Friday 30 March 2012

Skoll and Nicholson

Dashed off early from the Skoll " World Forum" of social entrepreneurs in Oxford to get back to acevo's Health and Social Care annual conference. Not too tired he adds carefully, even after the grand drinks reception in the Ashmoleum Museum ( as you know I gave it up for Lent ! ). The beautiful mellow evening , the gleaming spires and it was hard to tear oneself away!  Important not to be late as I was to greet Sir David Nicholson, the CEO of the NHS! He was giving the opening keynote. And I met him as he got out of his car! Key message; he recognised that for us it was "tough out there", but there are NHS challenges which make a strong case for more third sector involvement !  I have to say he gave a fascinating speech and I'm going to give you the key points he made here;   #He said for the NHS it was important not to get caught up in detail and process and forget the purpose of the service and the need for good  outcomes for people. So how do we get good outcomes? We need integration. And as people talk about this meaning many different things he use the  example of dementia ; to tackle this we need a community who understand how to help and support , doctors who recognise early signs, hospitals who provide appropriate , good medical care.    # He talked about their Budget challenge- they in a generous place compared with local councils but its still a push. Since the NHS was set up they have had budget increases that are on average 4.5% every year-largely  driven by demand.  But from now up to 2014- there is no growth. The recent Budget has extended that no growth policy  to 2016. This a real challenge against rising demand and medical advances.  How do we now sustain and improve a health care system against background of nil growth+ rising demand? Never had this challenge before. How will the NHS cope? # So innovation, quality and improvement needed. That means; 1 Deal only with those things at the centre that we need to. They will be Shifting resource from centre to locality.   2 Service change; essential to make service change to get more quality and improvement in services. And this is the problem. We are not making advances in service change . Why?  Essential that happens in the next 4 years. Challenge basic tenets about hospitals. If don't make change this means take more out of services. Its business critical. #So how do we use the tools we have been given to make service change? He said there are many ideas and examples in our sector for this. He said the basis of the Act is around clinical commissioning. How do we use this? Built up from local communities- so GP leaders. They have a list of the population who need health care. Not just that- GPs can make small changes happen. They help navigate around system. Its a unique insight we need.    # You  need good providers. So AQP is crucial to change: this will bring new ways of operating and new ideas.  Change is needed to make services more diverse. New providers will change landscape. He stressed patient and community involvement . Can't drive all change ourselves. So Health and Well Being boards are a key part of the new system. The traditional  NHS has been hierarchical. That does not encourage ideas. Essential to break ir down. So the question for us : how to bring together a broad alliance for change. We need to make it a reality. Now Act is there we need to get on with it. Can't afford to go into our shells! We certainly needed coffee after that!  And the conclusion I drew- get into the new clinical commissioning groups now. They are appointing their leads. Get their names. See them now!  Left the day in an optimistic mood. This is a sector that knows about health. Knows what changes are needed. Its up to us as Leaders to make the most of the opportunities we have.

Thursday 29 March 2012


Another breakfast. Though this time not a Whitehall cafe but Barclays Bank in Mayfair. A better class of croissant!  I was there to listen to Ffion Hague talk about recruiting talent into our sector. Fascinating.

She has been a civil servant , headhunter and now Running " independent board evaluation " which does what it says on the tin. She works on the corporate and charity sector. She is also a trustee of Outward Bound and the ENO. She was very optimistic about the talent and future of sector leaders . People do look to our sector for careers. It is an exciting and challenging place to work. And she is right!

I believe our sector leaders have a huge amount to offer as non executives , but Ffion said the problem with that is the private sector tend to recruit to specific roles like chair of audit or remuneration for which they want  skills that we tend not to have. They do not generally have roles for a broader generalist  , though she felt they should. She was also strongly advocating the need for the commercial sector to recruit non execs from less traditional routes and backgrounds.

I know from my time as ACEVO CEO how our Sector has developed , grown and professionalised. But that tends to be at a staff and management level. It has not reached our governance structures. That is not for want of trying by CEOs. The Charity Commission have failed to support those who want to change governance structures. Who want a Unitary board. Who want to pay trustees. They make it incredibly difficult to change. They make it expensive because they treat it as a legal issue and so we end up using expensive lawyers. It is the next big challenge for our sector; professionalising governance.

Lessons for the public and private sectors. In particular , the issue is how our public services can make better use of us. It was the core of my speech to the NHS Gateway to Leadership national conference today.   Now we have a Health service Act the leaders of the NHS need to think how they commission services differently. And for us in the third sector , how do we engage better with the new structures in the NHS?

The gateway to leadership scheme is a great example of where the NHS can get things very right. It set up this scheme to attract and retain great talent from other sectors. Welcoming in people who want to move from a career in private or third sectors. A great audience and I was challenging. But this was a group that saw how the system needs to change from medical domination to prevention and integrated care and comity services. There is hope yet the service can change.

Anyway have to dash. I'm off to Oxford for the Skoll Social Enterprise Conference. Always fun. Stimulating. And good networking if you like that sort of thing!!!

Wednesday 28 March 2012

Attacking philanthropy?

Up early. How I hate early morning meetings!  This began over a breakfast in the splendid cafe "Churchill's" on Whitehall. An unhealthy bacon sani! And why?

At his request I took  group of senior third sector leaders and philanthropists to meet  with Nick Hurd MP  in the Cabinet Office to discuss how the tax relief cap proposed in last week’s budget will affect charities. 

The group expressed in the strongest terms its concern that the proposed cap will have the unintended consequence of reducing the level of philanthropic donations to charities, community organisations, higher education institutions, arts institutions and other non-profit bodies.

This would counteract the success of the government’s previous initiatives to encourage a culture of philanthropy, and could jeopardise the financial health of parts of the third sector. The group set out a number of examples showing that some donors are already reducing their contributions in the wake of the Budget announcement.

The group made clear its strong view that tax relief on charitable donations should be exempted from the proposed cap. Members of the group will from today be meeting with the Secretaries of State of other relevant departments to call for immediate action on the issue.

I thought the most useful approach was to take just a small group so we could have a good discussion, though very aware many would have wanted to be there to express their concern! The members attending the meeting were:Sir Vernon Ellis (Chairman of the British Council and the English National Opera, and member of the Philanthropy Review); David Bull (CEO, UNICEF UK); CiarĂ¡n Devane (CEO, Macmillan Cancer Support); Eric Thomas (Vice-Chancellor, Bristol University)and Sarah Woolnough (Director of Policy and Public Affairs, Cancer Research). 

I hope we can make progress on this.i got the impression Nick was seized of our arguments. Im hoping he will be leading the charge inside Whitehall for a rethink. 

Further meetings are planned. I know a group of my arts and heritage members are meeting Jeremy Hunt on Thursday. And Eric Thomas was going hot foot to a meeting with Vince Cable where he will be forthright on the problem universities face. As a number of those talking to Nick said this measure is already having effects with donors saying they need to rethink donations. David Bull will be tackling international development. 

The Giving Summit on May 8 th will be the deadline for action by Government. When we need more people to give more it is perverse to have a measure that restricts that giving. So I guess I'm optimistic that if we lobby well between us, as both umbrella groups, philanthropists and charities we can get this changed. 

And interestingly I went for lunch at Sarasin and partners , the investment group that does a lot of work with charities and their investments . A number of those at the lunch were confirming that their clients were saying this measure will impact at least the quantum of their giving as well as the extent .  This is not what we need when we face huge financial pressures. 

Tuesday 27 March 2012


I felt sorry for Alzheimer’s UK yesterday. A major statement from Government highlighting the issue and announcing more support for research was overshadowed by dinner party guests row. So alzheimers certainly got lots of publicity, their logo prominent by the PM's head but the bit of the speech quoted was about his guests.

A similar thing happened to me when I spoke at the launch of the Open Public Services White Paper last year. All of the questions to the PM we about Andy Coulson and the entire White paper was ignored and no press the next day. Such is the ephemeral nature of our media.

The challenge of an ageing society is still not fully realised. We know that the majority of people in hospital beds are over 65 but do nothing about reforming the social care system. We know that councils have been cutting back on services for the elderly and for dementia. We know the amount of sport given to frail elderly in the home is abysmal. And yet the Dilnot report sits in Andrew Lansley's pending tray.

There are large numbers of third sector organisations, from the Red Cross , WRVS and AgeUK to local community groups who could provide the care and support older people need in their homes. Yet the NHS and local councils don't fund them. We could use significantly more volunteers if we had the resource to manage and supervise them.

So the statements by the PM yesterday were very much welcomed. And what media there was turned out well. But this issue needs more publicity. And ultimately proper funding

Friday 23 March 2012

Members and Archbishops

First up today , Jennie McShannon who is the CEO of the Federation of Irish Societies , or FIS as it is popularly known! A dynamic and ambitious CEO and , as I told her , a very typical ACEVO member. Focusing on possibilities and outcomes and whinge free. She is looking at the potential of consortia working so was interested in the consortia toolkit ACEVO has produced to guide such developments. And I waited till the end to tell her I was Anglo Irish!

Then straight across the road for lunch at the British Museum with David McCullough the recent (well 6 month) CEO of WRVS. He came via Oxfam and the private sector and again had a no nonsense practical approach to the challenges we face. And just to cap it all I spied Head Hunter in chief David Fielding who was lunching with the CEO of HFT , also an ACEVO member but a former director at WRVS! As you can imagine the HMT gaff on taxing giving was a keen topic of conversation.

John Low of CAF , me ,Stuart and a number of others have written to George Osborne to demand a rethink. We are going to have to play hardball on this. They basically have until May 8 th to put this right or the Giving Summit will descend to farce.

So the meeting of the Social Investment Business Board was a comparative sea of calm. A major strategic discussion on new Funds and approaches and , in particular the new European approach which may , or may not depending on the bureaucracy , turn out to be a chance for new social finance funds in the UK. Imbue in Brussels to explore.

Then to cap it all, I was off to the St Andrew's Star Centre in Fulham to the opening of the Centre and the blessing of the renewed Church by the Archbishop of Canterbury. The SIB put a loan of £1m into the new centre which forms a hub for activity and organisations , as well as a new nursery, in the local community.

It was good to see His Grace , and looking so relaxed now he has announced his retirement and removal to Magdalene , Cambridge. Rowan is an old Charlbury resident and former Canon at my old College. He is a remarkable scholar and preacher and much underestimated as a great Archbishop. As I said to him he has perhaps now had the sort of recognition on his retirement that he should have had during his reign. But as he amusingly retorted, " ah yes , but people always speak well of the dead".

Stephen Bubb

Thursday 22 March 2012

Oldie and Charity anger!

Still limping after shovelling shock horror but Budget shock raid on charitable donations has been reverberating.

What on earth were the Treasury thinking when they made the very sensible decision to cap tax allowances for the very rich but did not exempt gift aid and other charity donations from the cap? Whichever mandarin responsible needs to be taken out and spanked.

So that's a nice torpedo from George to his neighbour at No 10 for his Giving Summit on May 8th. Better cancel that now unless this gets sorted. I had a number of calls from members who have a strong bunch of donors who will potentially be hit.

This is not clever. Sort it government. Nick Hurd- your country needs you now.

And wouldn't it have been good if George had coupled his generosity to the top rate tax payers with a plea for them to give more?

Then we turn to the over 65s. I admit as I draw nearer to that magic age my ears prick up when I hear of changes to the tax regime for oldies. This again was just a tad short of genius. " Simplification" indeed! The magnificent Ros Altman of Saga was on sparking form as she denounced the patronising and insulting way this was handled. Obviously the HMT communications team had gone home when this gem was discussed. So members in our age related charities, like the great Age UK are angry.

Though credit where it's due to George on the so called triple lock- as he said on Today.

The real problems that face our members day to day when they try to cope with rising demand from their beneficiaries against the background of closing services remain. Youth unemployment continues to rise. The pressure for action to tackle this must increase.

Sir Stephen Bubb

Wednesday 21 March 2012

George; yes but....

I was really pleased to hear George announce the HMT review of social investment - the next decade could see an explosion in social finance, and to unleash it we are calling on the Chancellor to bring forward concrete proposals by the autumn statement. just after the announcement I had a lunch with a venture capitalist who is looking to a new fund to loan and take equity in social ventures. This is a real opportunity for our sector. But we are worried by the cap on tax reliefs, which could end up hurting the poor more than the rich if they reduce levels of donation to charity. That is an unintended consequence that must be avoided.So with colleagues we will be writing to George to get this sorted. In advance of the Giving Summit in May the Government cannot want an own goal that scuppers the whole Summit. So gift aid and charitable reliefs MUST be exempt. And economic recovery must not come at the expense of our natural and architectural heritage - many charities will be worried by the changes to the planning regime. There are the wider issues of the cuts in public spending that are still damaging the sector and Ncvo and ourselves were disappointed not to see a further tranche of funding for our Sector to cope with cuts. And as we approach the second anniversary of big society we see yet more damage to our members and their ability to support their beneficiaries. There is a growing divide between richer and poorer communities , and between the marginalised in society. There is a growing disparity in wealth and jobs between North and South. And the budget did little to offer support to tackle youth unemployment.

Bubb with shovel- shock- horror!

Yes. Shovel in hand. And indeed what I would term a "pickaxe" but the 'ealth and safety briefing had a different name. I was an unlikely participant at the Green Gym on the pathway at Regents canal.

This is a brilliant project run by that great green space charity BTCV under the direction of ACEVO member Tom Flood. An army of some 400 volunteers are clearing the pathways around the canal to develop green space and encourage wildlife . As it happens just up the canal from " ACEVO towers" , our new home on the canal from september where NCVO will be our neighbours. If Stuart had opened his window he could have waved at the shovellors! Or indeed joined in!

Many of those who come as volunteers are referred by GPs as a direct way to help manage diabetes or mental health problems.

And they have a partnership with Camden Council to work with 25 similar projects. Its an example of the type of approach we will increasingly need in our health service as we move resources from hospital based medical care. This is central to the idea of a properly managed programme of support and advice to those with long term conditions like diabetes. Exercise is crucial,and it is bodies like BTCV who should be commissioned to do this more. They work with Diabetes UK nationally to promote the Green Gym. Let's have one in every district in the UK! Less leg chopping. More shovelling.

The volunteer organisers are inspirational guys. So Duncan and Chris, take a bow. We want more of you!

And in case you think this is all spin here is photographic evidence of a pick axe wielding Bubb! Impressive or what.

I have a grotty cold. Its difficult diarying sickness if you are a CEO but I really needed the comfort of a bed and cup of tea after my exertions (and my developing left leg limp due to excessive and unaccustomed use of a shovel). Not a long break though as I was determined to get to the St Giles Trust 50th birthday celebrations in the City.

Here is a great charity working to prevent reoffending. With stunning success as we heard . Led by another acevo and third sector treasure: Rob Owen.

Chatting over the canapes I reminded our Lord Chancellor, Ken Clarke of the need to "denationalise" probation! He laughed but said they have a number of good initiatives on the way. He is a real believer in the rehabilitation revolution led by organisations like the St Giles Trust. Here is Rob listening to Ken talking.

And a star cast of the former Cabinet Secretary Gus and the Head of the Supreme Court, Lord Philipps made speeches of support. Of course Gus is now Lord O'Donnell of Clapham. I could not help but remind him that I was Elected to represent the people of Clapham on the Lambeth Council (some time back and with not spectacular results!).

We mused on the current debate on an elected Lords. My view is that this would deprive the chamber of highly talented and experienced public figures who will not come up through the party machine. That would be a step back surely...

Sir Stephen Bubb

Tuesday 20 March 2012

Greenwich , Watford Junction , Sky and Charity Law!

Start the week reviewing charity law. As you do. I had a meeting with Lord Hodgson who has been tasked with reviewing the operation of the'06 Act, including role of Charity Commission. An interesting discussion which I'm going to follow up with a meeting for Lord H and some of my Chief executive members. NCVO will take the lead on all this, but my members do have views on the role of the Charity Commission, usually along the lines of how about letting us sort our own governance out, and if we want to pay trustees or have a unitary board why cause us so much wretched hassle and expensive grief!

Then it was hot foot to Sky News to do a live interview on the Health Bill which looks like getting finished tomorrow. I did my usual pitch on using charities to deliver more. The hospice example always goes down well , though I have used it so often I need to find another, so my sister tells me later (though it illustrates the role charities play just so well!).

Lunch was a welcome break; with Brendan McCarthy, one of ACEVO's new members, the CEO of Greenwich Foundation , which encompasses the old Royal Naval College. So he has oversight of one of the worlds great treasures; the Wren buildings at Greenwich are one of the most magnificent sights London has to offer and will become so much better known as the equestrian events of the Olympics take place here!

It is always good to see new members and also to remember the vast and interesting diversity of acevo's membership. We have a special interest group for our arts and heritage members. Brendan wants to join them.

                      The Cutty Sark at Greenwich- due to reopen after the fire on April 25th.

                    The marvellous Wren dome of the College towers over the greenwich streets

And as a sharp contrast (no photos) I took the train to Watford Junction. I was speaking to RNIB's top team on their strategic awayday about the state of the sector and our future. My view is that long term that is bright. Might not always seem that way but we will overcome financial challenges, continue to speak for the excluded and marginalised and deliver citizen focused public services. In 20 years time, from my rather pleasant old people's home , glass in hand, I shall be saying " I told you so " !

Sir Stephen Bubb

Monday 19 March 2012

Budgets and weekends.

So the budget debate is in full swing. What is interesting is how little attention is being given to tackling rising unemployment- especially youth unemployment and the growing divides in our society: north and south and rich and poor. Many ACEVO members are reporting how much more difficult their work has become in meeting the growing needs of their beneficiaries. Many much needed services have had to be cut back; services for the disabled and mentally ill, youth or old age. And these are communities particularly hit by rising living costs and welfare changes.

Is Mr Osborne a one nation Tory? We shall see.

A pleasant weekend. St Patrick's Day and Mothering Sunday. When I was younger (some time back now regrettably) my Irish grandmother would get shamrock sent over from Union Hall and I would proudly wear it. More difficult to find now, though I tracked some down in the lovely florists at Herne Hill! And a pleasant Sunday in Orsett with my mother and various siblings, niece and nephew. The Hound enjoyed the run of the fields and I enjoyed mothers cooking!

Friday 16 March 2012

Have a healthy weekend!

An unfortunate attack in the Times recently on the work of our countries charities. Suggesting they should be campaigning or doing advocacy. It required an answer. And got one in the form of my letter in today' edition. In case you don't buy said paper here is what it said,

Health charities
We should be thankful to have so many exceptional organisations with the best interests of patients at heart

Sir, The answer to the question posed by Margaret McCartney (“Do health charities do any good?”, times2, Mar 13), is unequivocally “yes”. Health charities save lives and assist people to cope with serious medical conditions. Their work to raise awareness of particular conditions encourages early diagnoses, while their funding for research supports the development of new treatments. Their support is valuable to those struggling with the stress of ill-health. Furthermore, many such charities work directly with patients to offer innovative, preventative health and care services within local communities.

Health charities are required like any other to demonstrate to the Charity Commission that their work is carried out for the public benefit, and their advocacy activity is no exception. We should be thankful to have so many exceptional organisations with the best interests of patients at heart.

But this may just be a harbinger of things to come. I wonder whether , as unemployment rises , as communities and citizens find it harder to cope , we will need to become more strident , more outspoken. And as we do , will that make government and institutions more antagonistic towards us ? One thing is very clear; ACEVO as the voice of the sector's Leaders , will speak out. The leadership role can often be a difficult one. Many of ACEVO's members know that being outspoken can cause you problems. But anyone can lead from the back. There are plenty of models of leaders whose position is to lead from the lowest common denominator. Or not say anything and hope the problem will pass. It's nor style I like. It is not a style that I think works in out third sector.

And on the subject of health I do wonder whether the change to local commissioning , led by GPs will change the culture of the service so that we can put resources into prevention and into the management of long term conditions and community based solutions. My Director of Policy points out an article in the HSJ which says that the vast majority of people being appointed as the managers of the new " clinical commissioning consortia" are the former managers of the PCTs. I'm sure many are excellent professionals. But how will they change the culture ? Will we just get a replication of the old fashioned bureaucratic tendering processes that are so redolent of the way the USSR was run ?

And on that note how brilliant to note the launch of the " Merlin standard" for use in contracting in DWP. This standard is the idea and initiative of my Policy Director Ralph Michell who proposed it in the task force report into the work led by Tony Hawkhead and David Freud before the last election.The merlin standard, and the teeth behind it, represent a significant step forward. As work programme prime contractors are assessed against the standard, I would urge third sector organisations - whether they are in a supply chain or not - to make their views known to the assessors. The Merlin standard is not a panacea for the issues voluntary organisations have with the work programme, but it sends a clear message that cowboy supply chain management will not be tolerated.

Thursday 15 March 2012

Blogging from Malborough House!

There can be few grander places to sit in a committee meeting than Malborough House ; former home of Queen Mary and now HQ of the Commonwealth . A rather incongruous venue for civil society but then the House is rather like the Commonwealth; grand and historic yet increasingly irrelevant to global communities in a 21st century?

It's my last set of meetings as a member of the Commonwealth civil society committee. We have been debating how to respond to the famous ( or indeed infamous ) report of the Commonwealth Eminent Persons Group which was quite critical of the future of the Commonwealth without reform. One of their proposals was for a Commonwealth Charter which sets out basic principles that member countries should adhere to , for example on human rights.

This will be fascinating , not least because the next CHOGM will be held in Sri Lanka where the Government are clearly complicit in significant war crimes. And in African countries ( and others) there are still draconian laws , some of which are being strengthened , on homosexuality. it's frustrating being on this committee because it does not really play a major role in Commonwealth debates and tends to be patronised. The value for those of us on the committee is that it is a good network of third sector leaders across the globe. The Commonwealth comprises over 50 nations , large and small , economically strong and very weak. There have been some good leadership exchanges and information exchange to develop infrastructure. But it is small scale and the Commonwealth structures need to make more use of civil society organisations. The example of the UK's third sector - Government relations shows how our sector can make positive contributions to national policy setting. But in some parts of the Commonwealth civil society is at best tolerated and sometimes suppressed.So the role of a civil society committee , with a beacon for citizens and communities is important.

There is consultation on the idea of a Commonwealth Charter and ACEVO will be asking it's own NGO chief execs for their views .

It was good to get to the meeting from the challenge of doing a " webinar" for The NHS On commissioning the third sector. ! I guess I'm just old for this sort of thing. There was some office swearing as I tried to log in. Oh dear...I had to be rescued by my PA Bernadette!

Lots of debate on the question of marriage! I was pleased to hear from Derek McAuley who came to our ACEVO event on Tuesday and who represents the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches was talking of the need for " equal marriage". He is right.

I am very much in favour of Church Leaders speaking out on issues that affect society and our humanity. But I think the language they use should reflect their Christian outlook. I felt Cardinal O' Brien's outburst on this issue was offensive and in danger of encouraging bigotry.

But for lovers of history it is always educative to consider Church pronouncements over the centuries. The Church hierarchy in both the Church of England and the Roman church defended slavery as the natural order of things and condemned those idealistic citizens who campaigned for it's abolition. Later in the 19th century Pope Pious IX issued an encyclical against democracy. Again he argued that extending the vote to the common man was against church teaching. Incredible but true.

It is good that there are Church Leaders , especially from traditions like the jewish and quakers , who can debate this issue without the inflamatory language of the O'Brians and Careys .