Do we need a dedicated charities minister?

Tracey Crouch has been named as the new minister for civil society - but the brief has been merged with her role as sports minister. Don’t we need a dedicated charities minister?

The importance of the charity and voluntary sector has arguably never been greater - nor the environment more challenging.

According to the NCVO, there are over 163,000 charities in the UK with an annual income of around £41.7bn. Nearly 21m people volunteer for a charity and in a typical month almost half of us - 44% - donate to one. Charities employ 827,000 people and add £12.2bn to the UK economy.

But it’s not just the size of the sector. Charities already supporting millions of people are facing ever-increasing demands as frontline public services are cut or rolled back, from libraries and food banks to housing, social care and mental health support.

Add to this the fact that Theresa May’s special adviser on charity policy, Charlotte Lawson, has decided to step down and there is surely an overwhelming case for a dedicated ministerial portfolio.

In her maiden speech to parliament, Crouch herself said that in attempting to tackle social challenges “charities find themselves too small to help; agencies find it too difficult and authorities find it too expensive.” The challenge has only increased in the intervening years.

It is not a question of Crouch’s commitment or ability. Many have welcomed her appointment and the strong relationships she has built with the sector through her work as sports minister. But there are also concerns that now, perhaps more than ever, charities need a strong voice within government.

Neil Cleeveley, chief executive of NAVCA, said: “Sport and charities are such major parts of our society. They deserve to have a dedicated minister.

“The fact that for the first time since 2006 there will not be a minister focused solely on our sector sends out the wrong signal.”

John Low, chief executive of the Charities Aid Foundation, said: “Our sector has enjoyed a constructive relationship with the charities minister in the past and I look forward to building on that with the new minister in the coming months. Top of our list of shared priorities will be tackling divisions across society, ensuring that the Brexit deal delivers for charities and that our sector is able to continue providing vital support to millions of people in so many ways.

“However, the decision to merge the minister for civil society role with another portfolio is concerning, coming as it does on the back of the announcement that Number 10’s special adviser on charities will be leaving her post. The political uncertainty, division and social challenges we face mean that the country needs an increased role for charities, not a reduced one. It will be vital that this does not result in the voice of charities - and the needs of their beneficiaries - being neglected.”

Written by Andrew Jowett for Inglis Consulting Group.

Andrew is a Freelance journalist, if you like what you read, get in touch : andyjowett@hotmail.com or www.clippings.me/andyjowett

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