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Partners for Change

After the election, civil society should be a key partner in delivering the new government’s plans to revitalise the country. But at the moment, civil society’s resources and expertise are being under-utilised by the state.

If the next government works with funders and charities, it can truly tackle some of the most entrenched and growing social challenges that we face.

Tinkering around the edges can’t solve these major challenges. We need a new vision. We need a new approach to delivery. We need partners for change.

In this paper, we set out how to make it happen.

The paper includes 8 recommendations for putting the partnership between government and charities on a strong footing, 9 recommendations in priority policy areas where civil society and government can work together for change, and recommendations for charities and funders on how to support effective partnerships.

This work has been made possible by support from Charities Aid Foundation 


Recommendations to create a strong footing for charity and government partnerships

Effective delivery partnerships between government, charities, and funders are only possible with a strong footing. We need to build structures for success. Here are 8 steps the new government can take to build a resilient platform for impactful collaborations.

Establish formal structures for relationships between government and charities

  1. Establish formal structures to give the voluntary sector a strong voice in Whitehall, regionally, and locally. Government departments should create new charity advisory boards and publish long-term strategies for working with civil society. This work should be overseen by a council chaired by the Prime Minister. These structures should be reflected in similar ways at regional and local levels.

Maximise social value in public services

  1. Update the Social Value Act to mandate commissioners to redefine ‘value for money’ and score bids for public sector contracts against criteria that recognise social value.
  2. Ensure that the local government settlement adequately funds local authorities to deliver essential public services which maximise social value.

Increase and incentivise philanthropy and social investment where we need it most

  1. Develop a national philanthropy and social investment strategy with charities and funders to maximise the amount of philanthropic giving in the UK. This should include reforming the Gift Aid system so that Gift Aid is automatically collected.
  2. Incentivise philanthropists and social investors to invest in deprived areas of the country, and in programmes supporting marginalised groups, through the creation of Social Growth Zones, a variable Gift Aid policy, and matched-funds.

Boost impact in the charity sector

  1. Require grant-making foundations to publish their grant-giving data in an accessible, open form. Remove tax breaks for those who do not.
  2. Set up and support data-sharing platforms which include information on social needs and the impact of charity services.
  3. Re-write the Charity Commission’s trustee obligations to require impact to be considered. Establish a support programme for charities to increase their impact run by and for the sector.
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Recommendations in priority policy areas for charity and government partnerships

The 8 steps for building partnerships for change apply across all policy areas.

The following 9 recommendations focus on how to improve partnerships between government, charities, and funders in 5 specific policy areas.

Reducing Inequalities: a Social Growth Fund targeted at deprived areas

  1. Establish a new Social Growth Fund that charities can access by redirecting existing national funds. Target this fund at deprived areas, prioritising programmes to improve people’s health, education, skills, employment, and wealth.
  2. Re-evaluate criteria for funds, including the UK Shared Prosperity Fund and the Dormant Assets Scheme, to ensure they are targeted at deprived areas and spend more addressing the drivers of social and regional inequalities.

Environment and Net Zero: enshrine the principles of fairness and involvement

  1. Commit to meaningful and strategic involvement of people from a diverse range of backgrounds in the development and delivery of environmental policies.
  2. Introduce new legislation which enshrines fairness in environmental policy and the equitable distribution of the benefits and costs of environmental policies.
  3. Work with charities to provide accessible information about the environment, including: health advice, research on climate impacts, emergency planning resources, where to get funding, and other actions that people can take.

Crime: focus on prevention

  1. Work with the charity sector to identify and implement early intervention measures that can avoid crime, for example through initiatives like A&E navigator programmes. Ensure that rehabilitation programmes run by charities are fully funded.
  2. Increase the charity sector’s access to prisons by issuing new guidance to prison governors, empowering and encouraging them to work with charities to deliver programmes that reduce reoffending.

Health and social care: include charities in Integrated Care Systems

  1. Mandate that charities are systematically included in Integrated Care Systems (ICS), requiring them to be embedded as a partner in ICS governance and decision-making.

Children and young people: review the landscape

  1. Undertake a systemic review of the current landscape of charitable provision for children and young people to identify potential areas for focused cooperation between charities and government.
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Recommendations for charities and funders

Effective partnerships require action by all parties. To support the creation of effective partnerships for change, we recommend that charities and funders:

  • Partnerships: Represent not just your own interests and those of the people you serve on the government advisory groups, but those of other charities in the sector too.
  • Procurement: Fully consider the risks and impact of knowingly subsidising public contracts, particularly over the longer-term. For example, creating distortions in the market and driving a race-to-the bottom dynamic.
  • Philanthropy: Review where your funding is being used, and on what causes, compared to the indices of multiple deprivation. Based on this, provide more funding for areas where social needs are greater, and target that funding on effective charities.
  • Impact and data: Gather and share data on the location and impact of the services you provide, including which groups benefit, to help government and funders better target their funding.
  • Inequalities: Involve the people you serve in deciding if and how you should redirect your services towards underserved deprived areas and people. This is a particular issue for larger national charities. This should include reviewing whether your offices or support staff could be relocated to create employment in deprived areas or for underrepresented groups.
  • Environment: Adapt your strategies and services to ensure they are supporting the people you serve to respond to environmental change.
  • Criminal justice: Continue to provide evidence and information to government and funders for greater investment in underserved areas of the criminal justice system. This includes upstream areas such as advocacy, shaping public attitudes, work with courts, and work in transitions between services (e.g. between prison and probation).
  • Health: Share your expertise on the social determinants of health, and provide information and advice to government on how to prevent of poor health and reduce health inequalities.
  • Children and young people: Continue to ensure that the voices of young people are reflected in your advocacy to government, as well as the services you provide.
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