captive by one of the world's most repressive regimes. Best wishes to her and to the people of Burma.

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