Thursday 27 February 2014

North after a late night - and a letter from the Prime Minister

Leeds again this morning. And I took my umbrella and didn't use it. I'd have worn my great Harris tweed cloth cap too if I hadn't managed to leave it on the 59 bus (if you find it let me know...)

Meeting with the Commissioning Support Network, the group of organisations that support the CCGs in their new commissioning role. We were talking about how to increase third sector exposure to the new structures and tendering arrangements. This is a great opportunity. I spoke about our recent discussions with Addenbrookes.

A little bleary this morning as I had dinner last night with Paul Streets of the Lloyds Bank Foundation. Eating at Roast, the marvellous restaurant in the Borough Market (which is a charity as well as the place to buy your organic and fresh produce!). Paul is doing a great job there and he's an ACEVO member obviously. He used to run Diabetes UK before joining the DH! He is now back in our sector where he should be.

I was also pleased to have a personal letter yesterday from our dear Prime Minister, in response to my letter earlier this month about the government's Lobbying Act. He promised it would not affect the majority of charities, and that we would get a meaningful input into the 2015 review of the Act if he got his way. All very well, I suppose, but the proof is ultimately in the doing. How much the Act will stop our sector speaking out before the election remains to be seen. Many Chief Executives are rightly concerned. ACEVO will be watching closely!

And I'm now heading back to London for the 40th anniversary dinner for the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives (Solace). It'll be good to catch up with old mates from my days in local government. But I shall probably feel rather poor in comparison with them these days!

Wednesday 26 February 2014

First green shoots of spring?

Well, there are signs of spring in Brixton. The daffs are out and the camellias I brought back from the Lost Gardens of Heligan are flowering. Here are some pictures to cheer up the week - the camellia blossom looks particularly fine against the background of the Brixton Prison wall!

Will this be replicated in our charities and social enterprises, I wonder? 

Despite continuing deficit reductions, that cut vital support to the sector and our beneficiaries, there is also optimism. I liked the speech yesterday by Chris Leslie, the opposition Chief Secretary to HMT, where he talked about the need to reconfigure public services. We need to hear more talk like this from Government who have gone quiet on reforms to public services.

If we have to get more from less, then it can only happen if we radically look at how to expand third sector delivery of citizen-centred services. I know David Cameron is personally keen on this agenda, but he needs to be clearer making the case. Ed Miliband also has to back up his call for "people-powered public services" with plans that go beyond more consultation and vague talk of devolving power locally. And whilst I know the PM buys into the agenda on the third sector it is far less clear across the departments. Notably DH, where there are many signs of back tracking on choice and diversity of providers.

But this is not simply about reforms to increase delivery by charities. It is also about "voice". The magnificent campaign against the Lobbying Act showed we can be strong if we act together. Our voice needs to be heard in the upcoming election debates. It will be. Green shoots spell optimism. We will see if the Budget in March warrants this same optimism.

Tuesday 25 February 2014


Amused to be watching a DVD in church on Sunday. I usually rush home for breakfast after 8am Communion, but was waylaid this week to watch a promotion from the Diocese of Oxford on the importance of the "Parish Share". This money is given by each church to run the broader activities of the Church across our big Diocese.

It was excellent. It explained the need for admin overheads, since priests need pensions and national insurance must be paid. Exactly the sort of transparency ACEVO is urging for all charities, I thought. However, I suspect if most of our members started producing DVDs for their donors and supporters the dear Daily Mail would be having kittens about "wasting money".

And my "giving" theme carried on as I went to see Caroline Mason , the charming and dynamic new CEO of the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation (and ACEVO member obviously). Recently appointed but getting well stuck in talking to their donors. George and I were there to catch up generally and to talk about how we can support the "independence" of our sector. They have great offices along the canal from ACEVO towers - though their view surpasses my own I hate to admit.

In the wake of the dreaded Lobbying Act we need to be vigilant that charities don't get frightened off. It would be hard to demonstrate the existence of self-censorship yet, but it will be important for the sector to pull together over the next 18 months to ensure that it doesn't happen. Much of this will depend on the Electoral Commission's guidance that they are writing at the moment. I'll be announcing more ACEVO work in this area very soon.

Finally, talking of "giving" by the HM Treasury, we are getting much interest in our ACEVO recommendation for a community recovery fund to help voluntary organisations. The fund would be for organisations which have a substantial social impact and are looking to improve their capacity and financial sustainability – particularly organisations that have felt the effect of falling income due to the recession and funding cuts.

The exciting news is that we are now in discussions with the Cabinet Office about a substantial pot of funding that would fulfil these requirements. We’ll be working closely with the Cabinet Office to explore it should work, what it should target, and what its priorities should be. All shows the value of good ideas and of speaking up to power!

Friday 21 February 2014

Addenbrookes, Arthur Rank and the Budget

In Cambridge for the day! At Addenbrookes Hospital - one of the biggest in the country and one of the many charity hospitals set up by philanthropists in past times, this one in the 17th century. 

I was meeting with the CEO (a brilliant Australian former lung transplant surgeon) and some of his top team, and then with a group of the dynamic local third sector. 

We were exploring the potential for a consortium that can work to reduce admissions for the elderly, and to do more intensive prevention and support  work with people with long term conditions. A promising day. I think we may pull something off here which will act as a beacon for other hospitals. 

It was then off to see an old friend, Lynn Morgan, who runs the Arthur Rank Hospice in Cambridge. Rather cool to be there on the day the architect had arrived with the plans for their new hospice building. They need to raise nearly £8m for this. They have the land and they have about £5m already so it’s hands on deck to get the rest. Lynn will do it though.

Supporting Hospices is such an important thing to do. It’s where our charity sector is at its best. Providing the care and compassion, and the flexibility of approach that can so often be lacking in the culture of the NHS. Supporting people at the end of their lives and helping families and friends cope with bereavement is such a crucial task. As Lynn said it is clear that families cope much better with death if they feel their loved one has passed with love and dignity. So often a death in hospital can be a bleak affair. 

The day was then rounded off by a most pleasant meal with Lynn and my newest member of the ACEVO team; Mark Winter, at Midsummer House, one of Cambridge's notable eating places. Go there!

Lastly, great to report real interest in my letter to the Chancellor, especially on our proposal for a Community Regeneration Fund. We are working on how to put flesh on the bones of this proposal. It has sparked interest. It would be great to see it in the Budget. Let's see! 

Thursday 20 February 2014

Writing to George.

Ahead of the 2014 Budget on 19 March ACEVO has submitted its ideas and suggestions to the Treasury. Naturally I accompanied the submission with a letter to George Osborne to put our case personally. With the economy on the mend, it's time to look at ways in which we ensure a recovery that is fair to all, as indeed both the Government and Opposition have said they need to achieve.

We highlighted a number of ideas, such as ring-fencing a pot of funding to develop Youth Employment Partnerships, as I blogged about yesterday. This builds on the recommendations of ACEVO’s 2011 David Miliband-led commission into youth unemployment.

We also call for the creation of an NHS Investment Initiative fund, to give new providers from the charity and social enterprise sectors access to capital when devising new forms of care, hence accelerating the transition to preventative models of care and support.

A further proposal was for the creation of a new Community Recovery Fund, to support the growth and development of voluntary organisations that want to expand their work with local government and reduce demand on state services. It's comparable not only to the Transition Fund from 2010, but also in many respects the recently-announced Business Support Scheme for SMEs damaged by the floods.

Encouragingly, the idea has already generated real interest in Government. I'm hopeful. Watch this space...

And here's my letter to the Chancellor in full:

Dear George,

We very much welcome the news that the UK economy has begun to pick up, and that as a nation we are on a more optimistic course. I am writing to ask you to ensure that, as we negotiate the road back to prosperity, your forthcoming budget announcement ensures that the proceeds of a new era of growth are shared equitably.

As you will be aware, ACEVO members – charity and social enterprise leaders working with some of the most vulnerable people in some of our most marginalized communities – are still experiencing a relentless upturn in the demand for their services. When setting your priorities for the 2014 budget, I ask you to ensure that social justice is at the heart of your proposals, and that the voluntary sector is properly supported to meet this demand.

1. Community Recovery Fund and Social Investment

Our sector’s infrastructure needs a sustainable funding plan if we are to meet the needs of the future. We have been impressed by initiatives such as the Commissioning Academy, which supports effective public sector working with the sector, and the Investment and Contract Readiness Fund, which supports charities and social enterprises to grow. The Government’s support for social investment, such as the roadmap for a Social Investment Tax Relief outlined in the last Autumn Statement, is helping the UK to lead the world in this field.

But we must not rest there. Social investment in particular is a young market. The vast majority of social investment funding does not go to grass roots charities and social enterprises. Indeed, risk aversion on the part of investors means this need may remain unfulfilled, despite the efforts of Government-backed Big Society Capital.

We have noted many cases in which social investment has gone to organisations that could as easily have procured investment from commercial sources. Social impact bonds, while innovative, remain some years from going mainstream. Our communities will not wait for the market to rectify itself and neither should the Government.

I urge you to ensure that sufficient short-term funding is allocated to buttress our nation’s social infrastructure. We recommend that the funding allocated to the Cabinet Office’s highly successful Investment and Contract Readiness Fund be doubled. This fund has already proven its worth with voluntary sector organisations stepping forward to offer citizens a real choice in the provision of services to justice.

We also recommend that a new Community Recovery Fund be created to support the growth and development of voluntary organisations working alongside local government, in local communities. These organisations do crucial community work that reduces the demand for state services. This fund would perform a similar function to the much-needed Transition Fund you granted in 2010. It would provide a source of investment for struggling voluntary organisations, many of which have been seriously affected by local spending cuts.

During the recent the winter storms ACEVO members such as the British Red Cross have provided crucial assistance. We welcome the Prime Minister announcing a £10 million Business Support Scheme, which will help small and medium sized businesses with the clean-up effort. Charities and social enterprise are stepping up to assist local communities with the response and recovery, and the Community Recovery Fund offers the ideal vehicle to support those efforts.

2. The prevention and early intervention agenda: NHS Investment Initiative

The Government must maintain its momentum on the crucial issue of public service reform. In previous budgets, you have rightly identified early intervention as a conduit to smarter, more effective public services. You included measures to support early intervention in your previous budgets. We welcomed the inauguration of the early intervention foundation and the help for pre-schoolers you offered in your previous Autumn Statement.

However the really big savings and radical thinking are to be found in healthcare. It is time to apply early intervention principles to this area of expenditure. Long-term demographic and financial pressures require new approaches to the provision of care and support. With rising life expectancy and the increasing prevalence of long-term health conditions and complex needs, the health and care system must get better at providing home and community-based support for people to stay healthy, well and out of hospital. When over 40% of adults now live with a long-term illness, we need alternative methods of support to the traditional model of reactive care provided primarily in acute settings.

ACEVO explored this issue in The Prevention Revolution, the report of the 2013 ACEVO Prevention Taskforce (chaired by Sir Hugh Taylor), which examined the barriers to the growth of preventive health and care services and recommended ways to overcome them.

It is clear that we need to invest smartly in the NHS so as to privilege innovation and make savings in the long term. We recommended the creation of an NHS Investment Initiative to fund the development of innovative new forms of provision, provide access to capital for new, innovative providers from the charity and social enterprise sectors and accelerate the transition to preventative models of care and support. The time is right for this investment initiative, which will combine the best of financial innovation with the best of public service, and we call on the Treasury to work with the Department of Health, NHS England and other relevant stakeholders to inaugurate this smart intervention in our health service.

The Government has announced its welcome ambition for joined-up health and care to be the norm by 2015 and you announced funding for pooled budgets in your last Autumn Statement. We recommend that you accelerate this transformation, and to fund a new tranche of local pooled budget pilots to bring together NHS commissioners and social care commissioners alongside councillors at the local level. These local health innovation funds, recommended by both the ACEVO Prevention Taskforce and the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS), would support both clinical commissioning groups and local authorities to invest in services that shift care and treatment from acute to community-based settings. This is the future of better healthcare, driven by a prevention and early intervention agenda and smart financing.

3. Tackling youth unemployment: funding for local youth employment partnerships

We welcome the first recorded fall in UK youth unemployment for several years, in late 2013 and early 2014. However, as you will be aware, there remains a structural youth unemployment problem in the UK, with around 7-9% of young people becoming NEET (Not in Employment, Education or Training) after the age of 16, even in times of economic growth, with large negative effects on our economy. As ACEVO’s 2011 Youth Unemployment Commission showed in its report, this carries a significant cost, estimated to be £4.8 billion in 2012, with a further £10.7 billion cost to the economy in lost output.

It is clear that the Government takes this issue seriously and has accepted the Commission’s case that there is strong economic and fiscal case, as well as a social case, for further investment in interventions to support young people into sustainable employment. There have been some promising steps in this area, such as the creation of the £1 billion Youth Contract, but there is still a long way to go. In particular, there is a need for more intensive support for those young people at greatest risk of becoming NEET post-16, who currently face a shortage of high-quality progression options.

The ACEVO Youth Unemployment Commission proposed an intensive Job Ready Programme aimed at reducing the proportion of school leavers who go on to become long-term NEET, to help fill this gap. These would be locally commissioned by a range of local partners involved in NEET prevention, and delivered by local provider organisations through an outcomes-based funding system: a Youth Employment Partnership. The Treasury has a direct interest in developing these proposals and ensuring they are properly funded. We recommend a ring-fenced pot of funding to develop Youth Employment Partnerships that support the most at-risk young people into employment.

4. Recognising and supporting the voluntary sector as an economic and social contributor

In last year’s Autumn Statement you announced an additional £1 billion of capital to support SMEs. Through the British Business Bank, these programmes invest in late-stage venture capital funds, loan guarantees and targeted schemes such as lease and asset finance. We support these welcome measures to boost Britain’s business. However, we are concerned that your analysis puts less emphasis on the benefits to the UK of a flourishing, growing voluntary, community and social enterprise sector. Research from the LSE and the Social Economy Alliance among others, showing that social enterprises in particular have outperformed comparably sized businesses since 2008, suggests this represents an opportunity missed.

We call on you, alongside your offer to Small Businesses (Small Business, GREAT ambition 2013) to make a similar commitment to voluntary sector and social enterprise growth that goes beyond the social investment tax relief: a belt-and-braces offer that supports our sector’s infrastructure and aspirations. We are happy to continue working with the Government on such an initiative and we will outline our own programme of reform in our manifesto for the voluntary sector in advance of the 2015 general election.

As you sit down to write the budget and pore over the red book, I urge you to consider the voluntary and social enterprise sector across every part of your economic plan. It is right that the UK has a National Infrastructure Plan, but it must also track its impact on community organisations, who both use national infrastructure and who increasingly provide it through, for example, energy cooperatives. At the Autumn Statement 2013 you announced that resources under the strategic influence of LEPs would be at least £20 billion to 2021. We welcome this commitment to greater localisation but urge you not to wash your hands of this funding. Without a strong steer from the centre, very little will end up in our most marginalized communities where voluntary sector organisations can make most difference.

The voluntary sector has a combined income of £38.3 billion and an expenditure of £36.8 billion. Charities employ nearly 750,000 people and more than 20 million people volunteer each year. We are a growing, vibrant, confident sector, and an integral part of rather than an adjunct to national growth. I suggest that if you are looking for growth at the grass roots, at the local as well as the national level, in the places that directly reach people’s lives, you will recognise, support and work in partnership with the voluntary and community sector. I hope you agree.

Yours sincerely,

Sir Stephen Bubb


Wednesday 19 February 2014

In the air...

Good to meet up with Peter Kyle, once my deputy at ACEVO but now doing much more interesting things leading "WORKing for YOUth” (, whose mission is to work with the private sector in encouraging them to tackle youth unemployment. This builds on the work Peter did at ACEVO on the much acclaimed Commission we ran on Youth Unemployment in 2011. David Miliband chaired it with real distinction, and its ideas are still frequently cited today.

I'm surprised that the issue of youth unemployment is not more centre stage. Unemployment figures are out today and most commentators focus on the news of falling overall unemployment. And that is good news. 

But what is not good is the fact that we have an intractable problem with high and persistent youth unemployment. Today’s Government figures put it at 19.9%. The ACEVO Commission showed this is not simply a problem in a recession, and I'm surprised the political parties have not been more active in tackling it. My letter to the Chancellor in advance of the Budget (which is in one month today) highlighted the need to implement the Commission’s proposal of an intensive Job Ready Programme, to commission a range of local partners to help reduce the number of young people becoming NEET (Not in Employment, Education or Training). ACEVO intends to make this area one of the key planks of our election work with the main political parties.

But back to Peter, we were up in the sky at the Shard overlooking London whilst enjoying chinese food. In fact enjoying it a little too much, as I was late for my supervision session with my Chair. Fortunately I was not sacked. It’s my Board meeting today; the trustees holding me and my directors team to account. 

Tuesday 18 February 2014

Leadership as speaking out.

How good to read the interview with soon-to-be Cardinal Vincent Nichols (he gets his hat this weekend) in the Saturday Telegraph. His trenchant critique of the welfare reforms should be sounding alarm bells in the Department for Work and Pensions, though I suspect they may not be heard. His criticism was twofold: both about how the reforms have actually worked on the ground by hurting the poor, and also by the sharpening of attitudes towards the poor (the "shirkers and scroungers" of many politicians speeches).

So often these days it is left to civil society - charities, faith organisations and campaign groups - to make the case for the poor or marginalised. The political discourse has become harsh and moralistic, even in parties who would normally be more sympathetic to their plight.

Last week ACEVO had one of its regular Leadership lunches, at CCLA, with Stephen Timms MP talking about DWP reforms and what Labour would propose. He was also speaking in his role as Labour's quaintly-named "faith envoy". So, he spoke of the important role that churches and all faith groups play in social cohesion and succour for the poor and oppressed.

Yesterday I was out at north Middlesex Hospital to talk about our plans on reducing admissions in A+E. They reckon they have around 20 older people every day who do not need hospital treatment but who, for many reasons unconnected with medical care, are stuck in hospital. This is the role that charities can play if only we were properly commissioned to tackle the root causes of what are inelegantly termed "bed blockers".

A rather splendid weekend in Charlbury. Yes it was still a story of flooded fields (the PM was out and about talking to farmers in what is his constituency), but walking out with the Hound to Shorthampton on Sunday was glorious in the winter sun. As this is over the hill it was even vaguely passable. The goal was the lovely old Norman Church of All Saints.

It’s well off the beaten track and there is no village to speak of so the Church has survived by benign neglect. It was never refurbished by the Victorians and so still retains its old wooden box stalls, with the large enclosed one at the front reserved for the Lords of the Manor. And they discovered ancient wall paintings under centuries of plaster work. A lovely quiet spot where you can reflect on past troubles and future glories. At least I would have but the Hound was determined to drag me out into the churchyard where she could check for rabbits.

Putting the finishing touches to our big annual Health and Social Care Conference. March 26th. Book if you have not yet. Rt Hon Andy Burnham MP and the NHS top brass. It will be fascinating.