The charities minister, Tracey Crouch, has told charities to make use of their right “to speak truth to power” and suggested strengthening the Social Value Act.
Speaking at Charity Finance Group’s Annual Conference yesterday, Crouch said the government “hugely values the work of charities” but had not always stated this “as strongly or as fully as it could have”.
Crouch said the government “must change how it works” to respond to a more “values-driven age”.
She said: “I believe that people are increasingly conscious of their social impact in a way that charities have always been. I want to harness that spirit and use it to enhance our public services by making greater use of the Social Value Act.
“All those who spend public money should see themselves first and foremost as investors for social good. They need to consider how much more can be achieved when funds are spent locally and with organisations that share the same mission with them.
“And in return I hope you work with us freely and constructively by making use of your right to speak truth to power; upholding the highest possible standards in ensuring that civil society protects both its beneficiaries and its workforce; being open minded about new ways of working and changing relationships across sectors and with the public; and rising to the challenge of the digital age.”
In response, CFG chief executive Caron Bradshaw said to Crouch: “Thank you particularly for stating very clearly and unequivocally that we have a right and a duty to speak truth to power. I think in the current environment that is a really important thing for us to hear from you.”
Civil society strategy
Crouch said the government had received “a terrific response from charities of all sizes” to its consultation on the upcoming civil society strategy, which closed this week, as well as from young people and businesses.
She said there had been “no single answer that everyone signs up to” but most respondents agreed that “we should think less about organisational type, and embrace all those that share in the mission of delivering positive social change”.
“By looking at civil society more broadly, we can ensure there is a place for new models and ways of working from across different sectors,” she said.
“It also helps to highlight the potential for new partnerships which draw on the experiences, skills and resources of a wider group of players.
“This doesn’t mean a move away from the importance of charities and community groups. These organisations continue to play a central and unique role and will be vital in ensuring that wider civil society stays true to its collective mission.”
Crouch also said that ensuring charities are able to thrive “amidst the rapid acceleration of new technologies” was at the heart of the government’s mission.
She said charities have a key role to play in combatting the potential increase in public anxiety and alienation in the digital age.
“Civil society’s roots reach deep into our communities and it can act as a counterbalance to the anxieties about the future which we experience in the 21st century.,” she said.
“This is a world in which loneliness and mental health issues are rife and threaten to tear the social fabric we depend upon. Only civil society has the tools to divert a swelling crisis in this country.”