Friday 27 February 2015

Manchester and Health

The news that the health and social care budgets in Manchester are to be integrated is a massive step forward for better health and well-being there - and a beacon for the rest of the country.

When I wrote the Winterbourne View report I recommended that budgets for health and care for people with learning disabilities must be combined. This move in Manchester will enable better planning and commissioning that ensures community placements,  not placements in institutions. Interestingly, the figures on the use of institutions show that the North uses institutions for people with learning disabilities significantly  more than the rest of the country. Often councils have block contracts with institutions like Calderstones in Lancashire, and it is too easy for them to use those places than make proper provision in the community. And shockingly these cost up to £12,000 a week. Community places are both more cost effective and better care. The move in Manchester and the decision by NHS England to close institutions like Calderstones are welcome.

I had lunch with the pioneering journalist Marie Woolf of the Sunday times this week. She has written many stories on the abuses and problems that confront people with learning disability or autism and told me some shocking stories of abuse in institutions. Some of these come from whistleblowers- the recent report from Sir Robert Francis will hopefully encourage more whistleblowing and help spell the end of institutional care for people with learning disability.

Fascinating to read the reactions to the Manchester announcement. The most surprising was from the Kings Fund which has for years argued how important it was to integrate health and social care, and yet gave a very negative response pouring cold water on a what is an extraordinarily important move to do exactly that. What we now need is to see this followed through for the rest of the country. Starting with London!

The great Bishop Harries, defender of charities’ right to campaign, was on "Thought for the Day" this morning making the very interesting point that this move is very much in line with Catholic social teaching which argues the principle of subsidiarity; where decisions are made at the lowest appropriate level. The Manchester decision is a great example of that. So when you have the blessing of the Church then this has to be a good move!

Charity leaders know from experience on the ground how difficult it is to get effective support for people from the health service and from councils. It is often not remotely joined up, and is beset by arguments over money and actions based on system and process not the individual.

So acevo is going to organise a workshop for our members to hear from the key Manchester leaders in charge of this move to integration. We should give this full support. And we will be talking about it at our National Health and Social Care Conference on Tuesday. This will be the first opportunity to hear from Jeremy Hunt and Andy Burnham on these plans. Indeed the BBC are going to be filming the whole event. Still time to sign up!  You can even come as my guest if you respond to this Blog!

Use comments to register.  Bubb Blog readers most welcome.....

Thursday 26 February 2015

Semolina pudding, Angela and the Charity Commission

It's a long time since I ate a semolina pudding! But Monday I was having lunch with Baroness Angela Smith in the House of Lords. Angela was the last third sector Minister before the coalition took over and appointed Nick Hurd. But she had the rank of Minister of State - the coalition demoted the role I'm afraid. Angela was also my parents' MP when she was in the Commons, so we like to keep in touch. She continues to take a huge interest in the third sector and is one the Commissioners on the Low Commission on better regulation (they have a meeting on Friday).

Last night was a fun and somewhat poignant leaving party for Anne Longfield who is leaving 4Children after 27 years to become the Children's Commissioner. Anne has been a superb CEO and a long time member of ACEVO. The distinguished guest list was a testament to her success. Why, I even bumped into Cherie Blair (literally, as I was reaching for my coat!). Harriet Harman emerged from her bus and many doyens of the children's sector were there to pay tribute.

And whilst reflecting on the Charity Commission I was pleased to see the report of the joint Commons/Lords committee on the draft Protection of Charites Bill. Some sensible points - and a clear recognition that if the Commission are given more powers to issue Statutory warnings and to disqualify people from being trustees, there must be safeguards. And a strong recommendation on the need to support humanitarian work.

Commenting to the press I said the Charity Commission must be prepared to protect, defend and champion the sector and if these powers help them in that crucial aim then we support them. However the evidence does suggest that many of the Commission’s existing powers were sufficient and indeed the Commission have not made the best use of the powers already at their disposal. That is why we welcome the recommendation of safeguards to keep the Commission to task.

Another important point was the role of charities in helping to rehabilitate former offenders by engaging them in community life. This is a key moral purpose in our work and, save for exceptional circumstances, we do not want or need government or the regulator getting in the way. We welcome the report’s call for this role to be protected.

We support the amended list of offences that may disqualify people from becoming charity trustees, but it is important that the Government are not over zealous in the application of the power to disqualify. It would be a grave error for those who have been cautioned rather than convicted of such offences to be excluded from involvement in charitable activity.

Lastly, my evidence to the Committee highlighted the unintended consequences of tough regulatory legislation when it creates difficulties for charities that provide aid in warzones. I’m pleased the Committee agree. It is absolutely right that humanitarian charities are given help and guidance to allow them to operate freely in war zones, and I have called on the Charity Commission to create such guidance without delay.

Monday 23 February 2015

Tory Victoria sponge and the Bishops

In these times of somewhat frenetic electioneering, a charity leader needs to be even-handed on the party political front. So I was happy to support the West Oxfordshire Conservative Association coffee morning on Saturday in Charlbury. Bought a very nice Victoria sponge from Sarah Potten (her husband later sold me some of their excellent eggs!), and a jar of Seville marmalade. I even met the Chair of the Association. Sarah has an important role to play in village life as she is one of the Parish representatives for selecting our new Vicar. Interviews are on Friday. My only advice: please don't choose an evangelical!

The Bishops’ letter last week continues to stir things up. My sister Lucy sent me a copy from the Chelmsford Diocesan newsletter. All entirely reasonable and sensible. It’s a sign of the times that critics have piled in to condemn. Most of them not having read the letter. Camilla Cavendish in the Sunday Times was right to point out that these critics need to tread with care. The Bishops have made an important point, that there is a lack of discourse about society amongst the political parties.

This is a point ACEVO will address in our third sector hustings on 24 March. It’s time for civil society to have its say in the run-up to polling day. And it is certainly the role of the Church and of other faith groups to be part of the political debate, as it is for charities. Those who criticise the Bishops’ letter should address the issues they raise, not try shooting the messenger.

But I’m afraid at present the stakes are so high for the Parties that they can’t stand any criticism, and try to suppress or distort what they see as criticism of their particular line. This is not good for sensible debate. It undermines democracy and adds to the cynicism people feel for the political process – which is itself, of course, another point the Bishops were making!

Tuesday 17 February 2015

Third Sector Hustings!

We are in a surfeit of party leader speeches and it is still 80 days to go before the election. Will all this debating help or hinder? I was having dinner with Andrew Barnett, the dynamic and charming (no he’s not giving me money!) CEO of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation and we were both agreeing it is all a bit tedious. Even though we know it's important. 

I was interested in Ed Miliband's speech yesterday on Labour’s ‘Better Plan for Britain’s Prosperity’. The plan builds on the feedback and ideas that many  in the business community have given Labour and sets out “how the next Labour Government will chart a path to higher productivity in all parts of the economy as the basis of a renewed and inclusive prosperity. Central to Labour’s plan is an understanding that Britain only succeeds when working people succeed.”
And David Cameron spoke recently on the Tory plan for the economy. Clearly both parties are vying for the business vote and both are setting out their alternative visions for the economy. What is striking is how little they both have to say about society and the role of citizens and communities. Although we know Big Society is not a feature of the current 6 Tory themes, last election there was at least a debate on society. At present it’s completely absent. What role social action? What role the third sector in public service reform? What role in building social cohesion through volunteering or promoting giving? 
And yet when you think about it, a prosperous Britain depends on a strong society where there is social cohesion and communities are strengthened through citizens’ social action and volunteering. When society is fragmented there are serious consequences – as we have seen with past riots and social unrest. So business needs to be underpinned by a society that is at ease with itself. The role that our third sector plays in building a strong economy is usually overlooked and yet it is important. 
This is why ACEVO and the Charities Aid Foundation are holding a our 2015 Gathering: The Social Leaders’ Debate. We are challenging the main political parties, as well as those who aim to hold a balance of power, to a hustings to debate their party positions with the third sector. It will be fun. And who knows, it may even be illuminating…

The hustings are at Church House in Westminster, in the evening of Tuesday 24 March. If you fancy coming along, do book your place soon!

Monday 16 February 2015

Politicising the Charity Commission

It's part of the Sunday morning ritual in Charlbury. I go to the 8am Holy Communion at the Parish Church, then pop up to our friendly newsagents for the morning papers. On this Sunday my pack contained the Sunday Telegraph, as I had heard it might mention the row over the Charity Commission Chair reappointment. I do like the weekend Telegraphs – their news coverage is always rather good even if its tone is true to type – and the travel /reviews etc. are very good. And their assistant editor Philip Johnston is like me an Old Anchorian!

But I digress. Back to the Charity Commission. The recent report of the Independence Panel had some stringent criticisms of the regulator. As they reported , "our concerns about the leadership of the Charity Commission on the independence of the sector have deepened over the last year."

They charge that "the Commission is giving the impression of being politically driven. Its focus seems to be an agenda determined by Government, despite its statutory independence."

This is strong criticism but a view that is now widely shared across our sector. Of course a regulator cannot become too cosy with the sector it regulates. But a regulator following agendas that have little to do with the priorities of that sector or the public, and a lot to do with government politics, is a very dangerous place to be.

That is why I felt it important to raise the issue of the reappointment of the Chair. In his reply to my letter the Cabinet Secretary makes it very clear this was a Ministerial decision by Francis Maude. It is unclear what exactly the civil service advice on this was. The Cabinet Office have a Director of Ethics who I assume was consulted, given this reappointment did not need to happen till after the election. I wonder what she said?

I also noted that there was an appraisal of Mr Shawcross by the Cabinet Office Permanent Secretary Richard Heaton, as required by the OCPA Code. Strange that this appraisal ignored the views of the sector, indeed as far as I know no one (and certainly not me as the charity leaders network head) was asked to input into that appraisal. And given that the NAO had specifically highlighted the blurring of the executive and non executive roles at the Commission I wonder what account was taken of that? It would be useful in the interests of transparency if this appraisal was published.

However the key point here is much broader. It is how we secure an appointment process that is free from political patronage. This role, and indeed the appointment of commissioners, needs to be established free from government.

This will be one of the issues reviewed by the Lord Low Commission on better regulation. We need a new government to urgently review the appointments process and establish it above politics.

If the key task of a Charity Commission is to maintain trust in charities then we need to see an independent regulator. Independent in people's perceptions as well as in reality.

A real test for the Commission is on the horizon. Will they reinforce and support our role as advocates and champions or will they follow yet another government bug bear and try and water down our right to campaign as established by CC9? They have said they will review and somehow I don't think anyone in our sector thinks they plan on strengthening it.

As observers have noted, there was a strange logic in their comments on the Oxfam ‘Perfect Storm’ advert which implied that because someone might think it’s party political campaigning then it could well be. That's a green light to the green ink brigade.

Thursday 12 February 2015

Dogs, Philanthropists, Independence and all

Settling down to catch up on Coronation St I was disturbed by someone at the door. It turned out to be a fundraiser from the Battersea Dogs Home. My faithful hound having also appeared at the door I felt I could hardly resist taking up the offer to give them a DD donation.

In fact I'm rather prone to signing up to fundraisers. I've done that for people who popped round from the British Heart Foundation and VSO. And I also can't resist the charms of street fundraisers, or ‘chuggers’ as some term them. So I have an eclectic list of charities I support; but then as the CEO of ACEVO I can hardly turn them down. And it’s a bit like market research for me as I get their literature through the post or the emails. Shelter are particularly assiduous in their search for funds. But then they need to be. Getting support for the homeless sector is difficult. Hedge fund managers and their ilk like something more cuddly, and we have such a long way to go before such people match the level of giving that their counterparts do in the States. Of course there are exceptions, but it is still a dismal fact that poorer people give a higher proportion of their wealth to charity than rich people do.

This is a point that people like Thomas Hughes-Hallett have been labouring for some time. I had lunch with him recently and he was outlining his plans for an Institute of Philanthropy. A much-needed innovation and one to be strongly supported. And he has managed to secure the support of a good philanthropist who is putting a substantial endowment behind this project so it can really motor in a big way, making an impact where it is needed. Thomas is one of the sector greats (I got to know him well from the infamous government ‘listening exercise’ where we laboured together on choice and competition), and it was a rather enjoyable lunch – we discovered we both have a love for the English choral tradition. He supports The Sixteen’ and the choir of Westminster Abbey.

Yesterday I was speaking at the launch of the Independence Panel’s final report on ‘An Independent Mission: The Voluntary Sector in 2015’. You can read it here.

It raises some fundamental issues and concerns. It raises he concerns many of my CEO members have been raising about the politicisation of the Charity Commission. It agrees with ACEVO that the Lobbying Act must be repealed as soon as the next government takes office.  And it challenges sector leaders to continue to speak out. We will. Well, I certainly will.

Wednesday 11 February 2015

At FareShare in Deptford

So, there I was. On a trading estate in Deptford (not known as the most salubrious part of South London it has to be said) in my high vis jacket. No, not doing a George Osborne on the campaign trail, but visiting FareShare, a charity run by an old colleague, Lindsay Boswell. FareShare receives food surplus (in-date) from the supermarkets that would otherwise go to waste, and redistributes it to charities. It's big business. Big charity business.

Actually I mustn't be too down on Deptford. It has a fine history. Christopher Marlowe is buried up the road in the fine old Church of St Nicholas, Deptford, and just opposite the warehouse is the spot where the first German bomb of the Second World War landed. Some dreadful council developments took the place of much of the bombed areas, so a lot of the fine old houses and spots of this ancient dock area have gone and Samuel Pepys or Peter the Great (former residents) would not recognise it now. At least it means FareShare can rent a decent sized warehouse at a reasonable rent. At least for the time being, I suspect, as London continues to expand.

Tuesday 10 February 2015

Winterbourne: closures will happen

One of the perils of having a weekend away is getting a cold. And as any CEO knows, taking any time off for a cold is a no-no. So this was perhaps not the best background for appearing before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) and the formidable but brilliant Margaret Hodge.

The PAC were taking evidence on the recent National Audit Office report on Winterbourne View and the care of people with learning disabilities. Basically, the report gave more detail about the failures of the health system to provide proper care for people with learning disabilities.

Its evidence very much backed up my own report last November, “Winterbourne view – time for change”, so I was pleased to be able to hammer home messages from my report.

I was keen to be fair and constructive in my analysis, and where I had criticisms to couch them positively. There is no point in not being constructive at this point. And I wanted to be fair in the sense that, as I told the PAC, I have agreed to recall my steering group to review progress in 6 months and then in a year. Woe betide them if they are not making progress on what I have told them needs to be done.

As I said, I think the change of leadership in NHS England is now driving institutional change.

I was critical was on the failure of NHS England, in their response to my report, to confront the need for closures. They retreated behind euphemisms like ‘reconfiguration’ and ‘reshaping’. This simply isn’t good enough. Large-scale institutions have to close. Institutional care is not the right way to look after people with learning disabilities. My report could not have been clearer. I recommended they bring forward a timetable for the closure of inappropriate institutions, but their response did not address this. Indeed it was thoroughly mealy-mouthed about it.

So obviously I laboured this point hard in my evidence session to the PAC.

I was therefore delighted when, in response to grilling by the MPs on the PAC, the CEO of NHS England Simon Stevens said that he wanted to see closures – and he did use the ‘c word’ – and that they will indeed provide a timetable for closures within 6 months. He made a very telling point drawing from his experience in Tyneside, working in mental health, where they closed the old asylums but left open the same style institutions for people with learning disabilities.

This new announcement is significant progress. It signals to the system that things must change. That the  ‘revolving door’, whereby people are discharged into community care and find the beds filled up when they leave, will end. All those lazy commissioners who have block contracts and refuse to properly monitor the people in their care will find they now have to look for community alternatives.

This demonstrates real leadership by Simon Stevens. He should be congratulated for taking a bold step and signalling to the system that the end is nigh for institutional care for people with learning disabilities. Of course it will take time. Community facilities must be developed. But the third sector is there – ready and primed to provide that facility. We now need to be engaged, to scale up our work, so that the institutions can close.

So a really positive outcome to the hearings. I spoke to my old friend Margaret Hodge afterwards and she too was pleased at how positive the hearing had been and a good outcome. She is going to review progress in 18 months so there will be a continuous external review of what the system is doing. This will keep them to the mark.

One of the problems is that there a range of players who need to coordinate actions. For example pooling budgets. I don’t believe a simple call for them will work. I told the PAC the Government should use their powers in the Care Act to mandate pooled budgets. It means the Secretary of State for Health can enforce pooled budgets between local councils and health CCGs. Knowing councils like I do, one-third will willingly pool budgets, one-third will decide it’s not a priority, and one-third will actively resist because it’s cheaper for them to have the health service paying the cost of an institution rather than them supporting people properly in the community. Change will come, but we still need pressure at every level both inside and outside government.

Monday 9 February 2015

Community transport: put the third sector first!

Last week Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Transport, Michael Dugher MP, made an important announcement for community transport charities. He said a future Labour government would look to not-for-profit transport operators to help communities that are poorly served by the unregulated bus markets outside London. This is a good sign for the third sector.

Community transport is an important part of the debate on devolution and local authority powers. Why shouldn’t local authorities be able to shape their local bus services in the public interest? I’m pleased to hear a front bench politician addressing this question.

Politicians often say that a broken market can be repaired by diversifying the provision of services. But they don’t so often go on to say that the third sector should be a central provider of public services. This is the key contention in ACEVO's public service reform agenda.

Since bus deregulation in 1986 the majority of bus services outside London have been run by commercial operators. If services aren’t profitable enough, they can withdraw them. Local authorities have few powers to create a better deal for their residents, other than to subsidise routes they deem to be socially necessary. So usually they will pay commercial operators to run services they had previously withdrawn. Often, it’s the most vulnerable and isolated people and communities who suffer the loss of public transport. Their chances of accessing vital public services and employment are severely curtailed.

Who is lined up to respond to this challenge? The community transport sector has always been there, working with local authorities to address gaps in services and helping people who cannot access conventional bus services.

Community transport operators provide a bridge between the transport industry and the charity sector. They have a lot in common with other charities but are often quite distinct from the rest of the transport industry, not least because of the number of women in positions of leadership. Two of these are members of ACEVO. At our annual dinner last year, Jo Beaumont (who leads a social enterprise that works across the North of England and the Midlands) was chosen to be an ACEVO fellow. Anna Whitty is CEO of the ECT Charity and has recently joined ACEVO; Anna was instrumental in leading a partnership providing accessible shuttle services for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, which did wonders to raise the profile of the community transport sector.

Bill Freeman, ACEVO member and a regular at our North West CEO’s forum, is in his second year as Chief Executive of the Community Transport Association, the national body which leads and supports community transport across the UK.

Bill has argued since day one that things could be different. He says it makes no sense for policy-makers only to turn to the community transport sector once everyone else has had a go, spent the money and proved they can’t make it work. He argues that the not-for-profit model should be on the table from the start when thinking about how to meet transport needs within our communities. It is a more reliable and resilient way of addressing unmet needs.

So far in this election campaign there’s been too little debate across the board about the third sector. Community transport is a great example of the contribution we can make to public services in future. At ACEVO we’re currently reaching out to bring more Community Transport operators in to our movement, to strengthen our voice for change in the way our public services work. And let’s hope we can keep up the momentum for the third sector to be showcased in other debates in the weeks left before the polls!

Some information about Community Transport in the UK:

What is community transport?
  • Community transport is about providing flexible, accessible and responsive solutions to unmet local transport needs, and often represents the only means of transport for certain user groups.
  • Using everything from mopeds to minibuses, typical services include voluntary car schemes, community bus services, school transport, hospital transport, dial-a-ride, wheels to work and group hire services.
  • Community transport benefits those who are otherwise isolated or excluded, enabling them to live independently, participate in their communities and access education, employment, health and other services.
  • Community transport works to a particular set of regulations designed to enable not-for-profit services run for a social purpose to be able to operate within a safe and legal framework.

Regulation of CT services
  • Community transport operators are required to comply with both charity law and transport law. Charity law ensures that the organisation’s activities are focused solely on providing public benefit. Within transport law there are special provisions for services that are run on a non-for-profit basis.
  • The key legislation is contained within the 1985 Transport Act and its subsequent amendments.  This was the Act which denationalised the bus industry; it recognised that transport provision in some places was unlikely to be commercially viable and so provision was made to make it feasible for community groups to provide transport.
  • The regulatory regime strikes a balance between placing sufficient rules on community transport services to ensure that they are safe and legal but not making them so stringent that they deter community organisations and volunteers from getting involved in operating a transport service.  Any organisation which provides transport using a minibus should have a permit, whether or not they charge a fare to their passengers.
  • One type of permit (section 19) support services that take people or groups from door to door, as a taxi or coach might. The second type of permit (section 22) enables them to run scheduled services along fixed routes, like conventional bus services but with smaller vehicles.

Thursday 5 February 2015

Charities and A&E – quiz the ministers!

Well today’s been good for drawing attention to charities’ work in A&E. We’ve announced a new programme with Red Cross, Age UK and RVS, funded by the Cabinet Office. 700 charity volunteers to work in the 29 most under-pressure A&E departments around the country, and help reduce demand on A&E over the next 12 weeks. See today’s Telegraph for an excellent roundup by Chris Hope.

Naturally, this is the precursor to bigger things. I’m making sure that government collect evidence of how charities can reduce the load on A&E. It’ll be a good evidence base for a wider national intervention in future years. Charities need to be integral to A&E strategic planning in future. This programme will help make that happen.

But what of the parties’ thoughts on the third sector’s role across social care + health? At election time this is the important question.

On 3 March ACEVO’s Health and Social Care Conference is the biggest such third sector event. In central London (and in front of the BBC + other cameras!) we’ll have not only Jeremy Hunt but also Labour’s Andy Burnham and the Lib Dems’ Paul Burstow to put their respective pitches to third sector leaders. With lots of time for questions. And in the morning we have a session with Simon Stevens of NHS England – an excellent chance to discuss progress on his five year forward view.

I highly recommend you come along, whether you’re third sector leader or anyone else. Tickets here: See you there!

Tuesday 3 February 2015

Choice and integration

The third sector leads the way in joining social care and health. My recent work on winter pressure in A&E departments has reminded me just how effective we are at reducing demand for hospital services. More news on that to come later in the week...

I've written a piece for the New Statesman today, looking at Labour's plans for a 'National Health and Care Service'. Here it is:

Government NHS reforms adviser: Burnham's plan for patient choice is the right way

Last week, the former Health Secretary Alan Milburn said it would be a "fatal mistake" for Labour to fight the election by spending on, but not reforming, the NHS. He was joined by another Labour luminary – Lord Darzi – on Friday, as a clear group appeared to line up against the shadow health secretary Andy Burnham’s agenda.

These attacks are not just unseemly, but wrong as well. Look behind the headlines and Burnham’s agenda is the right one: to reenvision the National Health Service as a National Health and Care Service. Now we need more detail on how this is to be done.

It’s clear the NHS can’t survive without fundamental reform. As an adviser to this government during the passage of the Health and Social Care Act in 2012, and more recently on care for people with learning disabilities and on winter pressures in Accident and Emergency, I’ve seen the gravity of the situation first hand.

I’ve also seen there are no easy cuts to make. Cuts without strategic thinking have fragmented not only healthcare but also social care across the country. This directly harms our most vulnerable citizens. It means more people falling through the cracks of a breaking structure. We are on borrowed time and on the cusp of a reality where crises like the one we are living through in A&E this winter will become the norm. And it is largely our legislators’ fault.

Poor social care causes more damage every day. Cuts to council budgets have trimmed care for the elderly to the bone. Charity CEOs tell me of reverse auctions for local health contracts being won by the very cheapest service, whatever form it may take. Some private operators – though they are often very effective – may bid so low that they make a loss on social care and recoup the money elsewhere.

In A&E, these cuts send more older people into hospital for preventable problems. Often 20 per cent of beds are filled by elderly people who aren't ill, but end up in hospital because no one else can help. They can't be discharged because there's no social care to help them at home. Cutting costs money; when we run out of beds it can also cost lives.

Burnham's plan is to price in these very real externalities of running a health service. The vision is to change the NHS by replacing competition with integration. When Burnham talks about integrating the work of public, private and third sector providers, he is indicating a situation in which new services are created by new kinds of collaboration.

Collaboration rather than competition becomes the driver of patient choice. This is not merely theoretical. This winter I have chaired an NHS taskforce to get charities in to 29 emergency departments that are under pressure to tackle the immediate problem. We hope to get the charities into action early next week. We will be giving vulnerable patients a choice to receive community care that the market has failed to provide.

No doubt market liberals of the left and right will sniff at this vision of a world of choice beyond how they define it. But politicians of all parties must keep their nerve. The idea of a health service rescued by cuts and efficiencies is debunked. Now they must scale up the radical approach into a sustained plan of action. 

They can build on pilots like the charity intervention into Accident and Emergency, on innovations such as the coalition’s attempts to pilot bringing together budgets for health and social care at a local level, and they can create a new, integrated plan for health and care. The Burnham plan may not be easy to digest or to do – but it is needed.

Monday 2 February 2015

Shawcross reappointed - my letter to Jeremy Heywood

Last Thursday morning I was surprised to read of William Shawcross’s reappointment as chair of the Charity Commission, which was announced without prior warning or consultation. His three-year term was to end in October, and the reappointment process would usually begin in a few months’ time.

The Commission is an important public body, and not the Cabinet Office’s personal fiefdom. At a time when it has been under sustained and severe criticism - and when as the National Audit Office acknowledge, they are starting to turn things around - this is not what they need. It will only add fuel to the fire of those who accuse the Commission of being a plaything of government patronage, rather than a forceful, independent regulator.

I wrote to the Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood to clarify a number of points about the reappointment process, as was reported by Saturday’s Times.

Here’s a copy of my letter, which is also on the ACEVO website:

29 January 2015

Dear Sir Jeremy,

I am writing to you to express my concern at the process behind today’s appointment of William Shawcross as Chair of the Charity Commission. I would like to seek your assurance that due process has been followed. 

As you know, the position was due for renewal in October 2015. Shawcross’ initial appointment followed a period of advertisement, shortlisting and a pre-appointment hearing from May 2012. I and many of my colleagues in the charity sector, our supporters, donors and beneficiaries are therefore surprised to learn that the appointment has been made already.
The fact that this appointment has taken place less than three months before a general election will serve only to raise those concerns in the mind of the public. They deserve and require assurance as to the absolute propriety of the processes that have been followed to make this appointment. As such I am writing to seek your assurances on the following points of information.
1.    Was recruitment conducted in accordance with the Code of Practice for Ministerial Appointments to Public Bodies? According to this code, reappointments can only be made once evidence of a satisfactory performance has been made.
2.    Who was on the committee that made the appointment? The previous committee was chaired by Mark Addison, a Public Appointments Assessor representing the Commissioner for Public Appointments, who is independent of the Government. It also included Sue Gray, Head of Propriety and Ethics in the Cabinet Office. Given the public nature of this role a committee for reappointment would have been appropriate.
3.    Were other persons considered by the committee and did they meet the requirements stipulated by equalities legislation and in accordance with suitable non-discrimination policies appropriate to the position?
4.    What representations were sought from Cabinet Office’s Propriety and Ethics Team about the process and what notice was taken by the appointments committee of those representations?
5.    Given the crucial public nature of this role, how will the process behind the appointment and the fact of the appointment itself be disseminated and communicated to the charity sector and the wider public?
The charity sector is vital to the health and wealth of our nation. Charities must be independent and free to speak truth to power and to deliver in the public good. To do both they depend upon the trust and confidence of the public. Trust and confidence are fragile. While trust in charities remains high, it would be unacceptable for questions over the regulator to compromise trust and confidence in the charitable sector.
I look forward to receiving your reply. In the interests of transparency I am placing this letter in the public domain.
Yours ever,

Sir Stephen Bubb