The Report of the House of Lords Select Committee inquiry on charities has been hailed as a potential “turning point” for the sector.
The Report makes 100 recommendations to government and within these, the Committee has accepted all but one of the recommendations the Public Relations & Communications Association (PRCA) gave to the Committee in its evidence.
Most significantly, the Report makes recommendations to implement the Hodgson review into the Lobbying Act in full and for government to review its consultation with the sector following the “gagging clause” controversy.
As well as identifying a £200m funding gap to charities likely to result from Brexit, which needs to be better understood, the Committee’s Report argues that charities need more support in terms of funding which recognises that their core costs must be met, and that grants, as distinct from loans or contracts, play a vital role.
It also recommends practical measures to strengthen charity governance, including greater access to training opportunities.
We called for the Committee to deliver a report which provides leadership and the opportunity to re-set the relationship between government and the charity sector. And this is what has been delivered.
If the recommendations are implemented it will be a turning point in the way charities behave and the implications for communications and PR staff working in the sector are significant.
The report recommends improved transparency and use of digital platforms which communications staff must be empowered to deliver.
The report states that charities’ record in the use of digital platforms is mixed. While some charities are at the cutting edge of new technology, others have yet to realise its potential with regard to fundraising, volunteering and communications. It recommends that charities should actively consider including a digital trustee role on their boards.
The key to improving digital skills in charities is knowledge sharing and access to affordable training, this is where organisations like the PRCA must continue to deliver and members of our industry from all sectors must be prepared to step in and become trustees.
The report also rightly states that trust is key to maintaining a vibrant charity sector and we look forward to continuing our work to build and defend the reputation of charities in the UK.
Chairman of the House of Lords Select Committee on Charities, Baroness Pitkeathley, said:
Charities are the lifeblood of society. They play a fundamental role in our civil life and do so despite facing a multitude of challenges. Yet for them to continue to flourish, it is clear that they must be supported and promoted.
We found that charities lead the way with innovation, but that this is at risk of being stifled by the ‘contract culture’. And while advocacy is a sign of a healthy democracy, and is a central part of charities’ role, this role has been threatened by Government.
We hope that charities will be encouraged by this report; that the Government will respect their role; and that in addition it will value the connections charities have with all sections of society, and encourage the vital scrutiny they provide.