Charities need to have a strong relationship with government to push forward structural changes to funding only the government can make, Helen Ghosh, director general of the National Trust, said today.
Ghosh said that in order to move to new funding models, the charity sector needs a “partnership with government”, as well as the “expertise of the charity sector”.
She was speaking at a fringe session at the Conservative Party Conference about securing more funds charities, hosted by the People’s Postcode Lottery.
Ghosh said the National Trust has been working with social funders and loans groups on how to build a sustainable community trust ownership model, saying that this is “something that we can, given our expertise and our experience, help support”.
But, she said: “We also need to use our connections to government to talk about the things that only government can do in terms of regulation, in terms of seed funding, in terms of making that kind of transfer of services from the public to the community sector easier through easing regulation.
“To move to new models you really do need a partnership with government, as well as the expertise of the charitable sector in achieving it. I think there will be lots of other examples in public services where that needs to happen.”
Ghosh was responding to a question from Duncan Shrubsole, director of policy, partnerships and communications at the Lloyds Bank Foundation, who said that “smaller charities, particularly on unpopular causes, often find it harder to raise funds”.
He also commented on the conference itself and that the session “is one of the few fringe session specifically about the role of charity”.
He added: “So many charities have appeared in other sessions but yet actually, for all its rights and wrongs, go back and talk of the big society, the role of civil society has been much more prominent in the past in debates about conservatism and where the government is going.”
He said as a “sort of plea that as MPs, there is often a lot of talk about charities in their own constituencies and social action, but less of a desire to carry that through into the work of government so that civil society seems a key partner”, adding “we haven’t heard enough about that vital role of charities."
Wendy Watson, MP for Aldridge-Brownhills, who was on the panel, said in response: “I think we were one of the first parties to have a minister for civil society and while some of that role has changed, that role is still in DCMS.”
She said that she took that point on the need for civil society to be seen as a key partner on board. She said that there had been some developments, giving the NCS Bill as an example, but said “we have got to keep banging the drum for volunteering, and for the role that civil society plays”.
Oonagh Aitken, chief executive of Volunteering Matters, who was also on the panel, called on MPs and constituents alike to write to Tracey Crouch, the minister for civil society, and support changing the rules for the People’s Postcode Lottery.
'Need a wider debate with government'
She also said that there needs to be a wider debate with government about the role of civil society and volunteering in delivering public services.
She said it is "is wrong that volunteers are substituted for professional posts", but there is a "community willingness" to get involved in "delivering some of the public services that just can’t be delivered in any other way in the era we are in now".
Aitken said: "I think we do meet with government and talk with government on the bigger debate of how that is managed. And how to give people the chance to get back to the community, to get involved in the community and to take civil action as a part of the democratic fabric of our country."
She added that: "Being involved in volunteering, or in civil society of any kind, is part of being part of democracy."
She said the People’s Postcode Lottery had been a game changer for Volunteering Matters.
PPL reiterated its calls for a change to the law which restricts the amount of money it can give out. It is calling for changes to allow it to increase the annual turnover limit on a charity lottery from £10m to £100m, and the for the limit on ticket sales for a single draw to be increased from £4m to £10m. It has been campaigning for this since 2012.