Saturday 31 December 2011

Looking forward to 2012

A Happy New Year to you all. Let's hope the jubilee year of 2012 will prove more propitious for our sector.

Let's face it , 2011 has been difficult! The signs for a more prosperous year are not good. We know that councils plan more cuts. We know the health service is cutting back. Recession will bite harder. So the leaders of our sector will be tested more harshly. And our beneficiaries will continue to bear the brunt of the recession , as unemployment rises, cuts hit deeper for citizens and communities. Their voice must be heard. Their plight recognised. So our role as the " voice of the voiceless" becomes more crucial.

But this will also be the time for us to show innovation and resolve. To take advantage of opportunities to deliver more services and to make the case to councils and health commissioners that we cam provide more focused services . Let's not be victims but make the case for change.

And there will be many occasions to celebrate next year. The Diamond Jubilee and the Olympics. And , of course , our very own ACEVO silver jubilee. Back in 1987 a group of Chief Executives got together at the local government Social Services conference and took the decision to set up a support network that they called ACENVO. The rationale was clear. The CEO job is a difficult one and it is often lonely at the top so who better to turn to for advice and counsel than your peers? The idea took off and the organisation grew. I joined in 2000 and was only the second CEO. The founding CEO was Dorothy Dalton. A major change tool place when the members decided to turn into ACEVO ,in other words to represent CEOs of all third sector bodies and not just national organisations. And I was appointed specifically to give the organisation a representative role; speaking for the sector's leaders to Government and more widely. We have become a powerful advocate for leadership and are recognised as a force for the CEO role.

So we shall celebrate 25 years of CEO leadership next year. We start with a series of meetings around the country so that me and the ACEVO Chair can hear from CEOs about the challenges they face. We start in Birmingham on the 9 th.

So let's gird our loins! I'm down in Devon ( at Hope Cove) with the Bubb clan to see in this new year. It's a blustry day but that did not deter us from our annual walk up on the cliffs ( third sector cliffs , of course , as they are National Trust ! )to the Port Light , our favourite Devon pub! And champagne for my Mother's 82nd birthday !

I shall raise a glass to all my Blog readers tonight. I wish you all a very Happy New Year!

Friday 23 December 2011

Happy Christmas!

Well , I've packed up , tidied up after a fashion and left for Charlbury. I'm looking forward to the break and all the festivities. I hope you all enjoy a good Christmas. It's a time to recharge batteries. Enjoy fine wine. Good food. Bracing walks. The hound is salivating at the thought of all that left over turkey!

Let me leave you with a thought. I went to the Festival of 9 Lessons and Carols at my London Church, All Saints ,Margaret St, this week. The following words were part of the bidding prayer.

I dedicate it in particular to all our politicians when they come to budget making soon.

" because this of all things would rejoice his heart ,
let us at this time remember in his name the poor
and the oppressed ; the sick and those who
mourn; the lonely and the unloved; the aged and
the little children . "

As recession bites more harshly in 2012 these sentiments need to be written above the door of HMT. Have a great Christmas all.

Thursday 22 December 2011

Have a healthy Christmas!

Great meeting with John Craig earlier this week. He is working on a project between the Innovation Unit and NESTA.

It's called the " People powered health programme and aims to investigate how people can better manage their health care?

Did you see an important report last week about Diabetes? This indicated that up to 24,000 diabetes-related deaths could be avoided in England each year, if patients and doctors better managed the condition.

The first-ever audit of patient deaths from the condition said basic health checks, a good diet and regular medication could prevent most of them.

Diabetes UK said it was vital the 2.3 million sufferers had top quality care.
The Department of Health in England said shocking variations in care and an unacceptable death toll were evident.

About a third of people in the UK affected do not realise they have the condition.
It means their bodies cannot use glucose properly. If they do not manage it, they can develop potentially fatal complications like heart or kidney failure.

The report, by the NHS Information Centre, compared information about people with diabetes in England with data from death records.

The data
In England in 2008/09:
• 75,000 deaths occurred in people with diabetes
• 24,000 of those deaths were classed as avoidable
• About three quarters of excess deaths were in people aged 65 and over
• A small proportion - 104 - were in men and women aged between 15 and 34 (about two excess deaths a week)
• Of the 104 deaths, 52 were in women
• Because younger people in general have a low risk of dying - the absolute numbers are very small, but represent a nine fold higher risk compared with other age groups
• Source: NHS information centre

Around 70-75,000 diabetic patients die every year.The study estimated that a third of them were dying from causes that could be avoided if their condition were better managed.

That includes basic health checks from doctors, and patients taking medication and keeping to a healthy diet.

For patients with Type 1, the risk of dying was 2.6 times higher than it was for the general population.

With Type 2, the risk was 1.6 times higher.But in younger age groups, the risk was far greater. Women between the ages of 15 and 34 with Type 1 diabetes were nine times more likely to die than other women of the same age. Men in the same age group were four times more likely to die if they had the condition.

It is the first time there has been such a comprehensive assessment of the number of affected people dying. The National Diabetes Information Service said the number of people with the condition was rising, so if nothing was done, the number of deaths would increase.

Yet another indication of the need to move resources from cute hospital care into the community amd to third sector organisations. When will the NHS start listening?

Wednesday 21 December 2011

David Cameron is right!

David Cameron spoke at my old college in Oxford last Friday about the important role religion must play in national life. He was speaking at a service to mark the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible. I very much agree with his stance. Politicians should not avoid talking religion , though I would hate if we ever found ourselves landed with the hypocrisy of the American religious right that so mars politics there.

But we should celebrate the contribution that religion makes to our civil life and to a better community. It is very clear that people of faith play a great role in our sector , both in terms of giving and volunteering. The injunction to giving is something that unites Muslims , Christians and Jews .

But I hope it is always in the spirit of tolerance. There is something nauseous about the strident voices of those who denounce others who have different views or approaches to life , whether on the issue of abortion or on homosexuality. You will not be surprised to know I prefer the gentle tolerance of the dear Church of England , much derided but actually rather splendid. Much like the glorious king James Bible! A former Vicar of Charlbury was one of those involved in the translation of that Bible , as marked by a plaque in the Church placed there to mark the 300 th anniversary. And my parents gave me a copy of that original 1611 Authorised version to mark my knighthood. Appropriate eh!

And at the risk of sounding like a reactionary old buffer I was appalled to hear of 2hideous crimes this week. On Monday my mother goes down to open up the Parish Church in her village Orsett and discovers it has been broken into. Not content with stealing whatever they could ( not very much as it happens ) they let off 2 fire extinguishers and cause a lot of damage. And this just before the Christmas celebrations. You do have to wonder what is happening when whoever did this shows such disrespect. So as you can imagine my mother was also much in approval of Mr Cameron and his views!

And then there is the news of the robbing of the Hepworth sculpture in Dulwich Park. This is a great work. I often walk the hound here. She has peed close by indeed. My favourite walk is to trek through Brockwell Park , down Half Moon Lane into Dulwich , with a nod towards that brilliant picture gallery ! It beggars belief that anyone could be so ignorant as to steal this for scrap. I felt very " colonel of Tunbridge Wells" this week!

And as I'm on the rant can I mention email Christmas cards. Ridiculous. I loved the one from the Chair of the Big Lottery Fund. But did Peter Ainsworth realise that his " Merry Christmas" was rather spoilt by the message that appeared immediately below the festive picture.

It said , " This email is confidential and intended solely for the use of the individual to whom it is addressed.The contents of this message will not be in any way binding upon the Big Lottery Fund. "

Charming. And similar sentiments came with email greetings from the Cabinet Secretary and Crispin Blunt MP , to name but 2.

I think this nasty mass email faux Christmas greeting should be outlawed. But the contents of this Blog are in no way binding on ACEVO!

Monday 19 December 2011

Yes, things are tough out there

Yes,things are tough out there ; my ACEVO North Director , Jenny tells me she was speaking to a CEO in Manchester today whose organisation provides summer play schemes in some of the most deprived wards in East Manchester. They usually run 10 schemes in the 6 week period, this year funding was cut which meant they could only provide 3. The effect was noticeable in the communities with more children playing on the streets and just hanging about.

He thinks it unlikely they will be funded to run play schemes next year at all.The cumulative effect of these decisions across the country mean a significant impact on both social cohesion and the life chances of many citizens. Our sector is at the fore front in tackling these problems but our hands are tied behind our backs by spending cuts.

And one difficult and damaging aspect of all this is that I see CEOs neglecting leadership development. It's understandable that when CEOs are stretched and there is little money that they will put off personal development . That is a mistake. In fact when times are hard it is when you need to look to external support including development. I spent this morning talking to the Chartered Management Institute . ACEVO has strong links and their CEO is a member. We are looking at ways we can jointly support cost effective development.

One of the issues I raised in my FT Profile article on Saturday was the way in which DWP are carrying out their assessments of people on sickness benefit who have mental health problems.

This is a serious problem. Half of all people with mental health problems are living below the poverty line, according to research by the charity Mind.

Three quarters of the 900 people surveyed regularly avoid opening bills and admit to feeling confused about their finances.People with mental health problems are three times more likely to be in debt than the general population. Three quarters of those participating in Mind's Still in the Red survey said their illness had made their debt worse.

The charity is urging people to seek help from its free Money and Mental Health guidebook available in GP surgeries, Citizens Advice Bureaus and online.

So it is time for DWP to review how the reform of sickness benefit is going. This was reinforced for me by the move last week by the UKs cancer charities.

More than 20 of Britain’s leading cancer specialists have written to Iain Duncan Smith warning him that thousands of their patients will be plunged into poverty by his welfare reforms. The clinicians say they are “gravely concerned” that benefits are to be taken away just as people need them most.

Under the Welfare Reform Bill, which is in its final stages in the House of Lords, employment and support allowance (ESA), the main new sickness benefit, will be paid for one year only to those unable to work because of their illness.

After a year, claimants unable to work will be eligible only for means-tested income support. Anyone whose partner earns as little as £149 a week will receive nothing. There is particular anger over the issue because ESA is a contributory benefit, meaning that claimants have paid for it specifically through national insurance contributions over the years.

The letter, which is also signed by 24 cancer charities warns that in many cases a year is too short to recover from gruelling chemotherapy and other cancer treatments. It also questions comments from the Government suggesting that to allow people with cancer to claim the benefit for longer than a year would erode their will to work. “Cancer patients want to work. They haven’t chosen to give up the safety of employment,” the letter says.

“The assertion that providing hard-earned benefits at a time of greatest need encourages a dependency by seriously ill cancer patients on benefits is utterly without foundation.”

Sunday 18 December 2011

No FT , no comment

Well, an early morning start on Saturday ; off to " News and Things" our local newsagents in Charlbury. to secure a copy of the FT. Page 2 glories in a rather splendid photo of me in Bloomsbury Square leaning against a tree. It's a profile headed " Stephen Bubb, standard bearer for charities and still an iconoclast" , rather flattering , he says immodestly. My brother emails me to point out that in the picture , the tree is leaning right ! A good interview with Sarah Neville , the Public Policy Editor though rather too much use of the vernacular for Mother's taste.

I don't know about weather forecasts; it all sounded very gloomy on the news but up here in West Oxfordshire it was a glorious winter day, sharp cold and brilliant sun. The hound and I headed off to our favourite pub , the Plough in Finstock. This trek involves crossing the Cornbury estate where once Queen Elizabeth I hunted stag among the oaks of the Wychwood Forest. A lovely meal and 2 pints and I fell asleep in front of the fire! And this morning the hard frost across the fields looked beautiful as I made my way to early morning Mass in the Parish Church. And because it's another fantastic day I'm off to the pub for Sunday roast. The Hound is fond of beef.

Friday 16 December 2011

Team ACEVO...

Well, it was a jolly affair! Our staff lunch was preceded by a Quiz on our membership and our sector and , because Seb Elsworth was organising it , geography !

The photos say it all ( whatever that is.... )

We had a "secret santa" present giving. My present was a book " Improve your self-esteem ". Much needed obviously. I will study the chapter on " Increase your self esteem through assertiveness" carefully.

But the jollity for me had to be kept short as I had a meeting of the Public Chairs Forum where we were listening to Sir Gus O'Donnell and Francis Maude MP on the challenges for the future year. I might have needed an extra drink as we contemplated that, but I was being abstemious !

From there it was off to the Commons for my Lambeth constituency MP's ( Chukka Umunna ) annual Christmas party. All very Christmassy...

Here he is looking very suave.

Thursday 15 December 2011

Members and Tesco

A trip to ncvo on Tuesday- but this time not to check how the plumbing is going but to speak at one of my members meetings. Anita Kerwin-Nye is the Director of the Communications Trust which raise awareness of the importance of speech, language and communication across the children’s workforce and enable practitioners to access the best training and expertise to support all children’s communication needs.

Here is Anita with Brian Lamb at the meeting:

I was speaking about public services and we had a lively debate. But I think this debate has moved on in the sector and there is broad support for us doing more service delivery. There were understandable concerns about the role of the private sector but my view is that although there are worries about the Work Programme there is strong scope for partnerships and alliances with commercial companies. But the key is getting the terms of the partnership right.

And it was great that Anita was keen to encourage other CEOs to be in ACEVO! Here here.

Lunch yesterday with ACEVO member Javed Kahn, the impressive CEO of Victim Support. We lunched third sector; in the British Museum restaurant( much to be recommended)! Victim Support is a large national charity, professional staff working with some 6500 volunteers. He made the rather telling point that volunteering costs them. They need support, training and management. He said "volunteers can be quite demanding!"

They spend £1m on their training because it is so essential to how volunteers can provide that support for people dealing sometimes with the most traumatised.
He is also building alliances among the victim support networks. I didn't know this but there are 558 charities here. He has built a partnership of most of the 40 charities working in the area of manslaughter. This is a very sensible approach and shows the power of large national charities to drive change.

Which leads me neatly to the Report launched today by the Public Administration Select Committee which has been looking at " Big Society".

A good report, which particularly looks at the important role we can play delivering public services. It makes a range of sensible proposals, such as extending the VAT exemption that the public sector enjoys in delivery to our sector. This creates a much closer level playing field in tendering for us. I argues this strongly with Justine Greening MP when she was at the HMT. I hope the Government will look closely at this.

It is a shame that Bernard Jenkin MP, who chairs the Committee chose to make gratuitously offensive remarks about large charities in his press release. He said,

" PASC has yet to see how the government will engage these charities and voluntary groups who wish to do so to deliver public services: the ‘little society’ rather than big business and ‘Tesco’ charities"

And worse, he repeated this charge at the ncvo- All Party Parliamentary group on the voluntary sector Christmas party at the Commons . He mentioned " tesco charities" twice! My Chair ( Lesley-Anne Alexander , the CEO of RNIB) was there. Her disapproval of his comments could be heard around the room. Rightly so.

Bernard, please remember that bodies like the National Trust, RNID,Leonard Cheshire, RNLI , Guide Dogs, Barnados , Mencap , RSPCA , Unicef, Age UK , Oxfam, Marie Curie...I could go on...employ thousands of staff and have millions of volunteers and supporters. You insult them all by this slighting reference. We need the strength and power of national charities. They are able to speak up for citizens and communities without fear. They campaign and deliver services. They make Governments tremble. They kick arse when arse needs kicking( Fiona Reynolds you are a star! ). And they help and support the local sector and localities. They are national treasures. And so are the local community groups and small voluntary organisations we also represent . Our diversity is our strength. So never ever again do I expect this slur to be repeated Bernard.

And it was particularly galling for my Chair because I know that in the last few months RNIB have given financial support to 3 local blind charities who were facing going under. RNIB enabled them to survive. Not sure I know of Tesco funding the local shop? And RNIB's strength gives power to all blind people. Long may they continue.

Many national charities play a similar role. And as Martyn Lewis, the Chair of ncvo pointed out to Bernard, even the biggest charities are small fry compared with many in the private sector!

But to end on a positive note - the Commons do was also the launch of the 2020 Leadership commision looking at our sector's leadership. The Chair, Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson spoke abouit the report which ACEVO has supported.

One of the recommendations is that more needs to be done in the sector to develop futre CEOs and we are working on this. Already ACEVO has an annual conference for " next generation" CEOs and we do some work to support our affiliate members who are aspiring CEOs. We must do more.

Now I must get ready for the staff Christmas party. A chance to show appreciation to team ACEVO. Highly talented staff who are dedicated to promoting the CEO leadership role. They deserve a treat!

Wednesday 14 December 2011

No Debra!

Loans are an important new tool in supporting and expanding our sector's work. And needed more.

You are wrong to assert in your recent Third Sector article that we must avoid debt as a sector . ( Article, this weeks' Third Sector by Debra Allcock Tyler).

You are right however to urge caution.

A loan will not fit or suit many third sector organisations. It won't help campaigning charities. A loan must be repaid and so no organisation should go into a loan unless they are absolutely clear on the obligations and responsibilities that a loan brings. You should have weighed up the different options. But in some cases a loan makes financial sense and is a good option.

It is also the job of social lenders like the Social Investment Business ( who now have 7 years experience of loans to over 300 organisations) venturesome or Charity Bank. In fact they are very careful to only lend to charities or social enterprises that have a clear business plan that means they can pay back.

I really enjoy Debra's company and enjoy the lively discussions we have, so it won't be a surprise to her that I believe she has been peddling this unhelpful line for some time. She needs to speak to organisations that have had loans or read the 2 independent research reports that have been produced by Sheffield Hallam and London Metropolitan on social finance.

And let me pose this question: What would you have said to the group of parents of kids with autism who had the vision of taking their kids out of crap state provision and building their own school that could cater to the special needs of their children. A school they would run and guide.

We supported their vision with a £5m loan, which they used as leverage. They have built the school: the Treehouse in North London. It's superb. It has developed as a centre of excellence for the teaching of kids with autism across the UK and internationally. They could not have done this without a loan. I challenge Debra to go and tell them to their faces that they have made a mistake and shouldn't have taken the loan.

Should they have taken Debra's advice and refused to take a loan and spent years trying to get the money through raffles and grants, Perhaps never making it? Their experience was exactly that- which is why the loan was such a deliverance.

In fact they had the guts and determination to get it going through a loan and a superb professional plan to pay that back.

So I'm with Treehouse on this. And the other bodies that have gone for loans to support their work with beneficiaries. At a time when our sector faces ever more challenges we need more diverse income streams. Of course we must be careful about funding - whether that is a grant that makes you overly dependent on the funder - or a loan.

And finally I say to my friend Debra, you like me may have a mortgage? Or have had one. That's a loan you took to buy a home because that suited your circumstances. So why do you want to deny that opportunity to third sector bodies who may decide they want a loan to buy a property to turn into a youth centre, for example, because that makes more sense than renting? Why not take a loan for expansion because you know you can make a payments by results contract work and that is the only way you can take part in a contract you know you are the best to deliver for your beneficiaries ?

The only reason the sector is relatively debt free is because for ages we have simply been denied access to capital. We can't actually get loans even when there is a superb business case for them. The point of social finance is to correct that injustice. To get us access to capital to grow. Of course it is not for everyone. But to suggest it should not be available for anyone in our sector is the height of presumption.

Tuesday 13 December 2011

Curley jibe!

Kevin Curley says Bubb is, " in a sense the sector's Jeremy Clarkson". How very dare he! I have never ever suggested anyone should be taken out and shot in front of their family......yet.

Singing our way through!

A rather poignant story in Third Sector magazine. The Charity Environmental Protection UK went under last week as local councils pulled their funding. It has a fabulous history. Started in 1898 as the Coal Smoke Abatement Society it campaigned against air pollution. It was largely responsible for the clean air legislation. Its Treasurer coined the very phrase smog ( smoke plus fog! )

This demonstrates the long and honourable history of our great sector and its proud history of campaigning and advocacy. I suspect that in its day there were plenty of backwoodsmen MPs frothing at the mouth about this charity- much as today we get MPs on the backbenches ( and even in the Public Administration Committee ) fulminating about campaigning charities. The " charities should be seen but not heard" view has also a long and dishonourable history. But whenever there is injustice or wrong , there will be people and communities who will campaign to put it right. So we salute them. And regret that now we are in a recession there will be more casualties to come.

Last night I was singing carols! My younger sister Lucy has a superb singing voice ( just what you need if you are auditing health accounts for Deloitte! ). She is a long standing member of the Royal Choral Society - the country's greatest voluntary choral society. Last night was their annual Carol service at the Royal Albert Hall, so the Bubb clan took a box to cheer on sis. Fabulous carols. And I was in fine voice myself. As many know ( or perhaps not! ) I was the head chorister at my local Parish church in Kent. Very angelic I was too.

Sunday 11 December 2011

Support the Archbishop

The Sunday papers report on the letter the Archbishop of York has written to the PM and " fellow taxpayers. It is worth repeating in full.

" At a recent Symposium held here at Bishopthorpe Palace, those who attended agreed that I write an open letter to you and to all my fellow taxpayers.

A time of economic crisis is a moment, not for social and economic retreat, but to build for the future. Her Majesty’s Government has rightly recognised the importance of building the economy in its recently announced National Infrastructure Programme. But we also need to strengthen the bonds that bind our community together, especially at a time when these are under particular strain.

A new social covenant is needed which – on the basis of an honest assessment of the respective roles of the State, voluntary associations and individual citizens – assures the weak and vulnerable of proper protection and gives all of us confidence that we are committed to building the conditions necessary to assist human flourishing.

Two groups – at either end of the age spectrum – deserve our particular attention. These are the young – whose nurturing, education and opportunities for employment are a particular concern, as on our success in securing these depends the quality of our community tomorrow –and older people, who form an increasing proportion of our population. In this letter to you, I want to focus on how we care about and for older people.

A society’s capacity to innovate is not independent of its capacity to understand and respect its own recent past. Older people are important connecting links to a world that still shapes our opportunities but which we can quickly fail to comprehend. The value we are seen to place on their wisdom and the concern we show for their care are important litmus tests of whether we can build a caring as well as a confident society in the 21st century.

In particular, the current adult care funding system in England is widely acknowledged to be unfit for purpose and to need urgent and lasting reform. The report of the Commission on Funding of Care and Support, chaired by Andrew Dilnot (the Dilnot Commission), published earlier this year, has shown us the way forward. Whether or not the political parties can come together to implement the Commission’s recommendations will be an important signal of our confidence and ability to build for the future of our society as well as of our economy, at this time of particular social as well as economic difficulty.

Valuing Older People
Each one of us – at every age in our life – is uniquely and equally precious in the sight of God. But what we each contribute to the richly hued tapestry of humanity will differ at different points of our life.

Medical advances mean that many older people today are able to remain active for longer. What those who are still active need is constructive occupation - not necessarily paid employment (which may come at the expense of the young) – through which they can both contribute from the wisdom of their experience and sustain a sense of being useful to others, and therefore of purpose.

What is most important in the actual experience of growing older is the slow change from an age of action to an age of reflection. While there is no evidence that other cultures care for older people more than we do, African and many non-Western societies more visibly care about older people. They value the wisdom of old age. That valuing is reflected in the Book of Proverbs: “The glory of young men is their strength, the splendour of old men is their grey hair” (Proverbs 20:29).

A failing of today’s society is to set the old over and against the young, in a state of mutual incomprehension. In fact, the old need the young and the young, the old. An integration of the generations is critical to a mutually supportive society.

A truly caring and Christian society is therefore one that sees older people, not as a growing and irrelevant burden, but as a rich treasure store of energy, experience and wisdom to be placed at the service of the young and of its future. Ensuring the conditions under which older people can make the special contribution of which they are capable is key to releasing this treasure. Providing a sustainable long term funding arrangement for the care of older people is a vital part of ensuring those conditions.

Why Reforming the Funding of the Care of Older People is Essential
Some key facts from the Dilnot Report, which will I know already be familiar to you:

a) In 1901 there were 61,000 people in the UK over the age of 85. Now there are almost one and a half million.

b) By 2030, the proportion of the UK population over 65 will exceed 20%.

c) Public expenditure in England on older people’s social care is not keeping up with demand.

d) Care costs for any one individual are uncertain and can, in some circumstances, be very high indeed.

e) The current system of funding individual care in England, which requires people with more than a very modest level of capital assets to use those assets to cover the cost of their care, leaves many in fear and uncertainty as they approach one of the most vulnerable periods of their life.

What is needed is a system for funding care which enables the risk to any one individual to be pooled, through taxation or insurance or, preferably, a mix of them both.

The Dilnot Commission has shown the way forward. It proposes a system under which the individual will be responsible, on a means-tested basis, for the costs of his or her care up to a suggested level of £35,000, after which the State would pick up the cost. The current asset threshold for those in residential care would also be extended, from £23,250 to £100,000.

Such a system will provide sufficient certainty to enable people to plan ahead, and allow the financial services industry to develop insurance and other products to help them with their planning. It will also help the poorest in our society the most.

The Commission estimates the cost to the public purse of its proposals at less than £2 billion. This is a large sum and I fully realise that, especially at a time of severe economic constraint, finding it will not be easy. But it compares with total annual Government expenditure of just under £700 billion. Moreover, if this investment in establishing a fairer system is not made, the cost of caring for older people falling on the NHS and other parts of the national budget is likely to go on increasing.

The Commission also recommends other sensible reforms, including a major information and advice campaign to help people plan ahead; better information and needs assessment for carers; and better integration of health and social care. These will be essential too if we are to strike the right balance between individual responsibility and publicly funded provision.

A Call to Action
We stand at a moment of serious social as well as economic crisis. At such a time, leadership of a particularly high order is called for. You, Prime Minister, and Her Majesty’s Government have shown your wish to provide such leadership, a leadership which is seen to address positively and constructively, in the wider interest, the fundamental issues facing our society. Reforming the system of funding the care of older people is one such issue. Dilnot has shown us the way forward. It is a call to action which our country cannot, must not ignore.

My fellow taxpayers, let us all back this clarion call to act now.

There will be many in our third sector who will support these sentiments , and the call to work with our voluntary sector. As the recession get ever more problematic for communities the Government need to act on this call.

Saturday 10 December 2011

Heading South

A glorious evening. As the gale wrecked and howled the trees around Craigendarroch we sat and drank a glorious bottle of champagne and tucked into Balmoral chicken. That's a confection from the Queen's butcher in Ballater ; a chicken breast stiffed with haggis and wrapped in bacon. Just the ticket for watching the semi finals of Master Chef !

It was a lovely end to our Highland idyll. But not without incident. The Hound and I had been on a wind swept walk to an isolated and ruined Church on the Dee. Just after we had passed down the track , a tree was felled by the wind and blown onto the very track we had traversed. But the journey was worth it. An atmospheric graveyard. One of the most interesting graves is that of Fr Lachlan McIntosh , for 64 years until dying in 1846, the faithful pastor of the catholic souls of Balmoral and Ballater. You can find his grave with ease because his gravestone is set facing West. All priests are buried in the opposite direction to the laity whose heads lie East. This is so that at the Final Call the Priest can arise , facing his parishioners and lead the Faithfull to Paradise (don't say my Blog is not educative! ).

It was an evocative spot and a good place to remember the anniversary of the beheading of my ancestor Sir Edward Neville , who met his end this day in 1538 at Tower Hill for refusing to renounce his Faith. I like to think speaking truth to power is a family trait! Though not one leading to beheading thank you very much!

We have now seen the results of the next financial settlement for local councils. More pain for our sector. Tony Travers is warning of serious cuts to children services. What this means to our CEOs is illustrated by the tale of one of our members who has turned to us for help and advice.

The CEO reports that they have lost 60 % of their funding, from LAs and contracts. They have reduced all staff hours, including hers. She
Has negotiated reduced rent and made all cuts they can achieve. They are working closely and collaborating with others as they are committed to retaining the services they provide at the high level of quality they provide because they have such huge commitment to their beneficiaries. The
CEO is constantly pushed to provide " answers" by staff, board, authorities and service users. She says that she turns to ACEVO to provide support for her sanity !

Many more tales like this will be coming.

But now I head back to Yorkshire for the weekend!

Thursday 8 December 2011

Irritating stereotypes!

Rosamund's article this week in Third Sector was the cause of much amusement in the office, but I must admit nevertheless to being irked by the stereotyping. So certain she clearly is of her own charmingly romantic notions she totally overlooks the absurdity of her own position as a highly paid lawyer lecturing full-time voluntary-sector workers on the need to discover what it's like in the real world. And as it is blowing a gale up here in the Highlands I thought might give Rosamund some helpful advice as unusually , she had not worked her brief too well before putting pen to her third sector paper.

She suggests , "For example, Sir Stephen Bubb, chief executive of Acevo, promotes larger charities that provide services to the state.”

This is factually wrong. 47 percent of ACEVO’s members lead charities and community organisations with a turnover of less than £1m. We run regular CEO forums in the North which bring together a richly diverse representation of ACEVO's members who provide very local services. These are an incredibly important sounding board for deciding ACEVO's priorities and I consult them regularly. Only this week we brought these members together in Leeds at one of their offices to do just this.
We may well be much louder about the work we do in campaigning for the role of our members in Public Service Delivery but this does not mean by any means that we are here to support only those members who do so. In fact much of the support that ACEVO provides its members in advice and legal help goes to CEOs of those smaller charities. So yes Rosamund , as part of my job I regularly meet with my members in smaller, local as well as larger national organisations.

The charge that we only represent charities that provide services to the state is also factually incorrect. You only need to scan our membership or come to an ACEVO event to see how diverse ACEVOs representation of the sector is; from leaders of campaigning organisations including Action on Smoking and Health and Autism Cymru to chief execs of professional associations like the British Humanists Association, the Open Spaces Society, the Girls School Society and the Association of Directors of Public Health.

We have a wide range of faith organisations including the CEO of the Church of England and the Churches Conservation Trust as members. And the royal colleges , from the surgeons to the GPs to the Obstetricians .

We’ve members who run grant making organisations like the chief executive of Pharmacist Support who I met in Manchester only last week and the Architectural Heritage Fund. Members who work with the environment like Walworth Garden Farm and the London Sustainability exchange and leaders of local infrastructure organisations including CVS’. And this is just a flavour!

Rosamund says ," I'd like to send all the sector leaders off for six months. I'd send Bubb to run a community development project ".

Actually Rosamund I founded a local charity in Lambeth which in its early stages I did indeed run and then became Chair . I continue to support a local community organisation on the Blenhiem estate in Brixton. So no Rosamund , I don't need to spend time with a local group to know what motivates them.

Of course I'm sure the Government would be delighted if I disappeared off the scene for 6 months. But I suspect what the sector needs at the moment is a champion who is prepared to stand up for the sector , to speak out about cuts and to work for a better deal for our sector's leaders. I suspect my talents are best used doing this than burdening a community group with me for 6 months!

Using the third sector to improve our health!

Andrew Lansley MP spoke at Guys Hospital yesterday, ( founded as a charity in Southwark in the 16 th century incidentally ) about improving results for patients. It's worth repeating key points from his speech :

"Today, we are making it clear that the NHS is about one ambition and one ambition alone - improving results for patients.

"And that is the change that the NHS Outcomes Framework that we’re publishing today, will bring about. It sets the direction for the whole NHS. Orienting the NHS back towards the people who really matter: its patients.

"And it sets out how we will hold the NHS to account for improving the results that patients get.

"But to realise my ambition -- I must realise the ambitions of the near one million patients that come into contact with the NHS every day. To give patients genuine options over their care
to give patients the tools they need to decide with their doctors the right way forward. To ensure decisions are only taken by doctors, nurses and patients together - genuinely sharing in the decisions made about their care.

"My ambition for patients is, quite simply, this: ‘No decision about me, without me.’

"And let me tell patients - remember that in the NHS - it really is all about you."

His insistence on a policy of , no decision about me , without me is spot on. And to help deliver that we need to commission the third sector more. Not just as service delivers , important though that is , but also because we act as advocates and advisors to citizens and champions of better health and campaigners against abuse.

There was a wake up call from that great charity Cancer yesterday. It's British Journal of Cancer review just published, showing how many cancers are the result of lifestyle and environmental factors - 'the most comprehensive' report of its kind, according to the charity. The report finds that more than 100,000 cancers – equivalent to one third of all those diagnosed in the UK each year – are being caused by smoking, unhealthy diets, alcohol and excess weight. Smoking is far and away the most important lifestyle factor causing 23 per cent of cancers in men and 15.6 per cent in women (nearly one in five cancers). Overall the review shows that 45 per cent of all cancers in men could be prevented – compared with 40 per cent of all cancers in women.

So we know that for cancer and for all long term conditions action to support people in managing conditions and in prevention is key to better health for all. So who is best placed to do this? It's not our hospitals but brilliant charities like Cancer UK and the long term condition charities like Diabetes Uk , Asthma UK and the British Heart Foundation. So we must call for a major expansion of the "any qualified provider" policy. We need GPs to commission the sector to carry out preventative work and to encourage more integration of social care and health.

I know from my own personal experience of Diabetes type 2 that my management of this condition is more important than tablets or trips to the doctor. In fact the support from the NHS for anyone with Diabetes type 2 is minimal. An annual test with a doctor saying you need more exercise is not going to do the trick. But organisations like Diabetes UK ( of which I am a paying and enthusiastic member ) can provide the advice and support and peer networks that will work. More effective for me is the fact that i get shouted at by my staff if I so much as look at a cake indeed I was forced to bin a croissant I had inadvisedly taken before my last Board meeting.

Dog walking not leg chopping is a policy the NHS badly needs to implement. And divert resources away from hospitals to community care and support. So Andrew ; be bolder on shutting hospitals and putting resource into our third sector. Personal budgets for long term conditions so people can buy dogs and gym membership if needed.

So as you can imagine my long walks in the Scottish Highlands are just the ticket. Though I'm afraid the heavy snow and biting winds today did curtail that somewhat! Even the Hound looked cold , despite her hunting tartan.

View from my window:

Wednesday 7 December 2011

The Highland Journal, Part 2

A three hour trek round the craggy shore of Loch Muick is a treat the weary , care worn CEO needs! The Loch stands at the cap of the Glen Muick under the shadow of the dark Lochnagar. It has been snowing but the sun was out and the skies blue. We lunched at the bothy that was built by Queen Victoria as a retreat after Prince Albert died. Glas all Sheilt is a picturesque spot , as you see:

And clearly the Hound has discovered Scottish roots , see MacSparkles resplendent in her MacSparkle hunting tartan.

My own date back somewhat to my many times great grandfather , the Rev Thomas Somerville , who was evicted from his Anglican Church in Carnwath in 1692 by the wretched Presbies and fled with his family to West Cork , Ireland ( where they rarely have snow it has to be said!)

I'm far too old to climb Lochnagar , famed as it is by the poet Byron ( not Shelley !). He wrote,

" Away,ye gay landscapes,ye gardens of roses !

In you let the minions of luxury rove;

Restore me the rocks,where the snowflake reposes,
Though still they are sacred to freedom and love;
Yet, Caledonia beloved are thy mountains,
Round their white summits though elements war;
Though cataracts foam 'stead of smooth flowing
I sigh for the valley of dark Lochnagar. "

Tuesday 6 December 2011

A Highland Journal

Well, the journey to the Highlands nearly proved eventful as we skidded in the car crossing the Grampians in a snow storm ! But it certainly looked scenic.

We are staying up the Dee from Balmoral and you can well see why Queen Victoria loved this part of Scotland. The views from the mountainsides of the Dee valley are spectacular. World beating vistas I say! And the Hound is having an excellent time. There was a scary " Fenton" moment when she went off chasing deer a la richmond park you tube clip, but a masterful CEO command brought her back ( well, eventually).

The mountain behind us is Craigendarroch and surrounded by ancient oaks and red scotch pine. And covered in a light coating of snow is all most agreeable. Anyway here are the pictures to bring some festive cheer!

Friday 2 December 2011

Singing in the rain!

Amidst the gloom what a joy to listen to Debbie Reynolds singing on the Today programme and reminiscing about the film star greats she knew! She is selling her vast collection of film memorabilia. ( If I had a few quid I'd get a Marilyn Monroe dress !)

Yesterday was ACEVO Board day- discussing the results of a Board appraisal evaluation! A good discussion, especially on how we can improve on new trustee induction. But it meant I had to miss the Learning with Leaders lunch with Lord Freud at Farrers. Apparently a glittering affair. Packed out to listen to David in his top acerbic best. Not afraid to chastise the sector; he said delivery was variable and those that complained loudest might not always be the best. Umm. These Leader lunches are one of ACEVO's hidden treasures. We limit them to a max 25, Chatham house and a proper lunch with wine ( none of this buffet curled sarni stuff!). And we rely on our wonderful corporate partners to host so that they don't drain member resources but do provide conviviality and comradeship.

Today we see the publication of the annual CAF giving statistics. Over a million more give to charity, yet total donations stay flat. So its a mixed picture.

Figures show that over that over the year (2010/11) the UK public gave £11.0 billion to charity. An additional 1.1 million people donated money to charity, however, the average amount given per month fell from £12 in 2009/10 to £11.

Despite more of the public deciding to support charities, in real terms the total value of donations (£11bn) remained the same as the previous year. In real terms, donations are now worth £900 million less than the amount given in 2007/08, the year before the UK entered recession.

People are clearly being generous but the reality is we need giving in real terms to increase if we are to meet the demands of people and communities in a recession.

But now it's the weekend. It' sunny. I'm about to head off for a glorious week in the Highlands. So I'm singng in the sun!

Thursday 1 December 2011


Well, the lunch with JP Morgan turned out to be most agreeable . They have recently published a report on impact investing. It is clear that the mainstream financial sector are beginning to notice the third sector and instead of patronising us , think we may be the sort of social business that they can invest in. It's early days, but the Social Investment Business now has a successful 7 year track record of making loans to sector enterprises. Our story and experience is there to be mined.

I followed that with an early evening drink with Rita Clifton, the branding guru , CEO of Interbrand and the new Chair of BTCV ( Tom Flood their CEO is one of my members ). Formidable yet charming , and a real passion for our sector and how we can do better. Had a really interesting discussion on the ACEVO brand ( watch this space! ).

We are both on exactly the same page on branding. Your brand as an organisation is integral to your success. It is a core role for any CEO. Protecting and enhancing brand is vital- just as anything that damages brand can undermine your task. Yes, this is about logos and design but also much more. How your name conveys what you do. How what you present shows your culture and value. In the past there was a rather silly view that we should not " waste" money on brand. Indeed for some, the worse the presentation the better; it showed that we were " voluntary " sector. Branding was commercial and therefore nasty. Crackers! As ACEVO CEO I've always had an eye on the brand. I want it to convey impact and edge, professionalism and passion. The ACEVO brand is very noticeable. Bold. Says what we do " third sector leaders". But is the term third sector getting less understandable out there? What should we use instead. A brainstorming session in the new year awaits....

She also told me a tale about 2 acronyms for how Government should work: is it DAD or EDD ?

Decide, Announce, Defend ( the usual government way )


Engage, Decide, Deliver

Think forestry. Think planning...I could go on.

And continuing the " competition is not a disease" theme of recent blogs , let me tell you about ACEVO member Di Thomas who is the CEO of the Horder Centre - a charity hospital specialising in orthopaedics.

In Dr Foster’s ‘Hospital Guide’, published this week, they were rated amongst the best performing hospitals for knee operations in the country. The Horder Centre, as a good performing provider, have fewer long stay patients, lower emergency re admissions and lower revision rates. A triumph for the third sector over state provision.

So let's commission them more!