In June, the Small Charities Coalition held an online meeting to feed into the review being undertaken by Danny Kruger MP into civil society who published his report on 24 September 2020.
The report is divided into a number of key headings with recommendations grouped under three key areas, Power, People and Place, not that dissimilar to the Civil Society Strategy of 2018.
A New Social Covenant between Citizens and the State
The first section provides a brief overview of what has been happening during lockdown, and points to the positivity created by mutual aid groups. This is then followed by a brief recap on the social policy context for civil society over the last two decades.
It argues for a plural, local, bottom up system of community power drawing on a strengths-based approach, especially in relation to the less well-off areas of the country.
Reading the report is an interesting experience in itself, the first 13 pages are given over to a history of civil society policy over the last 20-30 years, not all assumptions are supported by evidence.
There are some very good suggestions contained within the report, but also some proposals that could be controversial and problematic for not-for-profit organisations. The devil, as always, will be in the detail.
Peppered throughout the report is a commitment to the environment, with some practical proposals on how improving the environment could be made a long-term reality.
One of the key challenges facing agencies like the Small Charities Coalition recently in discussions with government has been the continual demand for data from civil servants. Whilst we acknowledge that there is a need for better data collection within the sector, this is only possible when the right systems are in place to collect, analyse and interpret that data.
Thankfully the author is quick to realise that this is not just the fault of civil society, but that too must get its ‘own house in order’, with better connectivity between the Charity Commission and other government departments.
Whilst the report presents itself as an invigorated review of civil society, it does not seem to comprehend the scope and nature of small charities. Conspicuous by its absence is any mention of small charities working at the national or international level.
There is also no more than a passing reference to equalities, and at a time when so many not for profits are focused on addressing inequality, this seems to be out of sync with the sector.
Within the international context, it calls for monies from the UK International Development Budget to be repurposed to match and entice international philanthropists residing in the UK – a controversial suggestion given the current problems with the UK international aid budget.
The report also makes some rather unfounded assumptions and comments about faith based activity, suggesting that they are ‘unprofessional’ and are unwilling to cooperate. It presumes all faith groups to be insular, and demands that they share their resources with the wider community in dealing with problems in society. Once again there is no evidence base for this assertion, and the focus on certain faiths over others seems to suggest a very particular view of the world.
Once again the repeatedly floated suggestion by NPC for the creation of a Civil Society Improvement Agency is raised, ignoring the wealth of sector support agencies already in existence!
It is not clear what will happen next. It has been rumoured that there will be a national conversation to progress the recommendations.
For our part at SCC, we will be holding a special meeting to discuss the next stage of a collective response to the report. SCC has now been invited to a meeting with Mr Kruger, and we would really welcome your views in advance. The meeting will be on Tuesday 13 October 2020, 12noon -1pm.
We will also be tabling the Kruger report at relevant Meet-Ups in October, especially for the International and Faith Based sector.