Baroness Hayter, the new spokeswoman for the shadow Cabinet Office team in the House of Lords, has criticised NCVO for not lobbying on behalf of the voluntary sector when the Welfare Reform Bill was going through Parliament.
Baroness Hayter was speaking at Acevo’s 25th anniversary lecture last night where she reflected on how civil society had developed over the last quarter of a century.
She said in the past some charities were “deliberately amateur”; governance was deeply underdeveloped; at times charity executives were “a law unto themselves” and charities were more unionised:
“I thought unions were a great strength,” said Baroness Hayter. “But there were also challenges in balancing the needs of trade union membership with clients’ needs.”
Later in her speech, Baroness Hayter said the role of NCVO was similar to that of the Trades Union Congress or CBI for the charity sector, but she questioned whether the umbrella body carried out this role adequately.
“I had not one bit of lobbying from NCVO on the Welfare Reform Bill,” she complained. “I got great help from individual voluntary organisations, such as Disability Alliance UK.
“But I did not have the wider perspective for the voluntary sector. I expected NCVO to produce something on the whole of the welfare system.”
She added that there were questions to be asked on who spoke for charities across the piece.
Deputy chief executive of NCVO Ben Kernighan told civilsociety.co.uk this morning that the organisation would respond directly to the Baroness:
“We are very sorry that Baroness Hayter feels that way and we will be in touch shortly with her,” he said. “NCVO engages on a range of issues affecting the voluntary sector including welfare reform.”
Charities, especially those supporting people with disabilities, lobbied hard during the Welfare Reform Bill's passage through Parliament.
A group of disability charities, led by the Children’s Society, used the government's e-petition site to lobby government to debate the introduction of the universal credit welfare system.
The government's controversial Welfare Reform Bill passed its final hurdle in the House of Lords this March. The Bill introduces an annual cap on benefits and overhauls many payments within the welfare system.
Commentators have warned that changes to the benefits of disabled people may risk their right to independent living.
Baroness Hayter was one of the founders of Acevo 25 years ago. She has this week been appointed frontbench spokesman for the Labour Party Cabinet Office team in the House of Lords.