Thursday 17 December 2015

A Professional Sector

The Times today ran a story attacking excessive chief executive pay. This is not the first time such attacks have been made.

As on so many occasions, such stories are unjustified. Yes, over 1,000 charity chief executives earn six-figure salaries. Yes, this is a significant sum of money. But there is more to pay than the simple figure. It is about value for money.

People understand that £50k spent on a chief executive is £50k wasted if they fail to deliver. Equally, investing £150k in a chief executive who pushes your charity to fulfill its aims is a sound investment. If a chief executive is worth the money, then they should be paid that.

What the Times don’t understand is that this is about value for money. Chief executives doing a good job are worth their salary. If not, then that is a matter for the trustees and supporters of that charity.

This is the reality which we ignore at our peril. At this time of year, many vulnerable people are depending on charities. Those charities doing the most to help will appropriately pay their staff. This is something which the Times would do well to note.

And wouldn’t it be nice if for once we had some defence from Mr Shawcross when charities are attacked. It is time the Charity Commission stood up for a professional modern sector.

And to those who say that charity chief executives don’t perform well enough to earn their salaries, I leave you with this quote from one Warren Buffet:

"The nature of the problems that a foundation tackles is exactly the opposite of business. In business, you look for easy things, very good businesses that don't have very many problems and that almost run themselves... In the philanthropic world you're looking at the toughest problems that exist. The reason why they are important problems is that they've resisted the intellect and the money being thrown at them over the years and they haven't been solved. You have to expect a lower batting average in tackling the problems of philanthropy than in tackling the problems of business"

Wednesday 16 December 2015


Taking a break from tackling whacky reports attacking wonderful charities to go to our annual Bubb treat: the Royal Choral Society carol concert in the Royal Albert Hall. My sister Lucy sings. The RCS is a wonderful charity - not sure what proportion they spend or don't spend on charitable activities I'm afraid. Perhaps the so called "True and Fair Foundation" will be examining them soon.

But I must banish such miserable thoughts as we approach Christmas. Christmas is always a time when we think of giving- and not just to friends and family. Crisis have just launched their annual appeal for funds. Its a marvellous charity that does such great work to help homeless and lonely people at a time when most of us are able to enjoy good homes. And of course their work extends across the year; homelessness is not just for Christmas. My own charity (in the sense of the one where I am a trustee) is the Helen and Douglas House Hospice in Oxford. It is the world's oldest children’s hospice. A wonderful organisation. I particularly recommend their shops! I spoke about their work when I was on BBC Breakfast on Sunday morning talking about that tedious report (which I promise not to mention again). Its always a particularly sad time for those caring for kids at the end of their lives but the hospice provides such brilliant support that is all about the Christmas message of peace and love. 

Tuesday 15 December 2015

The Protection of Charities

Today marks the first sitting of the Public Bill Committee for the Charities (Protection and Social Investment) Bill. This is our chance to inform the discussion around the bill. And a chance to stop some hugely damaging changes to charity regulation.

This bill is far from perfect. ACEVO have submitted evidence to the committee reflecting this. And we are not the only ones. Across the sector, organisations are speaking out. It is vital that we stop these damaging changes before they take hold.

There are two clauses in the bill I particularly worry about. The first is the power to issue warnings. This is so vague as to be almost indecipherable. It would be left to the Charity Commission to decide where a warning was due. There would then be no right of appeal. Combine this with the public nature of these warnings, and then charities may see themselves dragged through the mud, without ever putting their side of the story across.

Second is the power to dismiss trustees. It is unclear on what basis, or even by whom, these decisions will be made. This new power, unrestricted, could see the Charity Commission become a law unto itself. As we saw with the CAGE case recently, this type of over-reaching is not entirely alien to them.

As it stands, this Bill would give the Charity Commission unprecedented new powers, which would allow them to pursue agendas as they feel is appropriate. This particularly concerns me in light of William Shawcross’ near fanatical pursuit of the Muslim charity sector.

For all these reasons, it is crucial that this Bill gets amended by the committee. As such, I am encouraged to see many of the MPs sitting on it are friends of the sector. What we must hope now is that they listen to the evidence being submitted by the sector, and produce a Bill which works for, not against, charities.

Friday 11 December 2015

Beginnings and endings...

A miserable grey day in London but a sunny one for our Euclid Network annual meeting and board. Euclid is the european third sector leaders network set up in 2007 by ACEVO and partners in Sweden and France. And I have been with it since then as the rather grandly entitled "Secretary General".

Well, all good things come to an end and today marked my final day as SG - I stood down at the AGM in line with good governance, having been there for 8 years. Though my links will continue as ACEVO remains one of the founding partners.

There is very little support provided for leadership development across European civil society. One of the great achievements of Euclid has been in the work it has done to promote civil society leaders in the Balkans. We have worked in many of those countries and I have been part of leadership exchanges in Serbia and Albania. Civil society is under threat in many parts of Europe: Russia is a particular problem but also now Hungary where we heard today one of our Euclid associates recently had their offices raided by the state police and files and computers removed in what is an in increasingly totalitarian regime. But the Balkans itself has been demonstrating appalling behaviour towards refugees - and that just makes the case for building a stronger civil society. Which we need to do through strong leaders. Hence the continuing importance of Euclid.

And finally the next Euclid summit takes place in Zagreb on February.....weblink of the details below: 

Thursday 10 December 2015

More Rights, Less Harm

I spoke this morning on BBC local radio about the shocking report into the Southern Health NHS Trust.

A report, leaked to the BBC, details a significant failure on the part of Southern Health to meet their obligations. There was a systematic failure to investigate the deaths of people with mental health conditions and learning disabilities. In deed, only one per cent of cases where individuals with learning disabilities died unexpectedly were investigated. This is an unacceptable state of affairs. On Human Rights Day, we have found out about a major breach of the rights of some of societies most vulnerable.

This is what I said this morning. I also said that this underlines what I have been saying since I wrote my first report around Winterbourne View. People must be able to challenge the system in which they exist. To do otherwise is to deny them their basic human rights. This change must be made in legislation. The government’s recent Green Paper made little movement on this issue. Today shows that we need action now – not at some point in the future.

But we need more than the legislation. People need support if they are to challenge the system. Alongside a change in the law, we need to see a cultural shift in the health service.

We should not be fooled into thinking this was one poorly performing NHS trust. I was glad to hear Jeremy Hunt this morning treating this as a systemic issue. It is not limited to a few hospitals, or trusts. Instead, a lack of agency blights our treatment of people with learning disabilities. These people are too often forgotten or ignored. What must happen now is that they are restored to their rights.

What is important now, however, is that we make sure they never happen again. We need to learn from Southern Health, and change our health system for the better. I have been calling for change for nearly a year. Others have been doing so for far longer. Today shows that the time for this is now.

Three cheers for fundraising...

There has been much controversy about fundraising over the summer and then much debate on the report from my colleague, Sir Stuart.

We are now in the implementation stage of the recommendations of that report. We have to get this right.

As you would expect we will be robust in representing ACEVO member’s views during consultation on the powers of the new Fundraising Regulator (FR). So I'm seeking views from across our membership and will convene them in the New Year, in the run up to our final submission to the FR’s temporary Chairman Lord Grade.

There has been a lot of doom and gloom about all this. I'd like the Minister for the Office of Civil Society and the Charity Commission chairman to stiffen their sinews and resolve in supporting charities of all stripes big, medium or small.

Neither the sector nor its champions should meekly accept a fundraising regime which unreasonably restricts any charity’s ability to undertake the activity central to its survival. Whilst abuse cannot be tolerated, fundraising is the life blood for much of Britain's charity world.

So the new regulator will need to be nuanced as well as authoritative. Organisations should be allowed to gather funds from all sources as long as they pay heed to reputation and public confidence.

But reputation and trust isn’t just about fundraising practices. It is also about better leadership and governance.

It’s a shame that the recent CSR has meant there is little resource in the OCS to do more work on this, let alone promoting public service reform and third sector delivery. I remember the glory days when this part of the Cabinet Office was set up. Myself and the ACEVO board had had a great meeting in No 10 with the then PM - one Tony Blair.  He was keen to promote the role of the third sector in delivering public services. That was core to the remit of the new Office of the Third Sector.  How that has all changed.

But overall, there has been too much doom and gloom about ‘the last chance saloon’ and the mortal threat to self-regulation, and the role charities play. It is time for us all to get off our knees and stand up for the interests of all charities – small, medium or large. Asking people to give to charity is a good thing. Indeed, without it, many of our country's most loved institutions would be mortally damaged and beneficiaries harmed.

Yes, I agree there is ‘no rowing back’ on the Etherington review. Let us not forget, however, that less asking can mean less giving, and that the sector’s ability to fundraise should not be emasculated. So let's all be more forthright in championing our sector and its role in fundraising.

ACEVO is contacting all its members this week to seek their views on the remit of the new regulator and in particular the implementation of the Fundraising Preference Service so that it can feed in views to its Chair, George Kidd.

But we are also going to ask about how to take this issue forward.  Should we be doing more to promote the importance of fundraising? An awareness campaign on why this is so important? Work on the OCS and Charity Commission to stop being so negative?

I’ve always thought being robust on why we are good for the country is the best defence. Of course let's stamp out abuse. But our mission is precious and not just worth defending, but shouting about. 

Monday 7 December 2015

Winterbourne view - time for change

Its nearly a year on from the publication of Winterbourne View – Time for Change: the report I wrote on what actions had (or rather had not) been taken following the discovery of the abuse of people with learning disabilities in that home.

I've been commissioned by Simon Stevens, the CEO of NHS England to report on progress a year on, so today I convened a meeting of the "Transforming Care" steering group.

 Now we’ve finally got a closure programme of institutions from NHS England, it was good to talk about what comes next. ‘What comes next’ can’t just be dictated by us. So I used this meeting to share some of the responses to the consultation I carried out just recently. I spoke to people from all over the country, and from all walks of life. Their responses were eye-opening.
“[Our son] was in a setting which was based around Person Centred Support, but then after a scandal, they shifted to a ‘meds and beds’ approach”

It was good to hear that people supported the idea of the closure programme. But there was, understandably, concern about how we make this happen. People recognise that the NHS wants to change, but too often there is nothing more than this willingness.

“The question has never been support for the idea, but how you make change happen”
What this consultation underlined for me was the importance of giving people control over their lives. The closure programme is the start of this. But we need to go further. If people want control over their lives, the new system should give it to them. Wherever possible, those with autism or learning disabilities should be allowed to live independently, but with support .

“It’s about having the choice of where you want to go and what you want to do”
It was also good to see NHS England taking this meeting seriously. Last time we met, they seemed underprepared. Now, I’m confident that they’re making progress. It’s always good to hear that people are doing the right thing. I believe that this closure programme, and the scaling up of community facilities that goes with it, can really work.

My next intervention on this is due in February. I’ll be drawing on everything that was said to me during my consultation. I’ll also be drawing on what I was told by the NHS England providers at our meeting. By bringing these two interests together, we can make sure that the future of care works for everyone.

And I'm still open for views. So feel free to contact Kate in my office on

As a country we have so failed people with learning disabilities and their families. We have to strengthen their rights and ensure a care and support system that delivers for them. And an end to institutional care.

Wednesday 25 November 2015

What isn't George telling us?

So now we have it. The Comprehensive Spending Review.

What concerns us more than what we were told today is what we weren't. The Chancellor brushed over cuts to budgets, focusing on restrictions on Whitehall budgets, which will fall by £1.9 billion. But there are cuts to come, that is beyond doubt. We saw the start of this with £22 billion of cuts announced across the Department of Health, despite increased spending on the NHS. The Department of Transport will see it’s budget fall by 37%, as capital expenditure rises by 50%. DEFRA's budget falls by 15%, as £2 billion more is spent on flood defenses. An already bare government is further retreating as all but the most essential funding is cut. After a Comprehensive Spending Review, we still know less than we would like.

Big Lottery Fund
There have been some suggestions recently that the Big Lottery Fund would see its funding cut by £320 million. ACEVO was robust in its response; working with the NCVO we were clear that such a blow would be disastrous for charities across England. We are encouraged to see that the Chancellor has heeded our advice, and protected the Big Lottery Fund, and the work it does. Further than this, we welcome the news that the revenue from the 'Tampon Tax' will be directed to charities which work in women's health and services.

A Glimmer?
There are positive signs within this statement. We welcome an increase in spending on mental health of £600 million. The NHS will welcome a £6 billion cash boost. But, we’ll be ever monitoring the effect of budgetary cuts to social care and local community services. We said this after the Summer Budget and as the 'care crisis' remains unabated - the social care precept announced today will not be nearly enough to sustain the sector - we must  continue to speak up.

Public Services Constitution
I'm clear that better public services does not need to mean more Government spending. A key recommendation of our recently published report "Remaking the State" (launched at our great annual conference last week!) calls for a Public Services Constitution to enshrine in law the right of people to receive the services they deserve. Our report sets out a way to marry fiscal prudence with the better delivery of public services.

We know third sector organisations deliver cost effective services that are community focused. What would be a disaster in social care is if councils spend the amount they have been given themselves - rather than through empowering the third sector to deliver.

Overall, what thought has been given to the consequences of these major cuts on charities and the millions they serve? There was no evidence of that in this statement. Charities provide the essential cohesion that our society needs, particularly now. They are the glue that holds communities together. It’s our civil society that is so admired around the world and which makes Britain great.

And in particular, charities are a safety net which make a crucial difference to people’s lives. That is why any cuts made that affect charities' ability to deliver services are so damaging. There is no doubt these cuts will undermine charities.

Monday 16 November 2015

Monteverdi, Paris and health problems

In London this weekend.  My sister Lucy, a member of the Royal Choral Society, singing in the glorious Monteverdi vespers in Southwark Cathedral.  My nephew Julian, who is currently working in Paris was there - having spent the weekend back in London; much to his relief no doubt, but inevitably casts a gloom. Mass at All Saints, Margaret St on Sunday obviously focused thoughts on the Paris massacres. A thoughtful sermon made the point that we should think past the rather obvious politicians responses - villains and heroes - and reflect on what this means for our place in wider society and our communities. 

We have to avoid the stereotypes that portray Muslim communities as a threat and indeed work with community leaders in those communities to tackle alienation and build a cohesive society; particular working with younger Muslims. That's why I believe ACEVO's work with the Muslim Charity Forum is so important and why we will redouble our efforts to work with Muslim charities.

What a strange world the Treasury inhabits. Up to their necks in the spending review and you might expect a rather more radical look at spending.  I saw a headline in the Standard which screamed "if Osborne wants to control spending he must cut the NHS". Dramatic! But hides a truth.

So we heard last week that we have had the highest ever figures for people stuck in hospital beds despite being fit for discharge but care is not in place and that we will face a winter crisis in A+E. We know that the third sector can play a central role in keeping frail elderly people out of A+E and getting them home early. Yet is anyone on the phone from the Treasury or DH asking us to do that? Obviously not!

And social care in councils is on the verge of collapse. There is a direct link between care breakdowns, charity cutbacks and demands on the NHS.

Time for a major shift of resources out of hospitals and into community support, social care and prevention.

And don't even get me onto the stupid decision not to introduce a sugar tax....

Monday 9 November 2015

Guy Fawkes and lifting the veil at the Charity commission

Had a rather fun day on Guy Fawkes- which marks my 63rd birthday, some would say appropriately. A great lunch with the family at the restaurant that is run by the charity "Clinks" in Brixton Prison.  Its a social enterprise that provides much needed training for people in prison so they have a good chance of work on release.  We need more such initiatives if we are to break the revolving door in prison - where half the people who have been released are back inside in a year. The lack of good rehabilitation programmes inside and outside prison is shameful.  The so called rehabilitation revolution has not provided the opportunity for charities and social enterprises, we expected; but Michael Gove's interest in reform inside prisons shows much promise.

I was fascinated by a recent report in Third Sector Magazine by Andy Ricketts - commenting on the recent CAGE/JRCT case.  Its worth reproducing in full as it casts an interesting light on the internal workings at the Commission and the role of non executives v executives.

By Andy Ricketts

"The Charity Commission has declined to comment on emails reportedly sent by William Shawcross, its chair, in which he warned that charities supporting the advocacy group Cage were "funding a front for jihadist terrorists".

The Guardian newspaper has reported that emails from the regulator, filed with the High Court as part of the judicial review case brought by Cage against the commission yesterday, show that Shawcross and other commission board members were keen to prevent Cage from receiving further charitable funding. The emails included a section that called the advocacy group "a largely odious organisation".

The regulator acted earlier this year when Cage, which is not a charity, attracted widespread media attention because one of its staff members said at a press conference that Mohammed Emwazi, allegedly also known as the Islamic State executioner "Jihadi John", had been a "beautiful young man" who was radicalised because of the attention of the UK security services.

The led to the Charity Commission contacting the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust and the Roddick Foundation, which had both provided funding to Cage, to ask that they provide assurances they would never fund it again. The JRCT subsequently said that it agreed to the request after what it described as "intense regulatory pressure".

Emails from Shawcross and other commission board members were disclosed during preparation of the judicial review case, brought by Cage with the JRCT as an interested party, into the regulator’s actions in respect of Cage.  

The Guardian reported that the emails, which were referenced during the hearing yesterday but not read out in court, showed the extent to which Shawcross was keen to prevent Cage from receiving further charitable funding.

The newspaper said that an email from Shawcross told board members "charities surely cannot fund bodies that are acting against the national interest… Surely we can say that any charity supporting Cage has clearly not done due diligence and has put its own reputation and that of the sector at risk?"

Other board members – Peter Clarke, former head of the Metropolitan Police’s anti-terror branch, Orlando Fraser and Gwythian Prins – also expressed frustration that the commission was unable to take action against charities that had funded Cage, the paper said.

The paper reported that Clarke asked Michelle Russell, now director of investigations, monitoring and enforcement at the commission: "Is it legitimate for a donating trust (JRCT) to pick and choose in this way? It seems very strange to me that a charity could seek to justify donations to a largely odious organisation by saying that one small part of its work might be claimed to be charitable."

Shawcross told Russell that charities were "funding a front for jihadist terrorists", The Guardian said. According to the newspaper's report, in one email, dated 27 February, Shawcross said he had "spent the last 24 hours in Washington with senior US government counter-terrorism officials" and that "one senior analyst thought it was astonishing that Cage was not long ago exposed for what it is – a jihadist front".

According to The Guardian, Shawcross said: "We must be robust and, where possible, be seen to be robust, to protect the reputation of the sector as well as ourselves."

The newspaper reported that in March Theresa Villiers, the Northern Ireland secretary, wrote to Shawcross saying: "It is wholly unacceptable for charities supported by the taxpayer (through the generous tax treatment afforded to all charities) to be funding an extremist group like this one."

The Guardian said Shawcross replied that "both the Roddick Foundation and The Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust have ceased funding Cage and will not be doing so in the future".

The judicial review case yesterday ended with Cage withdrawing its case after the three parties agreed a joint statement.

"The Charity Commission does not seek to fetter charities' exercise of discretion whether to fund the charitable activities of Cage for all time, regardless of future changing circumstances," it said.

A spokeswoman for the commission declined to comment on the report or to release or confirm the existence of the emails.

In a statement, Cage said that the commission "should remain impartial and not be driven by the prevailing political aims of a few ideologues in government or sections of the media".

It said: "With the government's announcements of new proposals for counter-extremism, we believe that we are in danger of moving toward an era of 21st century McCarthyism, in which politically motivated witch hunts could be used to persecute innocent people in the guise of counter-terrorism.

"We ask all those in civil society who are committed to fairness and equality to support the work of Cage and safeguard the rule of law for all." 

Wednesday 4 November 2015

Lancashire, Oxfordshire and making life better

This time of year is particularly gorgeous in Charlbury.  The walk across the fields and through the Wychwood forest to my favourite pub; The Plough at Finstock, is at its best in the autumn's changing colours.  And the Hound loves playing with fallen leaves too.  Sunday was All Saints Day and the little Norman church in Shorthampton was celebrating its feast of title.  It takes an hour to walk over the fields to this now deserted village but the walk along the Evenlode valley in the early morning sun was a good reminder of how beautiful our English countryside is.  And then a quiet and peaceful Mass in this small but lovely old church.

Oxfordshire is the most rural of southern counties as I was reminded by Richard Quallington, who is the interim CEO of ACRE - Action for Communities in Rural England. 

Richard is currently reviewing their structure and purpose - as so many bodies are doing against the gloomy economic background of permanent austerity.  Yet we know that umbrella bodies like ACRE perform a vital function.  If we forget capacity and infrastructure we know what happens; Kids Company being in the news again shows this.

And back to the countryside I was up in Lancashire on Monday to visit Stanley Grange, a community for people with learning disabilities, which is now owned by the families of the residents there.  The great charity Future Directions CIC is now running the services on their behalf.  Its a rather lovely place and I can well see why the families of those who live there were so keen to ensure a strong future for the community there. They gave me a visit to see the homes and community facilities and then a splendid tea in the community hall which has magnificent views out over the countryside towards Preston.

And, sweetly, as this is the week of my 63rd birthday, they had baked me a birthday cake. Complete with candles ( though not 63 of them). And I even got a nice chorus of "happy birthday". I was most touched. Very kind of the staff team and residents to organise that.

And how appropriate after the announcements on Friday about plans for the closure of institutions and the scaling up of community facilities.  There is a particular challenge in Lancashire with the closure of Calderstones, the biggest of the NHS hospitals for people with learning disabilities.  The need for careful planning, consultation, involvement of all those people and families involved, as well as the increase in effective community provision will be crucial.  But I know there are some superb charities and community organisations like Future Directions, the National Autistic Society, United Response, Mencap and Dimensions to name but a few who are there to rise to this challenge.  Let's ensure they get the tools and resources to build that better future for people with learning disabilities. 

Friday 30 October 2015

Getting the Message Across

Today, we see NHS England announce a tangible commitment to close inappropriate hospital settings for those with learning disabilities. This is a long overdue milestone – initially, we were promised that this would have been realized by June 2014. Over the next 3 years, we should see these institutions which have been campaigning against closed down, and those within them being transferred to more appropriate community care.

This is a victory for all those – both individual campaigners and charities – who have been campaigning against the inappropriate treatment of these vulnerable individuals.

Physical restraint, over-medication and seclusion are shocking ways to treat our fellow citizens and I'm determined we must do better. That is why I welcome today’s closure programme. That's why I welcome the plan to scale up community provision. In my view it’s a step-change. High time some will say, but I'm confident it is now going to happen.

And a clear indication of the will to change comes with the announcement of the closure of the biggest of the NHS learning disability hospitals, Calderstones, and the plans to provide modern and professional care in the community.

This will take time because we must ensure proper discussion and consultation with people and families; making sure what is provided meets the best possible care for people who have been for so long so badly let down by the system.

I am not content to simply rely on proposals and what I have seen myself to find out what’s happening on the ground. Collecting the views of those on the front line is crucial to making sure we get these changes right. This is why I’m launching a major fact-finding mission. You can find out more about this here (To make sure all voices are heard, an easy-read version of this can be found here).

To prevent a repeat of the failures which we’ve seen, I'm also calling on the government to bring forward new legislation to enshrine rights to challenge for people with learning disabilities. This has been promised. But it needs to go hand in hand with closures and reprovision so that people with learning disabilities feel confident of their power to effect change.

But we are seeing progress. After years of inertia, it looks like something is finally being done. This is the time for change.

As if this week wasn’t busy enough, the NAO also released their report into Kids Company yesterday. They found that current Cabinet Office leadership did not observe proper oversight and leadership of the Kids Company. Neither they nor the Office for Civil Society seemed to have any appetite to engage with Kids Company's lack of reserves, governance and chronic cash flow difficulties.

Asheem Singh, my Director of Policy, was on BBC Breakfast yesterday, emphasizing that this is something that needs to change. Leadership and governance are crucial to making sure that charities are successful – something that the government would do well to recognize.

It is right that government works with charities to reach the most vulnerable in our society – this is one of the things that charities do best. But they need to remember to look after the bottom line. The good work of charities is done on the front line, but built on the back office. Kids Company forgot this, and we have seen the consequences.

Tuesday 6 October 2015

A Cohesive Society?

I was at the Conservative Party Conference and listened to Theresa May this morning. She was right to talk of the importance of a cohesive society. Which is why it is all the more inexplicable that Conservative Party Conference organisers banned the event ‘Faith and British Values: The Muslim Charity Question’.

And banned it at the eleventh hour and without notification to either the hosts ACEVO or the sponsors the Muslim Charity Forum.

The event was rearranged outside the Conservative Party zone of control. At that event, at the Friends Meeting House outside the Tory perimeter, I said that you can't prescribe a cohesive society by government legislation. A cohesive society is built by citizens and communities. So working with the leadership of Muslim charities, with faith groups in general and with charities is vital in tackling extremism and alienation.

Muslim charities, together with the rest of our charity sector must be on the inside, central to developing a strategy to tackle extremism. The message sent by the Party’s decision to ban ‘Faith and British Values’ was simply counterproductive.

And it is already clear that many in the Conservative party are upset and perplexed by this decision. At our rearranged event I was pleased that the Chair of the Conservative Forum was both present and spoke. Whoever in the conference organisation made this regrettable decision, it must not be allowed to cloud or impair efforts by our sector and community leaders to work for a more cohesive society.

It was great to see so many people coming to our event at short notice. It was gratifying to have the support of faith leaders, and especially the Quakers who made their meeting house available to an event designed to promote the contribution of the Muslim constituency within the charitable and wider community.

ACEVO has developed a strong working relationship with the Muslim Charity Forum and we will continue to give them strong support in promoting what they do and developing their leadership and governance.

The massive Twitter traffic controversy over the banning of this event has shown the sector unites in dismay at the way in which we were treated. Muslim charities are part of the solution to cohesion, not part of the problem. We will be looking at meeting with Theresa May to discuss how we can develop this. If you think that it is us in the sector alone who feel strongly about this please read what Daily Mail columnist Peter Oborne has to say in his article for Middle East Eye.

Friday 18 September 2015

Women in Charity

One of the great advantages of a leaders’ network like ACEVO is the opportunity to network with other CEOs. That’s why ACEVO has always had such strong events and conference programmes. And we have always been aware of the need to ensure a strong regional presence and a programme that recognises diversity.

I’m rather proud of the fact that ACEVO has run a Women CEOs Summit for a number of years now. I don’t know of any other umbrella that has something similar to offer. We know that gender equality is rather a long way off and there are too few women CEOs in top national charity jobs (according to ACEVO’s most recent Pay Survey, only 25% of charities with a turnover of £15m or more have a female CEO).

This year’s Summit, kindly sponsored by RBS, has a rather stellar line up and a mega booking for it. It features a line-up ranging from Stella Creasy MP to chiefs at the Department for Education, Women’s Aid and Girlguiding UK. The Summit has been so popular that we are now fully booked and are running a waiting list!

The speakers will consider how women leaders should respond to a challenging climate for women and women’s services. They will also be talking about how women leaders can find a leadership style which works for them and how we can inspire the next generation of young women leaders. ACEVO’s policy and projects officer Lauren Kelly has been of huge help organising this year’s summit so I thought I’d include a few words from her with her take. She writes:

“This year’s Summit comes at a time of significant challenges and opportunities for women in the UK. Austerity has hit women particularly hard. Women have been disproportionately affected by staffing cuts in central government, local authorities, and the NHS as they make up the majority of public sector workforce.

Meanwhile, the combined force of tax credit cuts, reductions in housing benefit, and the three-year inflation freeze in child benefit month has weakened their safety net. According to the Fawcett Society, £22bn of the £26bn saved from welfare reform since 2010 has come from women’s pockets. As women still tend to be the primary carers for children and for frail older people, cuts to services hit them harder than men.

There has been slow progress in other key areas of inequality such as violence against women and under-representation in Westminster and other seats of power. Leaders of young people’s services tell me they are deeply concerned about the increasing pressure on young women to look a certain way and sexual inequality amongst young people.

The UK has seen a flourishing of equality activism, which some are labelling the ‘fourth wave’ of British feminism. Women – and many men – have taken to the streets to protest against sexist policies with respect to female representation, sexual violence, housing, immigration, news coverage, and even bank notes, amongst other things.

The result has been cross-political acknowledgement that number of women in government and in top positions across private, public, and third sectors is unacceptable and more women willing to speak up against casual sexism. To build upon this momentum, we need only to keep pushing and to harness the current public and media interest in women’s issues. I hope that attendees at this year’s ACEVO Women CEOs Summit will come away inspired to raise their voices.”

Tuesday 8 September 2015

"So that was August"

I've always thought August is a bad time for holidays so tend to stay around and make use of the meeting free month.  Though this time it may have been meeting free but rather media full.  Making the case for the professional third sector and the need for strong leadership and governance in the wake of Kids Company in particular.  It put the fundraising issue into context I thought.

I spent my Sunday lunchtime talking to Sky news about fundraising in the light of the excellent letter from some of the top national charities CEOs which outlined how they will act to implement new arrangements to reinforce the highest ethical standards.

We welcome these reforms as necessary to restore any deficit in public trust.  Fundraising is the lifeblood of many charities and we can’t afford to lose too much of it.  There is a danger that less asking will mean less giving.  Given the huge strain on many charities coping with increased demand its vital these efforts continue to be supported by the public. The recent major media attention to the refugee crisis shows how vital the work of bodies like the Red Cross, Save the Children, Oxfam and Unicef are - to name but a few of those at the centre of efforts to relieve real hardship and distress.

One thing I try to do in August is visit members where they work. Its been a memorable time. Starting with the Reader Organisation in Liverpool; based in a splendid  "Calderstones Park" (they are planning on buying it off the Council). They aim to encourage children in reading out loud - so based in groups and where reading is valued and promoted among many kids for whom reading is uncommon. They are based in the old mansion in the park. Once home to one of the great Liverpool trading families its now a major community asset.

I also spent a day in Lancashire visiting facilities run by Future Directions for people with learning disabilities. The CEO is an active ACEVO member Paula Braynian and she took me to visit a range of facilities from high to low dependency.  I was able to talk to a number of people who had spent time in the NHS long stay hospital Calderstones and was shocked to hear their stories about treatment there that is so often based on a regime of seclusion, medication and physical restraint.  It was both heartening to hear their progress in a community facility and horrifying to reflect on the trauma of their time in an institution.  The 2 people I saw had spent 10 and 12 years in institutional care at that hospital.  One of these was a woman who had has a broken shoulder as a result of physical restraint.  And now they are cared for in a home that refuses to use such restraint, has no seclusion rooms and won't use medication for control.  A woman that was judged to be so dangerous to herself and others they predicted she would be back within 3 months is now managing her own medicine, leaving the home regularly to see her parents and teaching on courses about self harm and why it happens.  She has even started volunteering with older people.  It brought home to me so vividly
why we must close down institutional care and move people with learning disabilities into community support and independence.  That is why my work following up on my November report on Winterbourne is so crucial. I will not rest until institutions are closed and we give people with learning disability the future and the well being they deserve but are so often denied. I'm planning on a year review of that report by the end of they year.  

Then a change of tempo and it was the wonderful Battersea Dogs and Cats home, led by the dynamic CEO Claire Horton.  This charity has been around for over 160 years and like the RSPCA was founded on the principle of direct action to home strays but also campaign for better conditions for our nation's animals.  The revisionist wing of charity history, much in evidence in parts of our media, forget that many of our great national charities wee founded with those twin aims.  People who argue the RSPCA, the NSPCC, or the RSPB should somehow just "stick to their knitting" don't understand the founding mission of those organisations where campaigning was woven into the fabric of their very existence. Caring for an abused dog is good. Preventing and rooting out abuse better.

As a dog lover I so enjoyed being shown around the wonderful facilities there and chatting with Claire about the animal charity world! There was a rather lovely terrier who was looking at me dolefully but I don't think my very own Jack Russell would be keen on a rival....
Battersea is a great example of why Britain should be proud of its charitable heritage - Battersea is an example that has been copied around the world and they continue to attract attention across the globe for their work.

You should read the great story of the Home, "A dogs life" produced for their 150th anniversary. 

Then continuing the animal theme I went to the Vauxhall City Farm, led by Matthew Lock, one of ACEVO's younger CEOs.  A wonderful place where sheep and alpacas, ducks and chickens roam within sight of the looming towers of MI6.  They have a new block of stables for the horses much used by Riding for the Disabled.  Its both an educational and health promotion venture where they work with London schools in introducing pupils to the adventure that is nature.  They are in the process of a major development but are keen to expand the work they do, particularly on the health front.

Then last week I was in Suffolk to visit the Befriending Scheme, a relatively small but growing charity led by a CEO, Shirley Moore, who started with them some time back doing 5 hours a week and now runs this fabulous charity full time with over 20 staff and 300 volunteers.  Its provides support in the community for people with learning disabilities as well as those with other disabilities that would otherwise isolate them at home.  Shirley has wonderful plans for future developments and we talked about these over lunch in the lovely town of Lavenham.

Now Parliament is back and meetings begin in earnest.  I already have 6 today! Will they be as educational as my charity visiting I wonder...

Thursday 27 August 2015

Give more. Get healthy!

Had a great lunch yesterday with David Halpern, the CEO of the behavioural insight unit.  Better known as the nudge experts, they have been responsible for some fascinating  innovations in the way our public services work.  David is publishing a book on the theory of nudge next week.  Get it.  I shall. 

They have been responsible for some in depth work on how to nudge people to give.  And today they are publishing some new research on giving and health.  And it shows that spending money on other people is good for your heart!  

Giving generously lowers high blood pressure, an ailment that contributes to the deaths of an estimated 7.5 million people prematurely worldwide each year.

This remarkable effect that being unselfish with money has on health was discovered by a team of psychologists that ran two studies among older adults with high blood pressure.

The first involved 186 people living in the United States who were aged between 55 and 74 and suffered from high blood pressure.  The team analysed how much money they contributed to religious groups, political organisations and causes, friends and family and other organisations.

The researchers found the more money the participants spent on others, the lower their systolic and diastolic blood pressure was two years later.

The second study examined 73 participants with heart complaints aged over 65 from the Vancouver area of Canada.  They were randomly assigned to spend three lots of $40 dollars either on themselves or others for three consecutive weeks during a six-week study period.

When examined afterwards, participants who gave to others showed significant improvements in systolic and diastolic blood pressure compared to participants assigned to spend money on themselves. “Thus, prosocial spending was linked to lower blood pressure,” the team concluded in a paper about the trials.

The researchers believe these results represent the first-ever empirical evidence that engaging in “prosocial spending” can lead to lower blood pressure and healthier hearts.  They speculate that the improvement may take place in part because the generous act activates the release of the stress-reducing neurohomones.

This beneficial impact of generosity on well-being is good news because heart disease is the leading cause of death worldwide. High blood pressure, which puts people at a higher risk of a heart attack, currently affects 67 million people in the U.S. and, according to the World Health Organization, 1 billion people worldwide.

In their paper the team adds: “Together, these findings suggest that spending money on others shapes cardiovascular health, thereby providing one pathway by which prosocial behaviour improves physical health among older adults.” The team's paper goes on: “Across two studies, we provide the first empirical evidence that prosocial spending may lead to lower blood pressure among older adults.”

I wonder if this will be widely reported?  A good antidote to some of the hostile media publicity on fundraising.  It's great news for charities like the British Heart Foundation and their door to door fundraisers. So supporting them is not just good for the charity that is our leading heart research body but responding to their fundraising will help lower your blood pressure. What could be fairer than that! 

Thursday 20 August 2015

We need charisma?

The debate around leadership at the Kids Company has revolved around charismatic leadership and whether this is enough.  As I said on the Today programme when the story broke charisma is good and indeed many of our great charity leader are both charismatic and  passionate, but when it is not coupled with sound administration and governance it can be disastrous.

Charisma is one of those things that we are supposed to fall for and admire.  God-given grace and charm is magical, not to be sniffed at.  Or is it?

I was fascinated to see that the dear old BBC Radio 4 is about to embark on a series about it in many walks of life, ranging from St Paul to Sarah Bernhardt and into the 21st century.  And I thought I'd reproduce the blurb from the BBC website to provoke thought on this. Franc one Stock writes,

 "Charisma is an external force of nature: confidence, charm, power, "quick-thinkingness", combined with physical impressiveness.
The more I thought about it, the more dangerous the whole concept became.  Beware of charisma, I say.  It will lead you into trouble.  I wracked my brains and in fact only a few business candidates come to mind.
For example, though they might like to think that they are - accountants are not charismatic, though they now often rise to the top of large organisations. Neither are bankers, though they may wield great power for a time.
Charisma is about more than power. It's about influence."

Corporate charisma:

For example, Henry Ford is probably the most striking example of what must be corporate charisma.  Farm boy, suspicious of banks all his life, opportunist who created the production line (out of existing manufacturing techniques) because there were no skilled engineers to be hired in Detroit (they were all making railway wagons).
Because he had to take unskilled immigrants with little English he broke work down into small repeatable tasks on a moving line.  He reduced work to monotonous repetition, but he paid well for it.
Fordist mass-production and the production line became so influential that they rapidly became the way of doing things in manufacturing, not just of cars but of almost everything else. 
Big and hugely influential maybe, but was this charismatic? I think it was.  Henry Ford used to go "camping" with his friends Edison and Firestone in a convoy of tent trucks.  The press would follow and record their fireside chats.  Edison had an ear trumpet.  Trumped up charisma, but a pretty big impact on the way many of us still work. 
Business charisma often coincides with a wave of technology change, which the charismatic leader rides like a surfer.  Ford was a part of the great automotive disruption of the early 20th Century.
Charisma has a lot to do with how the American media portray their business leaders.  Getting rich quick is only half the story.  Business leaders need to be "awesome" as well, and probably short-tempered.

Jack Welch was charismatic during his long reign as a chairman championing shareholder value at General Electric.  But his reputation shrank almost as soon as he was out of office.
Like politicians (as Enoch Powell nearly said) the careers of most of those admired as "charismatics" end in failure.

Larger than life:

One charismatic business person of whom that was not true was the late Steve Jobs of Apple.  He was, I'll admit from my only encounter with him, utterly charismatic in how he behaved and what he achieved.

Jobs upended personal computing, the music industry, animated cartoons, and retailing.  But he was impatient and irritable, not nice.  Maybe that goes with the aura.

Francine Stock has zeroed in on one of the cornflake kings, W K Kellogg, who made a fortune out of his brother's cereal invention, which was launched out of his clinic in Battle Creek, Wyoming.

But where are the British charismatics? Fry, Rowntree, Cadbury - were those self-effacing Quakers charismatic? The question is naturally self-contradictory.

One genuine candidate is John Spedan Lewis who gave the John Lewis company away to the workforce and then sat at home writing awkward had-to-be-answered letters to the partnership's weekly newspaper, the Gazette, for the rest of his life.  A forceful man, a forceful idea.  No-one else I can think of in Britain gets near.

And apart from Steve Jobs, the only other candidates I have met were Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, superbly charismatic together as only movie stars can be.  They bent the air when you looked at them, especially her.

But do we need charismatic leadership? The media do: charisma makes good stories, larger-than-life people behaving quite unlike the rest of us.

The force-field of charisma and its impact on others is usually accompanied by huge self belief. Several of the American billionaires are convinced they will find a way of living forever, for example.
Falls from grace.

Charisma breeds a dangerous deference in underlings. It leads to diaries so packed there is no time for reflection, and no need for it either.  Self-confidence is fine for movie stars, but in the business world it stops bosses from being challenged, and from realising that their big ideas are mostly fleeting, insubstantial and troublesome.

A bad plan produced by someone temporarily regarded as charismatic looks good at the time, but when the wind changes (or the economy stumbles) it often turns to ashes.  And British business is scarred with repeated stories of seemingly just-for-a-moment charismatic leaders who rapidly fell from grace, and took their companies with them.

One is tempted to say: "happy the land that has no heroes." 

I'm not sure I buy all this but I shall be listening out!

Charisma: Pinning Down the Butterfly is a two-week series presented by Francine Stock starting on BBC Radio 4 on Monday, 24 August at 13.45. 

Monday 10 August 2015

Kids Company – a watershed moment?

It’s not David Cameron or indeed Gordon Brown’s fault that Kids Company has gone under. Indeed I applaud them for their instincts in wanting to support a charity they knew was working at the front line with vulnerable kids not reached or known by local authorities. But politicians, the charity sector and the public must learn the lessons from what has happened – and support charities that provide crucial services properly.

Kids Company is an important case in point. Their founder, Camilla Batmangeilidh was a wonderful character but she was also clear on one thing: the frontline was where the money had to go. She was very opposed to spending on overheads as she thought all the money must go out to her kids. This is a noble idea but if you take the time to view their publically available accounts their overhead costs are alarmingly low – way below what any sustainable organisation should expect. When you couple that with rapid, government-funded growth, which emerged in the wake of significant cuts to government provided services, problems are inevitable.

It appears that this was made worse by what is often called "founder syndrome." Any chief executive must surround themselves with a top quality team to deliver essential administrative functions. Batmangelidh’s approach appears to have relied heavily on her indomitable spirit, force of character and charisma. Without the sufficient collateral support of good governance and sound administration, these things, are, simply, not enough.

As council social care is cut to the bone, Kids Company was a major player in town. The social consequences of their demise are catastrophic for the individuals concerned and costly to the exchequer. Yet it would compound the catastrophe if criticism of the decisions by government on the funding of Kids Company caused government ministers to micromanage charities with which they work, or out of fear, overlook them altogether.

In order to square this circle, we need a more adult discourse on what it means to run a successful charity in the twenty first century. There is a broad lesson for the media, which must be less hypocritical about what it wants from charities. Take the recent furore on charity fundraising, which arose as a result of charities outsourcing this part of their activity to keep overheads down and funnel more money to the front line.  The negative stories were understandable but must be coupled with the understanding that to bring these functions in-house costs money – and that money will not go to the front line. And yet you can then be sure that the next slew of negative stories about charity overheads are on the horizon.

We must not return to a Victorian-style philanthropy where we rely on the occasional good will of some philanthropists but do not have the temerity to complain about the causes of poverty, to create sustainable organisations that make a difference for the long term and to fund and lead them effectively. The right lesson would be to acknowledge that running an organisation that helps people in the twenty first century requires good governance as well as good intentions – and the Government must support good governance and high quality leadership in the charity sector if it is to prevent future catastrophes.

Monday 20 July 2015

Using communities to tackle extremism

David Cameron's five year plan to tackle extremism must focus on curtailing demonisation and promoting engagement with communities.

In a recent letter to Home Secretary Theresa May, I warned that the group and individual banning orders to be introduced in forthcoming legislation could be counter-productive and hinder rather than help the fight against extremism. I argued that the key weapon in the fight against radicalisation will be to harness the often unsung civic spirit represented by the work of the 1,200 plus Islamic charities in the country.

The Prime Minister has hit the nail on the head today in identifying “the overshadowing of moderate Muslim voices" and “failures of integration” as central elements of the radicalisation that has so far taken place.

Speaking on the Today programme this morning former MI5 chief Eliza Manningham-Buller said that talk of one central Muslim identity and community is misguided, rather that there are hundreds and thousands of separate communities all of which must be reached. This is why it is so important that the Government, indeed all of us, embrace and celebrate the work done by Islamic charities across the country. This would go a long way to bringing the moderate Muslim voices out of the shadows.

I met only recently with Home Office Minister Lord Ahmed to develop these dialogues and agreed to draft some proposals for adoption by the Government.

Friday 17 July 2015

Gove is right. Let's back him...

Michael Gove has wasted no time at all in pushing ahead with reforms since taking over at the Ministry of Justice.  So far, he has lifted the petty and silly prison book restrictions.  Well done on that.
In a speech today, Gove will focus on the role of education in rehabilitating prisoner s<>. 

“No government serious about building one nation, no minister concerned with greater social justice, can be anything other than horrified by our persistent failure to reduce re-offending.  In prisons there is a - literally - captive population whose inability to read properly or master basic mathematics makes them prime candidates for re-offending...
The failure to teach our prisoners a proper lesson is indefensible.  I fear the reason for that is, as things stand, we do not have the right incentives for prisoners to learn or for prison staff to prioritise education.  And that's got to change."
How right this is.  And it's a change that many ACEVO members will warmly welcome. He’s considering what would be a very radical overhaul of the prisons system: introducing an “earned release" system to encourage prisoners to improve their education while in jail.  I'm also writing to hi.  To encourage him to look at the rehabilitation revolution programme. It's been a huge disappointment for our third sector. We wanted to see programmes that galvanised the power of charities to prevent  re-offending and to tackle the revolving doors in prisons where half of all prisoners released return to prison in a year. 

I'm offering Michael Gove the hand of friendship in tackling his reform agenda.  He has shown exactly the reform zeal we need! 

Thursday 16 July 2015


I wonder how many papers will carry the report of the inquest into the tragic death of Olive Cook.  Will the Daily Mail splash this on its front pages?

This is what was said re charity fundraising,

"But her family insisted that - while the letters and phone calls were intrusive - the charities were not to blame for Mrs Cooke's death".

How does this square with media coverage and some politicians comments?  Of course it is right to review how we fund-raise. And it is right to look particularly at how outsourcing calls work as this is not always done to the highest ethical standards.  Bad fundraising practice harms all charities.  ACEVO has asked its CEO members in the fundraising charities to review what they are doing.  That is a right thing to do and it's the right time to do it.  But some of the more OTT comments about a "crisis" are wide of the mark.  And it is perhaps questionable why this issue is being pursued so vehemently in some papers.  Surely it couldn't be anything to do with duffing us up so we feel less able to be robust in our campaigning?  For us our guiding star must be our beneficiaries and not the tabloid  press.

So yes, a good time to review and strengthen good practice and root out bad.  But let's also remember at this time less asking means less giving and that harms our beneficiaries.  Together with the IoF we will be convening a meeting of leading fundraising charity CEOs and Fundraising Directors to discuss all this and look at what we need to do that secures the balance between effective fundraising and meeting public concern over bad practise.