There is an irony about the Government launching a debate on charitable giving at the same time as cutting billions of pounds destined for the very organisations that would receive such largesse. Whilst the green paper is welcome, it is a sticking plaster to tackle cancer, starvation and major surgery all at the same time.
One of David Cameron’s favourite charities, Community LInks, faces losing “most” of its 2011-12 funding. Previously a fan of the Big Society, when they say “Allow us to draw breath or you will kill off the agencies you need to build the society you seek,” the third sector is in crisis.
“But we have the Big Society Bank,” the Government replies, pointing out that money from dormant bank accounts will be available to counter the cuts amongst the most deserving charities. Excuse me? The Labour Government already legislated to use this money to aid children and financial inclusion; no one knows how much there will be and it ain’t in the bank yet. The Big Society Bank is itself to be funded by, in effect, another cut.
Direct and infrastructure funding to the third sector is one thing, cuts to local authority funding is another. This is likely to be the hardest hitting element of all, as partnerships crumble and experience is lost. Those charities and voluntary groups which work closest to the grass roots of our communities will lose both funding and the support that co-working and co-delivery of services has fostered.
Of course now is the right time to promote giving, not as a remedy to cuts but because giving is good at any time. The Government could start by halting the 10% reduction in Gift Aid revenue which will happen in April when Labour’s three year protection from the impact of the penny cut in income tax runs out. But will they?
They could boost payroll giving, currently a pathetically small source of charitable income, by promoting it amongst their own employees. Even 50p a month can make a difference. And they could ask why it is that the richest give a smaller proportion of their income to charity than do low-to-middle earners and address that, too.
One measure in the green paper whose time has come is the ‘round pound’. Consumers would authorise participating retailers to round up their bills to the nearest pound, with the balance going to an agreed charity. It is a painless, voluntary and effective way of opening up new income streams for (some) charities.
BBC report of Community LInks story: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-12092740