Charities tell the new civil society minister what they want

30 Jul 2019 News

Baroness Barran, minister for civil society

Baroness Diana Barran, a charity founder, former chief executive and trustee, was announced as the minister for civil society earlier today and has been broadly welcomed by the sector. 

She was appointed to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport last week and has been given the civil society portfolio along with handling the department’s business in the House of Lords.

Before entering the House of Lords she founded and ran the domestic abuse charity SafeLives, and also worked at the charity sector think tank New Philanthropy Capital (NPC). This experience has been well received in the sector. 

The previous two ministers had combined the roles of sport and civil society minister, and charities felt it is a positive development to separate the roles, but some expressed reservations about whether having the minister based in the Lords instead of the Commons will mean the sector has a lower profile than in the past. 

Shortly after the announcement, she tweeted that she was “delighted” and that she “can’t wait to get started”. 


She later added: “It is an absolute honour to be appointed to this role. I have been a proud, passionate advocate of civil society for many years and have seen first hand how the hard work of our charities, volunteers, social enterprises and responsible businesses improve lives up and down the country.

“I am delighted to be able to use my experience to listen, champion and enhance the role of civil society in building stronger communities and a fairer society for everyone.” 

SafeLives: 'She is passionate about building a strong and fair society for everyone'

Before becoming a peer, Barran founded and ran SafeLives, a UK-wide charity dedicated to ending domestic abuse, and the charity praised her vision and determination. 

Suzanne Jacob, chief executive of SafeLives said: “We are delighted to see Diana’s appointment to the role of minister for civil society. 

“Diana founded SafeLives in 2005, building it up from a handful of dedicated women, to a UK-wide charity, motivated by a determination to transform the response to domestic abuse.

"With Diana’s vision and determination, we have worked with partners to develop interventions to support victims and survivors of domestic abuse – with over 65,000 adults at risk of serious harm or murder, and more than 85,000 children receiving support through these interventions in the last year alone. 

“Diana is passionate about building a strong and fair society for everyone. We look forward to seeing what she will achieve in this new role and continuing to work alongside her.”

NCVO: ‘Move the vision from the Civil Society Strategy forward’ 

Sir Stuart Etherington, chief executive of NCVO, said he was pleased with the appointment and encouraged the new minister to get started on the next steps for the Civil Society Strategy.

He said: “We are pleased to see the appointment of Baroness Barran as minister for civil society. With extensive experience of working in the voluntary sector, as a founder, chief executive and as a trustee, her commitment and passion for our sector is clear. 
“We hope the more focused brief for this ministerial role will provide charities and volunteering the time and government support they need to continue to thrive at the heart of society.  
“It is nearly a year since the launch of the Civil Society Strategy, which set out a bold agenda for the future of the social sector. But progress on its ambitions have been modest. We look forward to working closely with Baroness Barran to help the government move this vision forward.” 

CFG: ‘It’s great to have a minister with a charity background’  

Caron Bradshaw, chief executive of the Charity Finance Group, said the appointment was a positive one but cautioned that the sector must still push for charities to be a higher priority.

She said: “It’s great to see the appointment of a new minister with a background in civil society, and it’s good that the charities brief is no longer shared with sport. However the appointment of a peer to the role, together with the time taken to make an announcement, suggests that we must continue to lobby for a higher priority to be given to civil society in this government.”

IoF: ‘It’s a hugely important time’ 

Daniel Fluskey, director of policy, congratulated the new appointments at DCMS and thanked former civil society minister Mims Davies for her work on society lottery changes. 

He said: “It’s a hugely important time to be taking on responsibilities for civil society with charities facing a challenging environment. Fundraising should be recognised and championed across government, and we hope that both new ministers will help create the right framework for charities to thrive.

“We were encouraged with Nicky [Morgan]’s role as financial secretary to the Treasury and support she offered on the civil society aspect of her brief, and it’s encouraging to see that the new minister for civil society has a real expertise and understanding of the importance of philanthropy in society.”

Lloyds Bank Foundation for England and Wales: ‘Build on the work done through the government’s Civil Society Strategy to support thousands of small and local charities’

Paul Streets, chief executive of the Lloyds Bank Foundation for England and Wales, also encouraged the new minister to focus on delivering on the ambitions of the Civil Society Strategy. 

He said: “Civil society is under huge pressure but has perhaps never been more needed than it is today. Last year, the foundation joined other third sector organisations to form a coalition urging the government to deliver a strategy that would see ministers listening to and working with charities and that would reform funding to enable charities to be sustainable, grow and thrive.

“It is therefore crucial that the incoming minister continues to build on the work done through the government’s Civil Society Strategy to support thousands of small and local charities providing life-changing help to some of the most vulnerable people in the country. The uncertainty facing the UK as it prepares to leave the EU is all the more reason why the new minister must ensure she helps small charities who tackle complex social issues.

“We hope that she will be able to work across government to support charities and ensure the Civil Society Strategy results in tangible actions.”

CAF: ‘There is a great opportunity’ 

Sir John Low, chief executive of the Charities Aid Foundation, said this was an opportunity to revitalise the work that started with the Civil Society Strategy. 

He said: “We’re delighted to have such a strong advocate for civil society, who has played a leading role in several charities taking the role of civil society minister. We are looking forward to working with Baroness Barran and her officials to help charities bring our divided society together in support of the causes we all care about.

“There is a great opportunity and a strong need to grow philanthropy, increase engagement with charities and bolster a revival in our communities.  

“The Civil Society Strategy aims to make Britain a global centre for philanthropy. With the first anniversary of the strategy coming up next month there is an ideal opportunity to revitalise this work.”

ACF: ‘Deal with uncertainty surrounding the Shared Prosperity Fund’ 

Keiran Goddard, director of external affairs at the Association of Charitable Foundations, called on the minister to address uncertainty surrounding the Shared Prosperity Fund. 

She said: “It is pleasing to see the minister has a sound record of working in and with the charity sector, including serving as a trustee for a number of foundations.
“We call on the minister to act swiftly to resolve the ongoing uncertainty about the Shared Prosperity Fund, to speed up the release of dormant assets that can be used to support communities, and to fulfil the government’s stated vision of UK as a global centre for philanthropy practice.
“Charities are facing enormous challenges; rising need and the prospect of a no-deal Brexit are putting pressure on already-stretched resources. It is crucial that the new minister takes urgent action to support charities in meeting these challenges, including by engaging with foundations whose experience, expertise, and assets make an irreplaceable contribution to a thriving and plural civil society.”  

DSC: 'Encouraging' 

Jay Kennedy, director of policy and research at the Directory of Social Change, said: "It’s encouraging to see they’ve appointed someone who seems to have real hands-on experience and knowledge of the charity sector. But with all the political turmoil going on right now, how long will she last?"

Volunteering Matters: 'We look forward to working with her to ensure that more people can change lives and transform communities through volunteering'

Oonagh Aitken, chief executive of Volunteering Matters, said: “We are very positive about this appointment. Baroness Barran knows that civil society organisations play a vital role in changing society for the better, and her role at SafeLives will have reinforced the importance of campaigning and working across sectors. We look forward to working with her to ensure that more people can change lives and transform communities through volunteering - in particular defeating loneliness and isolation, and supporting grass-roots, inclusive social action projects.”

From Twitter

Tessa Tyler Todd, policy and public affairs manager at the Small Charities Coalition: 






Matt Lent, chief executive of Future First: 


Caroline Fiennes, director of giving evidence: 



Sarah Atkinson, strategy director at the Charity Commission: 



Vicky Foxcroft, Labour shadow minister for civil society: 


Nick Hurd, former minister for civil society: 


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