Labour has started a consultation with the voluntary sector which seeks views on whether the current definition of a charity is fit for purpose and what can be done to support and protect frontline charity workers facing worsened conditions.
The consultation will help Labour design policies around the charity sector ahead of the 2015 general election.
It asks the voluntary sector’s views on seven key issues: volunteering; people in the voluntary sector; supporting charities to grow; charities and procurement; the Big Lottery Fund; charity campaigns; and the Charity Commission.
It asks how a Labour government could encourage more volunteering. It also focuses on the voluntary sector workforce, citing recent surveys which find low pay, zero hours contracts and long working hours are more common in the voluntary sector.
The consultation asks what more can be done to protect and support frontline charity workers. It also notes that women and ethnic minorities are under-represented in the voluntary sector and seeks views on how to address this.
The consultation also focuses on campaigning and repeats Labour’s pledge to repeal the Lobbying Act. It asks whether the Compact is effective in upholding charities’ right to campaign and how confidentiality in public service delivery can be ensured without compromising charities’ ability to speak out.
The consultation also highlights that the Charity Commission is critical in upholding trust in the sector but its budget has been cut by almost a third in recent years.
It asks given its limited resources, where it should prioritise its efforts.
It also asks: “The current definition of a charity seeks to reflect the diversity of the sector while providing clarity and reassurance for the public. Does it strike the right balance?”
The consultation will involve a number of events and meetings with charities and will be led by the Shadow Minister for Civil Society, Lisa Nandy MP, and Michael Dugher MP, the Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office.
No closing date has been given for the consultation.