Our weekly round up of news and updates from across the sector
Blog – Israel-Gaza conflict
The Commission has published a blog, Charities must not become forums for hate speech over Gaza. In it, Commission chair, Orlando Fraser, recognises the vital role played by charities in meeting humanitarian needs in situations like this, but says "the Commission is aware of a significant number of serious concerns about activities linked to the conflict in Israel and Gaza. These include charities representing communities across the religious divide, although these to date largely concern allegations of antisemitic or hate speech. Charities must not allow their premises, events or online content to become forums for hate speech against any community or unlawful extremism." The blog emphasises the Commission's robust approach to dealing with concerns like these and describes action it has taken in relation to similar concerns in the past.
The blog makes it clear that charities do not have to avoid sensitive or controversial issues – they are free to campaign when related to their charitable purposes – but Orlando Fraser says charities have "a responsibility to do so with respect, tolerance and consideration for others. They must avoid inflammatory rhetoric that stokes division and may undermine trust in the sector."
Blog – general election
Orlando Fraser & John Pullinger, chair of the Electoral Commission, have published a joint blog with guidance for charities in their operations ahead of the upcoming election. They have urged charities to read the new Non-Party Campaigner Code, as well as the Charity Commission's guidance on campaigning and political activity. The blog flags that electoral law requires charities to register as 'non-party campaigners' if they spend over a certain amount on regulated campaign activities in the 12 months leading up to an election. For more on advocacy and campaigning ahead of the next general election, our Politics, Elections & Campaigning team have put together a collection of factsheets for charities on the key rules and regulations.
Association of Chairs has a guide, Working one to one with trustees, which covers recruiting and inducting trustees. It also has a recruitment resource list signposting to free and low cost toolkits and services including REACH volunteering and Getting on Board.
Yorkshire Water has paid £500,000 to Yorkshire Wildlife Trust and £500,000 to Yorkshire Dales Rivers Trust as a civil sanction, as part of its Enforcement Undertaking with the Environment Agency. This follows the breach of its environmental permit with an unauthorised sewage discharge.
See also under International Development.
Diversity and inclusion
New research from Acevo and Voice4Change England shows the voluntary sector has made little progress on tackling racism in the past three years. Warm Words, Cold Comfort: UK Civil Society's Ongoing Racism Problem, which surveyed more than 130 black and minoritized ethnic people working in civil society, found that 77% of respondents had experienced or witnessed racism in the past 5 years.
Response to consultation on Code of Fundraising Practice
Bates Wells has submitted its response to the Fundraising Regulator's Code Consultation. Some key things we would love to see appear in the updated Code of Fundraising Practice next year are:
- Clear guidance and examples for how the Fundraising Regulator will interpret and enforce the proposed principle-based rules in practice.
- Supplementary guidance or indicative examples / case studies of recommended practice, particularly for tricky areas of fundraising.
- More robust rules on compliance of the Code by third party fundraisers such as fundraising agencies and corporate partners (the focus shouldn't just be on charities!).
Donations of cryptoassets
HMRC has updated Sections 3.4.1 and 3.13.1 of its Chapter 3 Gift Aid guidance to explain that cryptoassets must be converted to money before donations are eligible for gift aid.
The House of Commons Justice Committee has launched an inquiry into probate given the continuous delays in the issuing of grants. The inquiry will take evidence on capacity, resources and delays across the probate service, the impact of digitisation, centralisation and innovation, including the effectiveness of the online probate portal. This also follows concerns about how effectively beneficiaries, executors and the bereaved are supported through the process and protected from rogue traders. The call for evidence includes 14 questions and submissions are sought by 22 January 2024.
The Fundraising Regulator, Charity Commission and Action Fraud have launched their annual safer giving campaign. It contains tips to help ensure that donations reach their intended cause, including checking the charity's name and registration number on the Charity Register, taking care when responding to emails and looking out for the Fundraising Badge. It comes as Action Fraud's data reveals fraudsters diverted more than £2.7 million from charities last year.
Data protection and Digital Information Bill
Bates Wells' Data and Privacy team consider the changes to this Bill and comment on provisions which lower the standard of the protection of personal data in the UK. This could have knock-on implications for EU-UK trade and EU-UK data sharing in a criminal justice context, as discussed here.
Information Commissioner's Office reprimands
The ICO has issued a reprimand to Charnwood Borough Council after it disclosed the new address of a domestic abuse victim to her ex-partner. The press release contains advice to other organisations to ensure they do not make the same mistake, which centred on having an unclear process for updating addresses.
NHS Fife has received a reprimand from the ICO after an unauthorised person was able to enter a ward and access the personal information of 14 patients. The investigation concluded that NHS Fife did not have appropriate security measures for personal information and low staff training rates.
The National Cyber Security Centre, the UK's technical authority for cyber threats, has announced new global cybersecurity guidance, Guidelines for Secure AI System Development. In addition to the UK and the US, the guidelines are endorsed by national cybersecurity and intelligence agencies from 16 other countries, including all members of the G7 group of nations. The guidelines are aimed at providers of AI systems who have built their own models, or are using models hosted by an organisation, or using external application programming interfaces. They identify four stages, covering the end-to-end lifecycle of an AI system. The guidelines are voluntary, but if the proposed EU AI Act and AI Liability Directive comes into force, the Directive is expected to impose minimum cybersecurity requirements on in-scope AI systems placed on the market in the EU.
Public procurement and subsidy control
The Welsh Government has published a consultation on health service procurement in Wales. The consultation seeks views on operational principles of the proposed new regime in Wales and, in particular, whether it should align with, or diverge from, the Department of Health and Social Care's proposed Provider Selection Regime in England, which is intended to create flexibility for commissioners by removing procurement of health services from the scope of the Public Contracts Regulations 2015 (SI 2015/102). The consultation closes on 23 February 2024.
The Online Fraud Charter has been launched by the government in collaboration with large tech firms such as Amazon, eBay, YouTube and Facebook. Such services have committed to implement measures to help protect people from fraud and scam content when using their sites, including verifying new advertisers and promptly removing fraudulent content.
Health and social care
The Centre for Charity Effectiveness has published four new free research reports that explore the voluntary, community and social enterprises (VCSE) sector and health and care commissioning relationships, practices and experiences to better understand the realities of commissioning and where improvements could be made.
The new Health and Social Care Secretary, Victoria Atkins, has set out her priorities for the system.
The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGSCO) has found that a care home has failed to meet an individual's specific cultural needs. The individual's daughter had been assured that her mother's cultural needs relating to regular hair treatments and skincare and providing Caribbean meals would be met. Following the failure, the LGSCO has required the council which placed her in the home to reimburse the individual's daughter 20% of the contributed care fees she had paid for her mother's care and provide compensation for the distress caused to both. The council also has to develop a strategy for how it intends to meet the cultural needs of those in its area, with the lack of appropriate provision evidence of service failure.
British think-tank, Demos, has published The Purpose Dividend, with the support of B Lab UK, analysing the impact of purpose-led business. The findings include that a purpose-led economy could boost UK GDP by £149bn (7%), create a seven-fold increase in R&D expenditure (around £116bn a year) and a £86bn increase in capital investment, and provide a £5.3bn pay rise for the lowest paid (landing page and highlights). The report argues that the most effective way to realise the necessary reforms would be to amend company law as per the proposed Better Business Act, which we have discussed before here.
Social Enterprise UK has published the full list of winners of their UK Social Enterprise Awards.
Social investment/social impact investment
A 'joint prospectus' created by an alliance of mutuals and co-operatives trade associations, whose combined members' annual revenues exceed £87bn, calls on the next government to back business with purpose-beyond-profit (press release). The prospectus calls on the government to, among other points:
- Create an environment that places mutuals and co-operatives at the heart of economic strategy, supporting the growth of the sector.
- Deliver a legislative and regulatory framework that enables mutuals and co-operatives to meet the needs of the communities they serve and compete fairly with other businesses.
- Unlock options for new and growing mutuals and co-operatives to raise private capital.
Ragged patchwork: The need to overcome the philanthropy knowledge gulf. Pro Bono Economics has published a new report setting out recommendations for the FCA to help improve financial advisors' understanding of impact solutions, and philanthropic solutions in particular, to meet client demand (press release).
The Independent Commission for Aid Impact has published a review examining the £500 million Blue Planet Fund, which is designed to help developing nations to protect the marine environment and reduce poverty. Bond's reaction to the review can be read here.
- Many respondents recognise the benefits of AI and some are already using it – particularly for administrative tasks, lesson planning and creating individual resources for pupils with special educational needs and disabilities.
- Almost all respondents expressed concerns about AI, including misuse by pupils and data privacy issues.
- The DfE is also trying to improve access to technology with investment of up to £200m in school's Wi-Fi connectivity.
The DfE has also opened a consultation on implementing minimum service levels in education during strikes.
Ofsted Chief Inspector, Amanda Spielman, gave a speech at the 2023 National Children and Adult Services conference. She covered topics including Ofsted's role and approach to inspection, where she made it clear that their approach is to look at the full spectrum of services that support children in order to get the clearest picture, for instance in their judgements relating to care leavers.
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