Tuesday 8 January 2013

Media and Crime

I have to admit I enjoy doing media work. Is this shockingly vain? Probably, but then it's a good job I do because yesterday I was able to highlight the frustrations that many ACEVO members feel about where the coalition has got to and the way in which charities and the contribution they make is ignored.

I did a round of the studios - I particularly enjoyed the slot with Adam Boulton of Sky News and the famous Huw Edwards of BBC News. I even did "Voice of Russia" (I jokingly asked the producer if I'd get a passport in return for the interview!) and was fairly whacked by the time I returned home.

Fortunately Newsnight, who had wanted me earlier, cancelled me which meant I got to watch the start of the new "Lewis" series. Always wonderful. Lots of shots of my old College!

Amazing to note that "Big Society" appears almost as a footnote in the Mid Term review the coalition published yesterday. I will let you judge for yourselves by what was written;

"Social Action and the Big Society

This Government believes that the good society is one that is built from the bottom up, not the top down, and that the process of helping to build it – of putting something back in to society as well as taking something out – matters as much as the practical result. It is not the grand plans of politicians and bureaucrats that will ultimately deliver social progress and build social capital, but the ingenuity, innovation and entrepreneurial spirit of the British people – the Big Society. That is why we have offered support to all those who want to improve their communities and their local services.

• We have created Big Society Capital, a social investment bank capitalised with money from dormant bank accounts and investment from the four leading UK high street banks, to provide finance for neighbourhood groups, charities, social enterprises and others.

• We have introduced the National Citizen Service. More than 8,400 young people took part in our first pilot in 2011 and pilots for 2012 have just completed. We will commission 90,000 places for 2014.

• We have encouraged charitable giving and philanthropy through a range of measures including match funding, and innovative schemes such as ‘ATM Giving’, now available at 12,000 ATMs, which allows people to donate to charity when they withdraw money, and through delivering the Small Charitable Donations Act which will allow charities to claim a Gift Aid style payment on small cash donations for the first time.

• We have supported the establishment of 13 social impact bonds which help to finance early intervention.

• We have set up the Social Action Fund to support established programmes that provide opportunities for people to get involved in social action and volunteering.

• We will train 500 senior community organisers and recruit 4,500 volunteer community organisers in the most deprived communities by 2015 through our Community Organisers programme.

• We will further encourage charitable giving by distributing the remaining £7.5 million of the £10 million Innovation in Giving Fund; expanding the ‘ATM Giving’ scheme; providing more match funding to new charities and causes; and working to improve and expand Payroll Giving to enable more regular donations from the workplace, with a consultation to be published shortly.

• We will improve the administration of Gift Aid through the introduction of online filing for claims, expected to be available from April 2013.

• We will continue to support public sector workers who want to establish mutuals, and provide service commissioners with the information they need to support the creation of mutuals and co-operatives. We will continue to develop ‘Right to Provide’ policies that will enable mutual and co-operative organisations to deliver a wider range of public services."

This is not to suggest that there are not achievements. In fact my letter to the PM set these out much better than this badly crafted extract. But alongside the flowering rhetoric of the early days of the coalition, the reality falls so much shorter.

It's a problem for Governments of all sorts and sizes. They like to big stuff up. Then the achievements end up looking paltry. As I tell staff, "promise small, deliver big ".

And a rather good example to back up the letter I wrote yesterday was provided by Jocelyn Hillman, a new member who runs "Working Chance", a charity that gets women ex-offenders into jobs. As she said, her reoffending rate is 1%. The national rate is 54%. So why are we not commissioning her charity more? It simply underlines the point in my letter to the Prime Minister that charities need to be at the forefront of a modernised public sector.

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