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We need a strong ministerial voice for charitiesDavid Mbaziira

by David Mbaziira, Head of External Communications

June 2017

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We need a strong ministerial voice for charities

Amid the fallout from last week’s election Rob Wilson MP lost his parliamentary seat to Labour's Matt Rodda and the charity sector continues to wait with bated breath for the appointment of a new Minister for Civil Society. 

Within the context of a cabinet re-shuffle, the PM clearly thinks that she has bigger priorities – understandably so perhaps. However the role of charities minister is no means a soft seat.

There were mixed views about Rob Wilson’s time in post, which he had held since 2014. He stepped into the role when his predecessor, Brooks Newmark, resigned amid newspaper allegations that he had sent explicit images to an undercover reporter. Newmark earned himself quite a reputation within his short stint in post (a matter of months), famously commenting that charities should “stick to their knitting” and stay away from party politics. 

While Wilson faced no such scandal, his time in office has been far from uneventful. During his tenure we’ve seen a full-scale reform of charity fundraising regulation, new best practice standards and the introduction of legislation around charities’ working practices with third parties.

You could look at the above summary and think that seems reasonable and sensible - I’d agree that some changes were absolutely necessary. However, at times, the decisions coming from the Minister resembled dictates and he will not be remembered by many as someone who sought the views of and wanted to collaborate with the sector.

Last week, sector leaders thanked him for his support and highlighted the importance of working with government to ensure charities are well represented in parliament.

Sir Stuart Etherington of NCVO said Rob Wilson was “instrumental in helping to achieve a sensible solution to the problems in fundraising that came to the fore in 2015” while ACEVO’s Vicky Browning thanked Wilson for his time in post, adding: “Civil society is one of the key ways people engage with creating change. And civil society leaders now have an opportunity to help shape the future of our country.”

Wise words from CAF’s John Low encourage us all to remember that “charities continue to enjoy greater support than any political party. It’s charities that are strong and stable, working for the many not the few.”

And yet, there was very little commentary in the period leading up to the General Election to contextualise the importance of the charity sector to the Government in plugging the gaps regarding much needed and often essential services. 

One thing is for sure, this remains a key time for charity fundraising and we need a minister in Government who understands its importance.  

It’s impossible to predict what will happen next politically, but one unabated trend that continues is greater demand for charitable services than ever before amongst continued funding cuts. It is vital that there is a strong ministerial voice to ensure civil society is supported in parliament and let’s hope we don’t have to wait too long for it.

What would you ask the post #generalelection government to do for #charities? Tweet us @HOMED2D.

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