Stronger Charities for a stronger society

This month, the House of Lords Select Committee on Charities published its report ‘Stronger Charities for a Stronger Society’ after a wide-ranging inquiry into the voluntary sector.

It makes 100 conclusions and recommendations around issues of charity governance, funding and sustainability and the role of local and national government in supporting the sector.

The report is a massive 156 pages long, so here are some of the key points that we think are of interest.

Charities & the way they are managed:

The report recognises the importance that charities play in society and how their role and funding has changed over time.

It says “charities play a fundamental role in our civil lives. They are often in the front line of support for the most vulnerable and are therefore in the best place to assess their needs”.

However, the report suggests that charities need to improve governance and that boards lack key skills. It recognises the need for charities to have strong governance, with robust structures, processes and good behaviours, in order to deliver effectively for their beneficiaries. To improve governance, the report recommends that charity boards should undertake greater self-reflection, examining their behaviours, processes and skills.

While the report does not recommend an increase in regulation, it does suggest that charity trustees need to be more transparent, including a recommendation that all charities have an independent evaluation of their work.

Funding and Sustainability:

The report highlights the financial challenges that charities have faced over recent years and that the social and technological environment in which charities work is dramatically changing. It recognises the economic uncertainty that the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union brings and that the public funding landscape has altered to the detriment of some charities.

It has concluded that the move from public sector grants to contracts, which often involve complex commissioning processes, disadvantages smaller charities.  It calls for the government to provide support for voluntary sector bidding consortia and for commissioning bodies to consider impact and social value, rather than cost.

Having concluded that commissioning bodies do not always recognise the social value and innovation that charities can bring to service delivery, the report suggests that a return to grant funding could be a solution.

The Role of Government and the Charity Commission:

The role of national and local government is considered throughout the report, but specifically it calls for improvements in the way the government consults with the charity sector when developing new policies. In particular, it cites the concern that was caused by the proposed “anti-advocacy” clause in grant awards and the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Act 2014, both of which the report says threatened the vital advocacy role of charities.

Peers express deep concern about the Charity Commission’s proposal to charge charities for regulation and calls for the Commission to think very carefully about the implications of charging. It asks the Commission to be clear about how charging will benefit charities and strengthen the sector overall. It says any charging model must ensure that the burden does not fall upon small charities that are unable to afford it.

The full report can be seen here

Smaller charities feel the squeeze

According to the Small Charities Coalition, 97% of charities operate on less than £1 million per year.

At a time of higher and more complex demand, these charities are seeing their funding reduced, and are often considered as an after – thought in terms of policy design and structure.

Navigating Change, published by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) and the Lloyds Bank Foundation found that following the 2008 financial crash small and medium sized charities lost more income proportionately than their larger cousins, mainly as a result of reduced grant funding.

As government and local authorities move from grants to commissioning as a way of funding services, small charities are increasingly at the mercy of the commissioning process, which some argue deliberately or inadvertently preclude them.

Commissioning in Crisis concluded that bad practice in commissioning far outweighed the good, with many charities being excluded from bids through unnecessarily high requirements concerning previous experience or size. Cash – strapped councils are also increasingly opting for larger contracts, for which many small charities are unable to compete.

In the past, smaller charities would often look to Infrastructure organisations for support, but they too are feeling the pinch. 

Paul Streets, CEO of the Lloyds Bank Foundation States:

“Infrastructure bodies were the first to be cut, so it has become really hard to build capacity if you are a local organisation.”

Neil Cleeveley, CEO of NAVCA adds:

“The places where Infrastructure organisations are struggling also tend to be in areas of high deprivation and most in need of support. Big funders rely on Infrastructure bodies to provide intelligence about the organisation they should fund and support small organisations when they apply. In the areas where a lot of Infrastucture organisations have disappeared or shrunk in size, funders say they aren’t getting enough quality applications.”

The instability is making it difficult for small charities to look to the future, with may starting the year with gaps in their budgets.

One oft-touted solution to the funding problems of the sector is social investment, but many smaller charities struggle to exploit the opportunity this brings.

Tony Armstrong, CEO of Locality states:

“The government’s guilty of seeing social investment as the answer to a lot of things, but many services are difficult to make profitable, and the products are just not cheap enough or at the right scale for smaller charities.”

Funders have a crucial role to play in supporting smaller charities, and there are some signs that change is starting to happen. In December of 2016, the government organised a Local Charities Day to help raise the profile of community based organisations, and a number of measures were announced to help smaller charities bid for public service contracts.

Sally Young, CEO of Newcastle CVS says the answer is simple:

“Bring back grant funding. There seems to be a rhetoric that grants are a waste of money, but they’re quick and easy, and there is simply no evidence that grants aren’t spent in proper ways. Small charities need to be making the argument for grants by pointing to the value of the services that they provide.”

And so with a circular motion we move back to the thorny issue of demonstrating social impact.

Support Cambridgeshire is looking to form a Cambridgeshire wide steering group looking expressly at the issue of social impact, and how it can be achieved within an easy to use framework. If any organisation would like to be part of this initial group, please contact Russell Rolph, Development Manager on 01480 420603 or at
Extracts taken from the Third sector Magazine: February 2017



New Sport England funding – Families

There are nearly seven million children aged between five and 15 in England, and around a third of people in England live in a household with at least one child aged 5-15.

Sport England want everyone in England regardless of age, background or level of ability to feel able to engage in sport and physical activity – and they need a sport sector that welcomes everyone, meets their needs, treats them as individuals and values them as customers.

Why are families important?

Insight tells Sport England that families, and in particular, parents and caregivers, play a key role in shaping a child’s attitudes and behaviours. This is also true for physical activity and sport. They can:

  • Provide support and encouragement – but they can also add pressure
  • Share their own sport and physical activity passions – but they can also share their fears
  • Facilitate access to various opportunities to be active – but they can also limit options
  • Model active behaviour by taking part with children – but can also model sedentary behaviour.

The investment is designed to support families on low incomes to allow their children to have positive experiences, and develop competence and confidence in their ability to be physically active.

What is the purpose of this fund?

Underpinning the investment is the need to ensure experiences are fun, enjoyable and or deliver value to children and their wider family.

Successful applicants will encourage families to plan and take decisions together, with children involved in shaping how they and their families are active.

Funding should support families taking part together.

This work will also ensure that Sport England meet the outcomes set out in the Government’s strategy Sporting Future Open in a new window as projects won’t just be about increasing physical activity. This work will support the ambitions outlined in the Department of Health’s Childhood Obesity Plan Open in a new window and ensure that keeping children active becomes a shared responsibility for parents, carers and schools.

Apply to the Families Fund:

Learn more about the focus and timescales of the first round of the Children and Families Fund.


Sport England are investing up to £40 million into projects which offer new opportunities for families with children to get active and play sport together.

Up to £10 million has been allocated for the first round of our Families Fund, which will open on 19th May 2017.

Future rounds will follow over the next three years and more information on submission dates will be available in due course.

The Focus:

For this investment, Sport England are looking to make a difference to families with children aged 5-15, with a focus on low income families and families living in areas of high deprivation.

They are also looking to target families where their children are not active for at least 60 minutes each day.

Sport England will look to invest in and work with organisations, both sporting and non-sporting, who understand children and families and have a proven track record of working with them.

Potential examples include housing associations, family-focused charities, parent support organisations and outdoor activity providers.

The anticipated size of funding for projects from our Families Fund will be from £50,000 up to £500,000 for the right project.


A series of workshops are being held across England over the coming month.

The dates and venues of these workshops are listed below:

  • Tuesday 18 April (1pm – 4pm) – London
  • Thursday 20 April (1pm – 4pm) – Loughborough
  • Thursday 27 April (10am – 1pm) – Manchester
  • Friday 28 April (10am – 1pm) – London

Please email if you would like to discuss this further.

Sign up to one of our workshops

Sport England would encourage any organisation thinking of applying for investment for this first round to attend one of the workshops.

The workshops will ensure that any potential applicants get the latest insight into the families that Sport England are most keen to engage, the types of projects they are keen to support and further details about the process for submitting an application.

In this first phase, Sport England are ideally looking to work with organisations that have specific experience of working with families – not necessarily in a sports setting.  Places are limited to two people per organisation.

If you are unable to attend a workshop, Sport England plan to film the last workshop and make it available to watch online.

Application process:

Following the series of workshops throughout April , the application process will open.

Submission of an expression of interest form will open on the 19th May 2017 and close on the 14th July 2017 at 3pm.

There will be the opportunity for organisations to attend further workshops and apply for funding in future rounds over the next four years. Later workshops and submission dates will be shared on the Sport England website in due course.


Support your Timebanking Partnership

The Cambridgeshire Timebanking Partnership has launched a crowdfunder to raise funds to fight loneliness. They want to raise £3,000 in order to reach more people in their communities in need of companionship, social interaction and support.

The Sad Facts

Loneliness can affect anyone at any stage of their life whether you have moved to a new area, are a new mum or are a pensioner who has outlived their friends. Loneliness is a quiet devastation. It is a key issue which impacts people’s health and wellbeing. More than 29,000 people over 65 live alone in Cambridgeshire but it’s not only the elderly who are affected by this silent disease.

What We’re Fundraising For

Timebanks want to reach more people in their communities in need of companionship and social interaction like Julia:

‘Julia moved to the area to be near her husband who is in a residential home. When she first moved she felt very lonely as she did not know anyone in the village. However, since joining the Timebank she has met many people and has developed a network of friends and support’.

Your funding will have a positive impact on the lives of many other Cambridgeshire residents like Julia by helping the Timebanks run the following activities:

  • Cook and Share sessions
  • Coffee Mornings
  • Community Walks
  • Skill Sharing
  • Events and Festivals

We know that everyone has something to offer – skills and wisdom to pass on to their community, whatever their age.  An hour at a coffee morning, a weekly walk with a fellow Timebank member or helping with DIY can help break the silence of a day.

Ways You Can Support

Be part of the Timebanking family and help fight loneliness by pledging today! Or maybe you would like to run a fundraiser, Cambridgehire Timebanking have come up with a five ideas to spark the imagination, but you may have another idea to support the fundraiser! ( document five ways you can help raise funds attached)

Cambridgeshire Timeabanking are also reaching out Cambridgeshire businesses who share their beliefs and would love their support through:

  • donations to the crowd-funder
  • promoting the campaign within Cambridgeshire businesses, and
  • taking part in work-place events to raise money to fight loneliness and social exclusion.

How are you going to help end loneliness in Cambridgeshire?   Contact:

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Communities stepping up to maintain key rural services

Cambridgeshire ACRE, the County’s rural development charity, has just published the results from its latest Rural Services Survey.

The charity undertakes the countywide Rural Services Survey periodically to track the change in provision of key services such as shops, pubs, libraries and bus services in the County’s rural communities. The last survey was undertaken in 2010 and this latest survey shows that the County’s rural communities haven’t fared too badly over the intervening seven years.

For the majority of key services featured in the survey (including the provision of a post office service; a cashpoint; a general store; a pub; a GP surgery; a place of worship; a community meeting place; and a scheduled bus service), only a very small decline in the number of communities with local access to these services was found. Whilst any loss in service provision is regrettable, the survey did not uncover the wholesale loss of services that sometimes feature in news headlines.

The latest survey did, however, highlight three services where significant change has occurred over the last 7 years:

  • Broadband coverage across the County has been improved, with the percentage of communities reporting broadband coverage rising from 73% in 2010 to 83% in 2016. This was to be expected following the successful Connecting Cambridgeshire project which has rolled out superfast broadband to thousands of homes and businesses across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough. However, at Cambridgeshire ACRE we do know that some communities still suffer from broadband ‘not spots’ and we will be looking to work with Connecting Cambridgeshire to see how these can be addressed over the coming months.
  • Library services in rural communities have seen a significant decline. The 2016 survey revealed that 82% of communities have a library service in operation, either by way of a permanent library, visits from a mobile library, through a library access point or in some cases where the community has stepped in to run a library service. In 2010, the comparable figure was 94% suggesting a significant loss of library services.
  • A Police Presence in a community (through a Police Community Support Officer or PCSO) also appears to have suffered significant decline since 2010. In response to the 2016 survey, 63% of communities across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough reported a police presence, whereas the comparable figure in 2010 was 82%. The local reason for this has not been investigated yet but it is known that, at national level, many police forces have chosen to retain warranted police officers in preference to PCSOs when faced with budget cuts.

Speaking about the Survey results, Cambridgeshire ACRE’s Chief Executive, Kirsten Bennett, said:

“Cambridgeshire’s rural communities continue to be resilient in the face of austerity. Rural residents are supporting their local shops, pubs and post offices enabling them to thrive. These services are sometimes now provided in non-traditional ways, for example through community-run ventures, but they are still being maintained as a vital asset for their community.”

“Cambridgeshire has an extensive network of community meeting places and places of worship that provide places for people to gather and socialise, supporting each other from cradle to grave. Alongside these traditional hubs for activity, better, faster, broadband is allowing people to do more online, such as staying in touch with friends and family who don’t live as near, learning new skills and finding new ways of accessing entertainment and learning.”

“Even where services are facing decline, for example library services provided by the local authority, we see examples of communities stepping up, in a voluntary capacity, to ensure they aren’t lost. For example, a growing number of communities reported that they have adopted their village telephone box and converted it into a library.”

“As a charity we are proud of the work we do to support rural communities to run local community assets, build affordable homes, manage their village hall, organise community groups and run their parish councils. The survey tells us that this support is vitally important to enable rural services to thrive and be maintained in the future.”

The full results report from the survey can be found on Cambridgeshire ACRE’s website.

Volunteering trends in the UK

According to the Office of National Statistics (also known as the ONS) volunteers gave 7% less of their time to help their communities, at a loss to the UK of more than £1 billion, between 2012 and 2015.

In fact, there has been a general decline in the time that the UK’s unsung heroes and heroines spend volunteering since 2005. Despite the value of the voluntary sector to the UK, there has been a 15.4% decline in the total number of frequent hours volunteered between 2005 and 2015, a reduction from 2.28 billion hours to 1.93 billion. Latest figures from 2014 show volunteering represented 2% of the total value of unpaid work, and was worth £23 billion.

Age and volunteering – The Big Society and Beyond: The statistics suggest that those in the youngest age group of 16 to 24 have increased the time they devote to volunteering while those in the 25 to 34 age category have decreased their volunteering time. In 2015 average time and participation in volunteering was higher for those aged between 16 and 24 (17 minutes per day and 51% participation) and was a noticeable rise as compared to those in the same age group in 2000 (nine minutes per day and 40% participation). It could be that, as younger people try and secure employment, they undertake voluntary work in order to enhance their CVs, but as they embed themselves in their careers, at an older age, their focus turns to building their careers. Also, younger people have more free time, with participation rates for students rising the most – by 12 percentage points between 2000 and 2015 – from 46% to 58%.

Men vs women: Overall, women are streets ahead of their male counterparts when it comes to volunteering and when they volunteer, they do so for longer periods of time. There was a decline in the number of minutes dedicated to voluntary work for both men and women; from 12.29 per day to 11.29 for men and a drop from 16.30 to 15.65 for women, both between 2000 and 2015. The full report can be seen here

Working with the voluntary health sector

The latest joint publication from the Local Government Association (LGA) and Volunteering Matters focuses on the need for ever closer relationships between public health and the voluntary, community and social enterprise sectors.

The report entitled New opportunities and sustainable change states:

Both national and local government view the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector (the VCSE) as a vital partner in placing prevention at the heart of health and care services, and supporting local communities to take a greater role in promoting health and well-being. Particularly at a time of decreasing resources, it is seen as essential that the skills and capabilities of the sector are recognised and supported. The key message must be that public health has a major role to play in this.

The key themes of the report are:

  • A better and more robust understanding from public health about the benefits of working with the VCSE sector
  • More effective partnering between public health and the VCSE sector
  • Ensuring that existing Compacts are kept alive and active
  • Ensuring that VCSE involvement in strategic planning in public health initiatives is critical
  • That Commissioners and providers begin to co-design solutions to the challenges of public health
  • Better procurement processes are put in place to rationalise contracts and ensure the best possible outcomes
  • An understanding of community led public health models which put people at the centre of the public health agenda.

The full report can be read here 

Art for arts sake?

Market Place is building audiences for the arts by supporting new activity that reaches new audiences in the market towns of Forest Heath (Brandon, Mildenhall and Newmarket) and Fenland (Chatteris, March, Whittlesey and Wisbech).

As well as developing and delivering exciting and inspirational events in these towns, Market Place has also commissioned a range of artists, arts organisations and community groups to deliver their own new projects which reach new audiences.

Who can apply

Development Commissions are open to anyone wanting to contribute to building the creative offer in the market towns of Forest Heath and Fenland.

Creative businesses and professional artists are eligible to apply alongside voluntary arts groups, community organisations and young people.

In developing your commission Market Place would encourage you to collaborate with project partners to ensure that you have the capacity and skills to deliver your proposed idea.

It is essential that at least one person from the organisations who apply for the Development Commissions attend one of Project Bootcamps to be held on:

All information can be found at the Market Place website:

A Maple Centre make-over

The Maple Centre, home of Hunts Forum, is shortly due to receive more than your average 60 minute make-over.

The current open foyer space, which used to house a community cafe, is being transformed into a bespoke new training space, bordered by an office housing 4 desk-spaces.

The work should begin in the next 4-5 weeks, and should be completed by late May 2017.

Julie Farrow, CEO of Hunts Forum and lead partner CEO of Support Cambridgeshire says:

“We have seen a marked increase in demand for good training space over the past 12 months. The new training room is a direct reaction to meet a need, and is something which hopefully will be well utilised by community organisations from Huntingdonshire and beyond. Likewise, there is a real premium on office space, and providing a serviced office within a true community hub was too good an opportunity to miss.”

For information on training room charges and projected occupancy for the remainder of 2017, contact Hunts Forum directly.

If you would like to view the proposed office space, contact Julie in the first instance.

The Budget 2017 – What does it mean for Charities?

The recent spring budget was the last, as 2017 will see the start of a new Autumn cycle for future UK Budgets.

As such, there were few major announcements for the voluntary sector, with the word “charities” appearing in just three places in the main Budget document.

The coincidence of Budget Day falling on the same date as International Women’s Day did, however, provide a platform for a handful of themed announcements.

Tackling domestic violence and abuse:
Charities working to support those affected by domestic violence and abuse should watch out for additional funding of £20m before 2020.

Womens Charities:

£12m for women’s charities is expected through the next round of funding. A list of charities from across the UK who are likely to benefit from this will be published by the end of March 2017.

Marking the centenary of voting rights for women (1918-2018):

A new £5m fund was announced to support projects which mark the centenary of the extension of voting rights to women.

Air quality:

For charities with a focus on the causes of, and health consequences of, air pollution, the budget announcement on this subject was particularly relevant. As well as a draft plan expected in the Spring to set out how the UK’s air quality goals will be met, the government is continuing to explore the “appropriate tax treatment for diesel vehicles.”

It has signalled this tax may change at Autumn Budget 2017.
Some charities are already considering how to reflect these kinds of concerns in their investment portfolio, where this is in line with their charitable purposes.

Inheritance tax update:

The forecast announced for annual inheritance tax receipts has increased, up to £6.2bn in 2021-22.  This is double the level seen in 2012-13.  With many charities looking to diversify their sources of income, encouraging donors to consider leaving an inheritance tax-free legacy to a charity in their Will makes even more sense.

Social care in England:

The budget announced £2bn of additional funding for social care in England between 2017-18 and 2019-20.  This is intended to alleviate some of the pressures on the NHS, funding care packages to enable adult patients to leave hospital with support.  At a more strategic level, a forthcoming green paper is also due to look at how the social care system can be put on a more secure and sustainable long-term footing. Charities active in this sector will no doubt look ahead at the opportunity to engage as government policy develops in this area.

Source: Standard Life March 2017

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