Charities have urged the new prime minister, Boris Johnson, to put the sector at the heart of future policies to bring the country together.
Sector leaders also called for clarity around plans for a Shared Prosperity Fund, highlighting the need to replace funding from the European Union, and emphasised that charities need a stable economy to thrive.
Johnson beat Jeremy Hunt to become leader of the Conservative Party and will become prime minister tomorrow.
As mayor of London he set up a charity, the Mayors Fund for London, but he was also a high-profile supporter of the unsuccessful Garden Bridge Trust initiative.
Reaction from representative bodies and charity think tanks
Acevo: 'He needs to demonstrate he can tackle the issues'
Vicky Browning, chief executive, said: “Boris Johnson becomes prime minister at a time when many do not feel the government represents the issues that matter most to them and their communities. Brexit has been politically all encompassing but that has not led to clarity or certainty. Simultaneously the domestic agenda has stalled and political rhetoric is increasingly divisive. Boris Johnson has been at the centre of the Conservative party throughout this period and needs to demonstrate that he can tackle these issues both urgently and considerately.
“Civil society leaders will work with the new prime minister and government to build stronger communities and a fairer society. Part of this will involve holding the prime minister and government to account on behalf of the people and causes we both serve. We hope to build an honest, open and productive relationship between the new government and the social sector.”
Charity Finance Group: 'Unchartered waters need strong leadership'
Roberta Fusco, director of policy and engagement, said: “Developing measures that support civil society won't be top of the new PM’s in-tray, but the bigger priority right now is tackling the systemic challenges of welfare and funding of local government that are having such a devastating impact on our beneficiaries.
“Mr Johnson and his new chancellor face an enormous task to unite an increasingly divided society and deliver economic stability, as we head ever closer to the dire economic and social consequences of a no-deal Brexit. There are unchartered waters ahead, which will not only need strong leadership from the start, but also a strong future relationship with the voluntary sector to help mend the tears in our social fabric.”
Charities Aid Foundation: 'Turn rhetoric into reality'
Rhodri Davies, head of policy, said: “We congratulate Mr Johnson and stand ready to work with his government, so we can begin to turn the rhetoric of bringing people together into a reality.
“Government plays a key role in opening up the space for civil society to flourish. At a time of such political uncertainty, it’s vital that the new prime minister delivers the stability that charities need to fulfil our respective missions.
“Amid polarisation and division, charities bring people together, provide essential services and make a meaningful contribution to the UK’s economy. Collectively, they can offer a bold vision for a better society and they deserve a powerful voice at the heart of government.
“The UK’s rich history of support for our vibrant and independent civil society – and our strong commitment to principles of international aid – should be seen as a key part of our national identity and the soft power we can wield on the global stage. We hope that the new prime minister recognises this, and puts these values at the heart of his vision for Britain post-Brexit.”
New Philanthropy Capital: 'He must do more than Theresa May to tackle injustices'
Dan Corry, chief executive, said: “If Boris Johnson shares one thing with Theresa May, we hope it is her analysis that the country is torn by burning injustices. And if there is one difference, we hope it’s that he does more about them then she did. And he has major opportunities to do so.
“The replacement for the European Social Fund has the potential to start to heal some of the rifts exposed by Brexit, but it can only do so if it heavily involves charities, the wider social sector and community groups in its creation and administration. So we call on PM Johnson to scrap current ideas to put all the replacement for EU money through the deeply unrepresentative LEPs.
“We know from his time as London Mayor that Boris Johnson sees charities and philanthropy as part of tackling social issues, where he set up the Mayors Fund for London, and we urge him to take this approach as prime minister, putting an impactful social sector at the heart of strategies to tackle things like knife crime, mental health and regional inequality.”
Association of Charitable Foundations: 'Act swiftly to resolve the ongoing uncertainty about the Shared Prosperity Fund'
Carol Mack, chief executive, said: “ACF calls on the new prime minister to recognise the irreplaceable contribution of the voluntary and community sector to our communities and national life, and to recommit to the government’s vision that the UK be the global centre for philanthropy practice. We’d also urge him to act swiftly to resolve the ongoing uncertainty about the Shared Prosperity Fund – it is vitally important that there is clarity about how the £300m funding that supports work in the sector to support those furthest from the labour market will be replaced – and speed up efforts to get dormant assets used to support deprived communities.”
Lloyds Bank Foundation for England and Wales: 'Challenges are great'
Duncan Shrubsole, director of policy, communications and research, said: “As Boris Johnson becomes prime minister the circumstances facing our country are serious and need focused and effective leadership. Of course Brexit will dominate, but in relation to whatever was said on the campaign trail, he must also govern on behalf of the whole country, particularly those communities and people who will be hit hardest by any sudden exit.
“A growing in-tray of serious issues also demands his attention and action; from fixing Universal Credit and a myriad other issues in our benefits system, to building more social housing, properly funding local government, social care and the NHS. He must also action a host of other issues and initiatives including the Shared Prosperity Fund, reforming the Social Value Act, unlocking dormant assets and completing the passage of the Domestic Abuse Bill. The challenges are great – charities, communities and people across the country have to hope he will rise to meet them.”
Directory of Social Change: 'His record does not inspire confidence'
Jay Kennedy, director of policy, said: “The chances of a no deal Brexit must now be spiking, which risks putting vulnerable people and social programmes under even more pressure. The charity sector is keeping this country afloat but Boris Johnson’s record on the sector doesn’t inspire confidence - his main achievement so far in this respect seems to be engineering the Garden Bridge Trust debacle.
“But our sector simply cannot and does not give up. Outside the Westminster bubble there are multiple crises receiving no political attention or commitment – social care, climate change, homelessness, food poverty, domestic and sexual abuse, the list goes on. Prime minister Johnson needs to start listening to us – right now. Not in a few months, or next year – now.”
In a blog on NCVO's website, Chris Walker, public affairs manager, advised charities to take into account the promises made during the leadership campaign as well as the challenge the new prime minister faces in terms of holding his own party together.
"This means that the government may find itself with little choice but to spend more money," he wrote. "This is not to say that the next budget and spending review will resemble a spending spree, and where government can avoid additional spending commitments, they may well choose to. But if you can make a strong case for spending in your area, particularly to Conservative MPs, then not doing so might be a missed opportunity."
He also urged charities to consider the possibility of a general election and increasing likelihood of a no-deal Brexit.
Reaction from charities
The MS Society was quick off the mark, with three things it thinks should be top of Johnson's agenda:
It's official! Boris Johnson will be the next Prime Minister. While Brexit will be top of his agenda people with MS need:— MS Society UK (@mssocietyuk) July 23, 2019
1. action to fix the social care crisis
2. changes to PIP to make welfare make sense
3. access to effective treatments and services regardless of postcode pic.twitter.com/XPHMxJ6vf5
Mind said it would write to the new prime minister to ensure that mental health is prioritised and called on others to do the same.
Political change can be unsettling, but we want you to know that we won't stop campaigning for better mental health.— Mind (@MindCharity) July 23, 2019
We're writing to Boris Johnson to demand he prioritises mental health as the #NextPrimeMinister. If you agree, sign our letter > https://t.co/FXsaQCHEQU pic.twitter.com/jODblVLE42
Full Fact: 'He must commit to the highest standards of accuracy'
Will Moy, director, said: “A prime minister’s words matter. As Boris Johnson knows from his time as foreign secretary, words can be twisted by hostile dictatorships, and misunderstandings can ruin lives. With just one hundred days until Britain leaves the EU and the House of Commons split, the need for reliable information from our politicians is higher than ever.
“As the UK's independent factchecking charity, we have factchecked Mr. Johnson through the past decade, both as an MP and as mayor of London. As prime minister we want to see Mr. Johnson commit to the highest standards of accuracy and honesty. We will be holding him to the same principles we’ve held all four prime ministers we’ve factchecked to: get your facts straight, back up what you say with evidence, and correct your mistakes.”
Groundwork UK: 'Must honour recent commitments'
Graham Duxbury, national CEO of Groundwork, said: “One of the positives about the leadership contest has been the degree to which a hard deadline has focused minds in government. In the past few weeks we’ve seen commitments to develop a Youth Charter, the publication of a ‘communities framework’ and a range of promises on climate change and environmental protection. Taken together they represent a positive programme for government and we hope all of these commitments will be honoured by the new prime minister and his team.”
Youth Sport Trust: 'Encouraged that the new prime minister is committed to PE'
Ali Oliver, chief executive of Youth Sport Trust, said: “We would like to congratulate the new prime minister. His recent acknowledgment of the importance of giving everyone the opportunity to engage in sport could not be more timely.
“The wellbeing of young people is in decline and only 18 per cent are active for the recommended 60 minutes every day. This will have profound consequences for this and future generations.
“There is a need for a long-term, joined-up plan to tackle this national crisis and it is encouraging that the new prime minister has committed to this being a key pillar of his programme for government.
“The Youth Sport Trust and a community of organisations passionate about the life-changing importance of physical education and school sport look forward to working with the government led by Boris Johnson to build on the School Sport and Activity Action Plan and support its successful implementation.
“We owe it to future generations to keep sport and PE high on the agenda for change and a priority in our schools and communities for future wellbeing.”
Leonard Cheshire: 'Ensuring disabled people are not left behind is urgent'
Neil Heslop, chief executive of Leonard Cheshire, said: “Our new prime minister has an overflowing in tray of urgent matters. None more so than a long-term cross-party financial settlement to address the national scandal of social care provision. Ensuring disabled people are not being left behind in progress is an urgent priority for all of us in the UK, and Boris’s new optimistic “Can do” spirit can have no more important test.”
Marie Stopes International: We have a 'to-do' list
In an open letter the reproductive health charity Marie Stopes urged the new prime minister to reform abortion law.
Richard Bentley, managing director, wrote: "It is to the UK’s shame that in 2019, abortion still sits within criminal law and carries with it a criminal sanction, if the woman procuring the abortion does not meet the 1967 Abortion Act criteria."
Tearfund: Three things Boris must address
Meanwhile international aid charity, Tearfund urged Johnson to prioritise climate change, waste, and do more to put local people in control of how aid is delivered.
Over on Twitter charity workers said they were apprehensive about what a Johnson administration could mean.
How about 'for many of us, the last few years will feel a walk in the park compared to what Johnson/Bannon will do to society, especially if you support LGBT or BAME issues.'— Russell Benson (@russellbenson) July 23, 2019
When Johnson was elected Mayor of London I was at his first partnership meeting. I wrote about it for @NewStartMag - You know when you've been BoJo'd. He relies on people running ahead clearing the way and people behind cleaning the mess.— Elizabeth Balgobin (@balgobinthinks) July 23, 2019
Bilgin Yuksel, trustee, said: "At a point in time where society is becoming increasingly divided, we now have a PM who is proud to use terms like ‘defeating his enemies’. Sadly, this continuation of winner takes all politics shows no promise of bridging the gaps that exist in society and unifying our communities."
We'll update this article with further reaction so please tell us what you think about the new prime minister.