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.